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Unauthorized Termination

Rating: 6/10. Flawed but amusing.
Author: Richard Otter
Released: 2006 (Part of 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition)
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You're a robot on a world of robots. A robot has been terminated without authorization and you need to find out why. Despite the setting, this is fundamentally a hard boiled detective story as you find out the dark secret that the murder is covering up.

It's an interesting twist, and I enjoyed it. The game has a number of flaws, but it's still fun. I enjoyed playing detective and uncovering the dark secret.

Unfortunately the game begins with a pile of completely irrelevant back plot. As is typical in such cases, less is more. There are few puzzles that require engaging in non-obvious activities, including holding a meteor at just the right time, or joining an underground religion for no reason. The game does a bit too much telling instead of showing. The "message waiting" flag on the messenging system doesn't clear when you read your messages. The dialogue is occasionally weirdly redundant, as though the person I'm talking to has forgotten what we were just discussing. The list of crimes in the world are all listed as being punishable by "authorized termination." The redundancy bothered me; isn't punishment authorized implicitly? And why list the punishment if you only have one?

The designers decided to make "SHOW X TO Y" synonymous with "GIVE X TO Y," leading to my handing a few objects over to people when I didn't mean to. For example, an attempt to show my boss some evidence was interpreted as an offer to trade. None of the misinterpretations were harmful, but they were jarring. The world primarily uses teleporters for transportation, but which teleporters are linked where seems random. The links sometimes change without rhyme or reason. I was optimistic about moving by teleporter, hoping I could skip mapping, except not all links are available. A few locations aren't accessible by teleporter, making more traditional mapping necessary. The game has some cryptic errors. The game insists that you begin all conversations with "TALK TO X," and gives the nonsensical error "Remember your politeness," if you forget. Trying to "READ REPORT" on a report you aren't carrying doesn't clairify that you need to pick it up first. The game in a few cases tells me what I think or do; behavior I never like. For example, at one point I as told, "You decide to return to the centre," which is very presumptive of my goals.

Finally, the core premise of the game seems nonsensical to me:


All weapons are illegal, even for law enforcement. Since violent crime is clearly possible, it seems implausible for law enforcement to be unarmed. Thus, the core premise that there is a conspiracy to arm law officers is flawed.

(2006-04-21: Made a bunch of minor corrections to typos.)

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