One of my favorite entries in the 2002 IF Competition, When Help Collides placed a disappointing 18th - roughly halfway down the list of entries. The game is almost impossible to describe, so suffice it to say that you start the game as a sort of disembodied "help feature" who must answer IF players' distress calls for help and disburse the appropriate hints. Not soon after, the game turns into something else entirely, and before you finish When Help Collides, you will have played at least two out of three funny segments that include a hilarious parody of D&D session, and a geisha simulator (no, it's not what you think) that plays like a neat little strategy game. |
I think one major reason most voters dislike When Help Collides is that they expected to see a "text adventure with a coherent story" in a text adventure competition, and nothing else. Which is a fair criticism, I suppose, but ultimately one that is too narrow-minded, because the game was legitimately coded with a text adventure language (Inform, in this case) and which offers you a parser to interact with. Moreover, it was not the first competition entry that is not strictly IF. For instance, Andrew Plotkin's Lists and Lists in the 1997 competition is much less IF-y than this game (it was basically an interactive introduction to programming). When Help Collides is not a coherent story. It is a collection of 3 virtually unrelated mini-games, all of which are amusing and obey its own weird brand of internal logic. I see nothing wrong with that. The only gripes I have with the game are the confusing and unfairly difficult prologue, and the fact that it is virtually impossible to "win" the game, from the way the mini-games are structured. After struggling through the disappointing prologue, I had a blast with all three sections of the game, and even replayed it a few times to see if I could do better. No, I didn't "get" the story - if there was one to get - and I didn't know what was really going on. But I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. After all, we don't get upset when we realize there is no backstory to abstract puzzles like Rubik's cube. Like a Rubik's cube, When Help Collides is a clever and neat puzzler that will entertain you - if you are willing to suspend your convictions on what a "text adventure" should be like. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Underdogs