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Murder At The Aero Club

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Postby davidw » Tue Nov 16, 2004 7:25 am

Game: Murder At The Aero Club

Author: Penny Wyatt

I have to admit that when I saw the title of this game, the first thing that went through my mind was that it was a game about somebody being murdered at a club for chocolate bars. I'm not quite sure why I thought that but it made me chuckle for a bit. Unfortunately the rest of the game just made me groan.

It's a detective game alright. Some poor unfortunate has got himself offed at the local Aero Club - which isn't, as I originally thought, anything to do with chocolate bars but instead a club where a lot of people who fly aeroplanes like to hang out. You have to discover why the poor unfortunate was murdered and bring his killer to justice. Piece o' cake.

It starts off promising. Nice introduction, decent style of writing and even a reasonable amount of depth. But as soon as the intro has finished and you start the game proper, the flaws begin to show through. Virtually no items have descriptions which is never the hallmark of a good game. Standing in a garden outside the Aero Club, I'm unable to examine the walls, front door, the club itself, the path I'm standing on or any of the aircraft nearby. This same lack of care bogs down the rest of the game and most locations contain at least a few items that can't be examined despite the fact that you can see them clearly. In a detective game - which is supposed to be about carefully studying your environment for potential clues - this is especially bad.

One nice touch is a notebook you carry with you in which you make notes about the murder as you move around the game. Well, I say nice touch but it doesn't really work. Notes get added about very strange things indeed. I examined a few planes and found notes in my notebook, despite the fact that at the time I examined them I had no way of knowing what relevance, if any, they had to the murder. Yet later on I found a torque with some bloodstains on it which for some reason wasn't considered important enough to warrant a place in my notebook. At about the same time I questioned some fellow and got a very suspicious response when I asked him a question about an inspector who had come visiting the Aero Club, but that, too, didn't warrant an entry in my notebook.

Conversation is handled in the unhelpful "ask [someone] about [something]" format which has never been a favourite of mine. Here it's not quite as bad as I was able to get a response to several different subjects - always a nice thing - but little care has been made to make the NPCs seem like real believable people as opposed to cardboard cutouts with a few programmed responses. They repeat the same phrases over and over again and seem to show little annoyance about being questioned on the same subject a dozen times or more. It's also not helped much by the fact that asking certain people questions about different subjects gives the same response.

In the Club itself (free of chocolate bars alas), I came across more annoyances. One NPC is busy doing some flight planning and despite the fact that I'm a detective here to investigate a murder, I'm told when trying to question him that he's busy so I probably shouldn't disturb him. Er… what? By rights, the whole place should be cordoned off and the residents questioned one by one until the murderer is brought to justice but here we have someone who I can't even question because he's busy? No wonder so many killers go free if all they have to do to escape justice is pretend to be busy…

If all that sounds bad, wait till you step into the office and encounter some truly appalling game writing. Examine the bin and you'll be told there's some junk inside. Examine the junk and - guess what - "you can't see any such thing". Trying to empty the bin results in a wonderful message "the rubbish bin can't contain things" even though there's some non-examinable rubbish inside it! And what about the noticeboard which contains notices and announcements which you can't even read!

I gave up then. I'd like to think I was fair with this game and gave it a decent chance to impress me but there were so many things wrong with it that it really should never have been entered into the IFComp in the first place. I'll grudgingly admit that the writing was better than I'd normally expect to see in a game where everything else is so bad but that's the only positive thing I'm saying. It's also the only reason why I'm giving this game a 3 and not a 1 which is what it would otherwise have received.

3 out of 10
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