Larry Underwood's Verdict: I felt that Mr. Klimas' depiction of a disease-empowered dystopia was lacking in a sort of mystic attunement.
The Monkey Grinder's Verdict: Perhaps my race would not be doomed to a 103% illiteracy rate if we were able to frotz games like this.
My Verdict: Very interesting and a good addition to the no-puzzle IF subspecies.
Game Type: Inform
Author Info: NA
Other Games By This Author: None known
Download Link: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/mercy.z5
Chris Klimas' Mercy is an interesting -- sometimes slightly disturbing -- example of puzzleless interactive fiction. The player character (Dr. Peter Basham) makes his living euthanizing sick patients who have been hammered with smallpox. His is not a world where mankind is quickly coming to grips with the manifestation of the epidemic, rather, he and the populace exists with much of the life sapped away. Mercy's tone mimics Peter's worldview -- the writing gives off a reserved, somber feeling throughout most of the game.
Klimas is obviously quite familiar with his game universe, and doles out information pertaining to it carefully. This is quite effective for the game's opening sequences. The player, however, will have to come to grips with the fact that we are not going to get the full story of exactly what went down, mostly due to the fact that there is no changing the existence of the plague. Mercy is not some sort of superhero or larger-than-life yarn where Americans, banding together, can overcome a killer disease. It is stoically maintains its grimness.
Mercy is, as previously mentioned, free from puzzles. It is here where the game could probably benefit from some additional depth in interaction. Certain bits -- NPC communication and the scene with the 386 computer -- definitely provide enough of a hook to maintain the player's interest. The e-mail simulation on the 386 brings to mind the sort of horribly dated VAX mail systems computer science students had to deal with in the early 90s and is almost symbolic of what happened. Much in the same way that Mercy's world has become vacant of any hope or pleasure, the e-mail system has stagnated at a level of technology only the most socially-void Unix zeroes would find intuitive and fresh.
However, the game does often feel as if it is, for parts, completely on rails. Mercy could be described as a sort of middle ground in puzzleless IF; between A Moment of Hope and Photopia. Whereas A Moment of Hope sometimes had its player wondering if it could affect the game's world at all, Mercy provides, in the majority of scenes, complete freedom of movement and action. However, where Photopia could trick its player into going exactly where it wanted (while maintaining a false exterior of free will) through wonderfully bizarre and "magical" objects , Mercy's more realistic setting does not really provide a sufficient amount of "toys" for a player to play with. It is clear that the author is quite capable of designing unique IF objects and in turn, coding them well. Mercy could profit from more of that kind of care.
This game probably would be a good text adventure to learn the genre with. There are a few simple "house rules" in terms of communicating with other characters (thankfully, the game disposes of the tedious need to type ASK ABOUT and TELL ABOUT by using a "npc, topic" command system), no places to really get hopelessly stuck, and it's well-written and entertaining. Hopefully, further games from Klimas, should they be free from puzzles, will allow us to more fully immerse ourselves in his gaming worlds.
Simple Rating: 8.2 / 10
Story: 7.9 / 10 (A cliche -- a mass disease aftermath -- is saved by the fact that the PC is not attempting salvation for it)
Writing: 9.3 / 10 (Moody, distant, uncaring... possibly it might get to be a bit too much, but the dialogue is realistic and as a whole, the writing is quite effective.)
Playability: 8.5 / 10 (A few objects did not appear in inventory after taking them... the player can make decisions that affect how he or she winds up progressing the story)
Puzzle Quality: NA
Parser Responsiveness: 7.1 / 10 (Some more NPC conversation topics would help, but Klimas otherwise anticipated what I wanted to do)
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