Discussion follows the cut.
“My Mind’s Mishmash” has a truly unfortunate blurb on the competition website:
A mishmash of robots, psychic powers and “ghosts” in a game of action and survival.
This jacket-blurb suggests to me that the author has written some confused cliché-ridden pap, that he realizes this, and that he has nonetheless submitted it to the competition. He would not be the first to do so, either. Since this is not the case — “My Mind’s Mishmash” is not incoherent junk — I’m not sure why the author didn’t give it a better advertisement. I guess sometimes deliberately lowering the player’s expectations pays off, but it’s risky to make the game sound actively un-fun.
As it happens, the world-building is considerably more cohesive than this write-up suggests: there are some cliché ideas, but this is not an entirely generic world, and the various elements work together sensibly. I very much enjoyed the opening segment, which led off with a contained, accessible puzzle and seemed to be setting me up for a kind of Ender’s Game scenario.
For all that, “My Mind’s Mishmash” has a number of drawbacks, especially as a competition game. The one that I can mention without spoiling anything: it’s much too long, and the puzzles too hard. I’m not sure how anyone would get all the puzzles and get through in anything like two hours. I spent quite some time wandering around near the very beginning of the game, making almost no progress at all, then broke down and went to the walkthrough; and even with the walkthrough in hand, typing pretty much exactly those commands and doing little other exploring, I found that it took me another hour and some minutes to see the rest of the game.
More specific commentary on the game’s weaknesses and strengths after the spoiler cut.
This is a game most likely to be enjoyed over considerably more than two hours. Drawing a map is a good idea. Save: it is possible to be killed somewhat unexpectedly. (I did this the first time I was typing through the walkthrough, and had not saved, so had to type in almost the entire thing again.)
So, drawbacks first.
First, I have a hard time being persuaded by the central premise that there is no way for the player to save his avatar’s information and leave the game without going back through the entire thing. Presumably he’s been saving periodically while playing anyway, right? Why wouldn’t there be some mechanism to save and leave from one of the earlier episodes?
Second, I have the sense that the revelation about memoryblam’s real-life identity is supposed to be a dramatic twist, but I was unmoved. Perhaps the betrayal of a real-life ally (your brother) is meant to parallel Lauren’s betrayal (in the game), but neither of these relationships was explored fully enough by the game for me to have strong feelings about them.
Third, why does the ghost cap prevent us opening doors but not allow us to walk through them? It seems like we should either be able to touch the doors or not, but the ghost cap seems to create a strange intermediate state of being where we interact physically with doors only if trying to pass through them. This is highly convenient to the game design, I grant, but I wondered throughout why it should be so.
Fourth, I found the text, qua text, hard to read. This may seem like a trivial complaint, but the fact that room descriptions and event descriptions were typically blocked into single monolithic paragraphs impeded my reading speed. The paragraphing also made it harder to pick out, visually, the distinguishing features of a room. And since many of the rooms had similar names and were generally alike (the hallway segments, especially), I found I had a harder-than-usual time telling places apart and remembering the layout of the base overall.
This all feels a bit lame to complain about, like saying that I’m too lazy to read what’s in front of me unless the author breaks it up into tiny bites. But there was no real aesthetic value to having the text arranged this way, and I was already finding the game a bit of a challenge to follow: there was lots of exposition to take in, some quite difficult puzzles to resolve, and much more content than I was likely to get through in two hours. So having another aspect of the game that slowed me down and confused me was not good.
Now, after all that griping, I should say that I thought this structure was a novel and interesting way of conveying a story. The player wanders through the setting, knowing both what has happened and what is going to happen there; various areas take on added significance because of the foreshadowing of things to come. This still lacks the immediacy of being allowed to participate in all the action yourself, but I found it fairly entertaining and effective; the story has a directness that you can’t get from the standard find-diary-entries-and-view-recordings adventure game exposition.
I would have liked it if the game-play had focused more on revelations about plot and character, rather than on multiple puzzles to do with stealing passcards — but even so, I thought the method was neat.