Amazing, simply amazing. When Sam Barlow released Aisle, a highly original "experimental" IF in 1999, many people, including me, thought that the idea, while interesting, would be impossible to adapt to a puzzle-intensive IF game. After all, how could one invent puzzles if the game ends only after one move? Most of us therefore wrote Aisle off as an it-only-works-once kind of game. |
Then Andrew Pontious released Rematch in 2000. And, boy, were we wrong. I sure am glad we were, though. Let's see what my favorite SPAG reviewer Duncan Stevens has to say about this ingenious classic:
"Like Aisle, Rematch is a one-move game, a game whose exploration consists of figuring out the many and varied things you can do with your one move, rather than building on your explorations through a series of moves. You might think that would be limiting, since generally it wouldn't allow for multi-step tasks, but Andrew Pontious's technical wizardry in Rematch overcomes those limitations, and the result is memorable indeed.
The primary difference between Aisle and Rematch is that, while the former was purely about exploration of the main character, the latter is really a puzzle: something happens after your move, and it will happen again and again unless you manage to avert it. What you do is not at all simple, and you're likely to spend several hundred moves figuring out how to do it – but it's a rewarding several hundred moves, and well worth the time. Part of the reason it's difficult is that there are several things to set it in motion, as it were, and figuring out what and where they are and how they interact takes some exploring (one move at a time, of course). As such, in one sense, it's the ultimate learn-by-screwing-up game – like Aisle, of course, since in Aisle you drew on the knowledge you accumulated to explore your character further, but here the game depends much more on your ability to draw on past lives.
The puzzle you solve is complicated, and as such the action that you perform to solve it is fairly complicated as well, and the author has accordingly hacked the TADS parser somewhat to accommodate more complex input lines than most IF can handle: by my count, the Rematch parser can handle five nouns in some syntaxes, whereas the Infocom parser (on which neither Inform nor TADS nor any other freely available authorship system – had improved, to my knowledge – at least, not in terms of complexity – until now) could generally only handle three (HIT THE DOG ON THE HEAD WITH THE HAMMER).
Rematch highlights the real strength of one-move games, in that they make it easy for the author to provide for absolutely everything the player could come up with. In giving you multiple views and variations on the central event of the game, the game enhances its mimetic qualities: you can try just about anything logical, and the parser will handle just about anything you type. The AMUSING section at the end is well populated, and in fact there are many things worth trying that don't, in fact, show up in that list. It may be objected that limiting the player's freedom to one move is a sort of backwards-looking way to achieve mimesis, but we take it where we find it, I guess, and Rematch is plenty immersive even in its one move."
In short, Rematch is definitely a must-have for anyone with even a remote interest in interactive fiction. Be warned, though, this is NOT an easy game, and you'll be spending hundreds of moves trying to figure the way out. It definitely took me that long, but it is well worth the time. Oh, and here's a gentle hint: pay attention to what the game says about you not "breaking the circle" ;-) Two thumbs up, way up!
Reviewed by: Underdogs