Rover's Day Out


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Rating: 4.8/5 (37 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (79)

DanTheArcherRover's Day Out Of the countless worlds and wonders that hold our fascination, few of them have captured, and in turn, galvanized our imaginations so much as that cold, black maw yawning on us from above: space. And why shouldn't it? It's fathomless, it begets over a billion hypothetical realities and counting, and it alone bears the emptiness required to entertain guests as brilliant as stars. The prospect of exploring all that nothingness is a bit daunting, raising some interesting questions that were at one time considered the purview of science fiction writers. Thankfully, there's now a work of interactive fiction that's got some of the answers: Rover's Day Out, Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman's winning entry in this year's IF Comp 2009.

The narrative begins with an itsy-bitsy clue that not all will be as it seems, followed by your character waking up in a fairly unadorned abode. From there, it's up to you as to what you do and how you go about it, because I can't say too much here without spoiling details. Know that your entire interactive fiction arsenal will be necessary (LOOK, EXAMINE, etc.) in order to proceed; some other unorthodox commands are useful for flavor information, but the nature of the orders you're expected to give are rarely too out of the ordinary.

Something that will quickly become quite apparent is the strange dialogue overlapping your actions, comments being made on your every move. Who are these strange watchers, and what could be their purpose? Why is it they seem to take interest in your performance of the most mundane tasks? And why do they consistently use really, really big words? Answers to all of these questions, as well as some of those loftier ones about space exploration will be answered, not to mention a couple others if you're lucky.

Analysis: Right off the bat, it's clear the writers aren't a couple of science-fiction lightweights. The more tidbits you find on the setting, the more you realize these guys did their homework (or read their Asimov, anyway). The superscience here all holds up quite well, and while sometimes it can get a little lost in the outlandish jargon that starts getting thrown around (particularly in the endgame section), the technology of it all begins to make sense the more you play.

And play you must, for I shall warn you now: the game will seem redundant at the start, once you figure out what you have to do and start the wheels turning. There's a decent chunk of the game where you'll be retracing steps and re-enacting commands, but please, ye faithful i-fictioneers, be patient! Things really get interesting the deeper you let yourself get drawn in, and there's plot turns and twists aplenty for an adventure that's relatively short.

Well, okay, the scope of the game isn't gigantic, as in someone with a walkthrough in front of them could shotgun through it at a quick clip, but some of the puzzles might require some good old-fashioned trial and error, while others are time-dependent and others happen in the midst of tension-wrought scenes. That's right, no resting on your haunches for you. This is a piece of interactive fiction that'll force you to think on the fly, think in terms you may not be familiar with, and do a whole lot of thinking in general. Truly, a worthy top contender of this year's competition.

Download Rover's Day Out (Mac/Windows/Linux, 1.7MB, free)

To play this game, you'll need both the game file and an interpreter. Download Rover's Day Out from the Interactive Fiction Archive followed by an interpreter for your OS: Gargoyle for Windows, Zoom for Macintosh and Unix.

14 Comments

This was a lot of fun, once the repetition stopped. I liked how the final puzzle let you put your knowledge of how the ship "really worked" to use.

Also, looking through the source code showed an astonishing amount of depth (and some stuff that was apparently inaccessible). For example, did you try...

Typing Linux commands (cd, ls, man)?
Eating the robots?
Opening the bathroom sink while a technician is onboard? While Janet and David are onboard?
Stuffing a robot into the fridge?
Opening the cargo bay while someone was in there?
Scratching your back while a ship is docked?
Brushing your teeth while a ship is docked?

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Ben Collins-Sussman December 7, 2009 12:00 AM

Thanks for the kind review! We've learned our lesson about too much repetition in the beginning of a game. We lost a lot of players because of it. We promise not to repeat that mistake in the sequel. :-)

-Ben

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> twist plunger widdershins
You adjust the plunger handle counterclockwise....

> twist plunger deasil
You can't see any such thing.

Eh, such joy and then such disappointment...

Just kidding of course, the game so far (I've currently

Just landed for real

) is great!

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I got stuck when my character clearly knew what to do about the antenna, but I sure didn't. Though I smacked myself after consulting the walkthrough.

I didn't realize that I needed to go through all the steps again instead of fixing or dealing with the broken antenna.

I really liked the shift into "reality," though it was very distracting and confusing when trying to deal with the newcomers. I didn't feel like anything I had at my disposal would have much effect on them, and the obvious methods only worked once. I felt a little powerless there, especially under the time constraint.

Is there any more IF by these authors? Rover's Day Out is pretty slick.

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I am stuck!

I have eaten the third egg but I can't go to the bathroom. Apparently it needs to work through my system, but hours have gone by and nothing is happening. Am I missing something?

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This is the only IF game I ever beat without a walkthrough, but it didn't seem overly easy either.

I like how you can remember things.

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Martan de Nae December 7, 2009 8:30 PM

@mile end:

While I did not run into this problem, perhaps

you aren't done on the planet yet?

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I ended up restarting the game. I wonder, however, whether what happened to me was normal, or was a glitch?

What had happened was that I had obtained all the necessary items on the planet, but not in the same order as indicated on the walkthrough. So in the game, I shifted to reality, then suddenly back again, so that instead of everything being labelled as cargo bay, engineering, etc., it went back to living room, kitchen. In addition, the bone I had taken from the female dog later appeared in the shack, and I took it back again. It was at that point that the game became stuck with me unable to digest the second egg, but nothing was left on the surface. Was this a glitch?

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Martan de Nae December 8, 2009 9:18 PM

That's...definitely odd. I have no idea whatsoever. Except that, for me,

the game didn't shift to 'reality'-view until I brought the probe home (which for me was after the lead ore, egg, and pillow)

That reminds me

did anyone find a use for the ore?

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I can't figure out what to do once

I've turned into a dog and gone outside

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@Lucie:

You're a dog. What's your primary sense?

Smell around.

The game was fun to play, the accompanying dialog is superb. There are a few minor annoyances (I didn't mind the replays though) like trying to fill the water bowl with water (it tries to fill the sink with the sink or something like this instead). I also had a glitch where the drawer and the cupboard were empty, and after some walking between the rooms the items inside reappeared.

The cognitive dissonance was very well done, it worked well. Indeed, I think the repetition of the morning routine helped, as I could easily remember what to do using the original names for the things around.

The dog part was also very enjoyable, only I had the feeling that it lacked some depth and was too straightforward. I now stand corrected - it's my fault I haven't figured out more ways to interact :)

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@Mordred: I tried

sniffing, and it tells me that I can smell home, and a strange man, and a female dog, but it won't let me move geographically toward any of them with "run north" "walk north", "go north", etc. Am I on the right track and just need the right command?

Also, the game wants you to report bugs and get on their "wall of fame", so go ahead and let 'em know your glitches.

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Lucie - you are on the right track. What do bloodhounds do when they catch a scent?

"Follow" item which has a scent.

I have made it to what I believe is the endgame but I cannot figure out what to do now. I'm going to have to resort to the walkthrough.

Most importantly I have found the "cognitive block" and I have no idea how to access it.

I can only imagine that that has to be the way to finish.

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@Lucie

Behave like a dog knowing no direction but your target.

go to man, go to dog, go home

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