At Wit’s End

Author: Mike Sousa
Year: 2000
Development System: TADS
Cruelty Rating: Cruel
Length of Play: 3-4 Hours

My Rating: 4

I really wanted to love this game. Thrown into the middle of an at-bat during the American League Championship Series, it has one of the better hooks I’ve seen, and I honestly would have played an entire baseball game coded by Sousa. Ultimately, however, this game can’t decide what it wants to be and it left me deeply frustrated.

The first third of the game is well above average, as the first several sections are tense and well-paced. It has the feel of spy movie with exotic locations and contrived danger. But then came the fucking barn.

Even if I could look past that a complex, multi-step puzzle feels entirely out of place in this otherwise frenetic game, the way it’s coded is aggravating. At one point you must pour liquids into containers using a funnel, and you have to individually unscrew each cap, insert the funnel, pour the liquid, remove the funnel, screw on the cap, and repeat. And that’s just one example of how the game needlessly complicates basic tasks. None of the puzzles are terribly difficult; they all make sense within context and the game will often push you in the right direction if you’re on the right track. But there’s…just…so…many…steps. Heaven forbid you have to restore back to an earlier point and redo the entire barn puzzle (yeah, that happened).

There’s also some sloppy coding. Sometimes doors are described as closed when they’re open. There’s a door entrance that’s apparently its own room, but only while going in one direction. And some fairly obvious synonyms are not programmed. But in other ways it’s coded really well. With one or two exceptions, the game will let you know if you try to save in an unwinnable state.

There’s a lot to like here, which is why I finished it despite my frustrations. But At Wit’s End left me feeling as much.

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