One of the best games of the 1999 IF competition, Halothane is an excellent blend of modernism, mystery, and a lot of quirky sense of humor. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than Winter Wonderland, winner of the said competition, although the game finished a respectable 6th place in a year that saw a lot of excellent games vying for the judges’ affection. Bryan’s excellent review at the Trotting Krips says it all about what makes Halothane one of the most underrated IF titles ever made. |
"Halothane is not a game which is easy to describe...rather, it is something which must be experienced. The player's primary goal while playing the game is simply to figure out what's going on, and it is a great mystery. Over the course of the ten chapters that make up the game, the protagonist, an author named Harold Banks is placed in many strange and unusual situations - there's even some gender bumping going on later in the game! In each chapter, Harold's objects are not clear. He must feel his way around his environment, and try to do things that seem sensible. Above all, he must examine everything around him. (The "search" command is one of my personal favorites, and this game uses this command to wonderful effect.) Of special note are the notes (a bad pun, I know) which periodically show up in unusual places - they detail conversations between strange characters such as "The Creator" and "The Author"...ultimately, Harold may find himself speaking in these notes, though his memories are difficult to retrieve. Each chapter ends once Harold has accomplished what he is to do, and the game flows seamlessly on. And with each finished chapter, the plot becomes more and more detailed - by the end of the game, a big wrap up is hardly needed, as the player will have already come across so much information that he/she already has an excellent idea of the complex storyline! One important story note to make is that this game fully incorporates alternate paths. I finished it missing some sixty points off the perfect score doing all manners of strange things, which, according to the hints screen (which I only viewed idly in retrospect), I shouldn't have been doing at all!
Good points about the game...geez, where should I start? It's superb all around. The story is fascinating and enigmatic, and the way it comes together over the course of the game is intensely impressive. The writing is also fantastic throughout...nothing in this game becomes monotonous because of the excellent prose and great attention to detail. The gameplay level is extremely high because of the support for alternative paths and the smooth segueing between chapters. The puzzles are not terribly hard...the main thing is to examine and search everything you come across, and then just use your head. Very simple puzzle solving, but very effective and enjoyable! Probably what I like most about this game is that it keeps the player involved at every step of the way - you have to always keep a close eye on the story, or you'll certainly miss valuable clues. Never is the player so deluged with "mountains of text" that he/she forgets that their input is needed to advance the story...there's always something to search, to pick up, to examine. And the parser responsiveness! It rivals [Adam Cadre’s] I/O! It seemed to predict everything I threw at, sometimes even providing humorous responses to...err...humorous inputs. This game really has it all. I'm hard pressed to say anything bad about it...one puzzle did annoy me because I didn't understand the format in which I was supposed to word my input (SPOILER: table, the code is...), but that's the only one. Everything else was superb.
Most important to me is the size of the game. This isn't something you'll finish in fifteen minutes to say the least. It's a long game (as I said, a prologue and ten chapters, each with a different setting), and it's also a wide game (alternate endings, rich environment, well detailed objects, rooms, and events). It's a very rich experience that I think is well worth spending a few hours with. For me, I don't believe I could have spent this afternoon with any better company." A must-have for fans of modern IF, without a doubt.
Reviewed by: Underdogs