The place to discuss the ADRIFT Interactive Fiction toolkit

Square Circle

A forum where new and old games can be reviewed - an alternative to the reviews on the Adventures page of the main ADRIFT site. Also the place to ask for any assistance if you are stuck playing a particular game.

Postby davidw » Tue Nov 16, 2004 7:22 am

Game: Square Circle

Author: Eric Eve

The fifth game I played and the first that I could say I liked.

The opening was nothing particularly fancy and I have to admit I even groaned at one point. Why? Well, it's a prison cell so I was left with the sinking feeling that this game was going to be one of those "escape from a prison cell" puzzlefests that generally get me reaching for the delete button as soon as I realise what I'm playing. Once you've seen one escape-from-a-prison-cell game, you've seem 'em all. Fortunately it's more than just that.

Exploring the cell reveals several books, one of which can be read for a fascinating insight into the strange world the game is set in. This is a game set in the near future where the judicial system has been condensed from a lengthy trial complete with judge, jury, witnesses and evidence right down to a judge and a single question: "are you innocent?" However you answer that question, you get sent to prison as the very fact that you're being asked it in the first place indicates that you're guilty. Otherwise you wouldn't have been asked it. Highly implausible though this sounds, it nevertheless has that kind of scariness about it which is all the more worrying because it could actually happen.

The first problem I encountered was, perhaps understandably, getting out of the cell. The few things I tried all met with failure. Opening the door informed me it was locked (I guess I should have seen that one coming). Trying to unlock it asked me what I wanted to unlock it with. Obviously I didn't have anything to unlock it with, hence my problem. So I gave the cell a thorough examination. And found… well, not much really. A box under the bed which was also locked and nothing else. At this point I weakened and looked at the walkthrough (okay, I am weak but I was enjoying the game so far and wanted to see if I could get through it in two hours if given a much needed push in the right direction) and the walkthrough strangely told me I needed to read the red book. Strange because I had already read it. However, upon reading it a second time I found a key inside! Either my character is so short-sighted that he never noticed the key before despite the fact that it was right in front of him, or this game is one of those annoying ones that moves items around for no apparent reason. I'm guessing the latter. I've never been a big fan of games like that. You might need to examine something ten times to find what you need to find and the first nine times it won't be there.

I had other hassles after that. Drawing a square circle really baffled me and without the walkthrough I wouldn't have had a clue how I was supposed to achieve this seeming impossibility. There are hints to point you in the right direction but either they're especially vague hints or I'm getting worse at these things because I never twigged on to what I needed to do. Unfortunately, once I'd looked at the walkthrough the temptation to go back to it as soon as I got stuck was too great and I found myself pretty much cheating my way right through to the end.

There were a number of problems throughout the game which were quite jarring. A locked drawer at the start couldn't be smashed or broken, even though that the logical thing to do when you don't have a means of opening it. Specific mention is made of the desk legs and one of them being askew but I wasn't sure why as examining them just gives you pretty much the same description as the desk. The most annoying problem came when trying to stand on a box and being asked which box. One of the options for box included the red book.

I ended up leaving the game in an unfinishable state on my first run through it as I saw a way out and took it. One option after this led to me being shot so, a few undo presses later, I tried the other option and wound up back in my prison cell. Only this time I didn't have the key required to get out. Had the key once again been moved to another location or was it simply gone for good? The hints inform me that I don't need the key any longer but as the cell door is locked again I'd beg to differ.

But overall I liked this game. It had its fair share of faults and the puzzle involving drawing a square circle isn't the sort of thing you're likely to figure out without resorting to the hints/walkthrough or spending a lot longer than 2 hours on it. On the plus side it's very well written and the portrait of the legal system it paints in the future is a chilling one that just might come to pass.

6 out of 10
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