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Monster in the Mirror Trilogy reviews

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Postby Rafgon » Sun May 15, 2005 10:24 pm

The following series of reviews are for the Monster in the Mirror trilogy, which are three of the earlier games written by Mystery.

The Monster in the Mirror 1 throws you immediately into a strange place, with almost no background as to why you are there, apart from that you have awoken suddenly from your sleep. This is a very surreal game, which never does give many answers about why these events are occurring, but this does not really matter.

There are two strange environments to experience before you return home for the last section of the game. These places successfully evoke a dreamlike atmosphere with strange descriptions. The technique of the game taking place within a dream actually works in hiding some of the inconsistencies of IF, especially in the need for puzzles. In a dream, the unusualness of everything being a puzzle can become usual, unlike in real life. Having unusual actions being required actually can add to the atmosphere. However, it can also add to the frustration, when the game sometimes becomes a little obscure. It is a difficult balance to maintain and the game does not always succeed.

One problem that I had when playing the game is that it hides necessary objects in unobvious places. Whilst playing the game you have to make sure to look at every single place or object mentioned in the description, as occasionally something you think would have a mundane description is hiding something important. The worst offender is in the second section where the object you need to look at is only implied by your location, and not actually listed. At least not that I could find. In the endgame sequence I was also stuck for a while, as I couldn't find a furniture item from the description. I eventually realised that it was only referred to within the game by a shortened version of its name. When I was standing around doing nothing, as I could not figure out what else to do, the puzzle lost its urgency because nothing else was occurring.

The Monster in the Mirror 1 does not take long to play through, apart from when you are stuck trying to figure out which object you have missed looking at and searching through. It is generally fairly obvious what you need to find though, even if it is difficult to locate. Apart from these few very frustrating points, the game is enjoyable to play.

Score - 4/10

The story of The Monster in the Mirror 2 ties together the trilogy. The first and third parts can work better as stand-alone games, but this game works better when combined with them to provide the link. The story could be better, but it is adequate, and it is only an excuse for the main purpose of the game, which continues to be wandering around the surreal environment. Most of the comments I made about the dream-like atmosphere in my review of the first part can also be applied here.

This game is an improvement in both the descriptions and puzzles, as it is more logical. By more logical, I mean the logic within the context of the game is more consistent, not that the game has become more realistic. The puzzles make more sense, and I did not have the same difficulties in playing hunt the required object. The improved ease of playing is partly because this game builds on some of the ideas and locations of the first game. It is also because the game is easier and shorter than the first game.

I found the Monster in the Mirror 2 more fun than the original. I would recommend that the original be played before this game, as it will make more sense.

Score - 5/10

The Monster in the Mirror trilogy's concluding game Selma's Will also works well as a stand-alone game. When I first played this game I was not aware of the first two games. From this I can say that it is not necessary to know anything about these games to gain a rewarding playing experience. Selma's Will is different in style, as it takes place completely in the real world, unlike the dream environments of the first two games.

Once again there is only a short background story, which was mainly revealed in the ending of the Monster in the Mirror 2. This story sets the scene for the exploration of the house and basically just provides a reason for the treasure hunt to find the will in the game's title. None of the games in the series have much story, instead relying on the player's curiosity for looking around strange places. As a curious person myself, I enjoyed searching around the environment.

Selma's Will is well written, with much longer and better descriptions that add greater depth to the environment. The comparison of the PC's memories with the current state of the house is an interesting contrast. The game is also larger in size and better constructed than the first two games, which had linear designs. Selma's Will allows far more deviation in the order that puzzles are solved. Although the game is larger, it is still not too long or difficult. In fact I would recommend Selma's Will as a good game for beginning players to try.

This game includes a lot more NPCs than the first two games. They are not hugely conversational, although this does fit their characters to be rude to the PC. There are also a lot more objects to figure out uses for. In this game everything and everyone has one use, and you just have to find it. The lack of red herrings makes the game easier to solve, but unfortunately the game's simple design means that sometimes there is too much just find object/give object to person, or find key/unlock door type puzzles. A bit more complexity or variation in the puzzles I feel could have improved the game.

Selma's Will is easily the best game of the series and a good game overall. The writing and design were better for each subsequent game in this series, showing the author's improvement over the period. Selma's Will is an enjoyable fun game, which I would recommend.

Score - 7/10
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