IFComp 2010: Oxygen

I got the shaft

“Oxygen: A Game of Survival” by ShadowK

An explosion rattles the Aegis mining station and the oxygen tanks are leaking. Who gets the remaining oxygen and who will perish? The choice is up to you, a lowly technician trapped in an access conduit.

It’s my first sci-fi game of this comp! I tend to enjoy these, even if they are a bit cliche. Here goes spoilerin’…

This is a very short, polished game. It’s a one puzzle replayer. You get just enough information to play on your first run, but there’s a desire to go back and see the other endings. That’s good! I enjoy replay games, and I think this is just bite-size-right for the comp. If anything, it errs on the side of being too compact; I played through five times in an hour, but I’m sure I haven’t exhausted the possibilities.

The premise is this: There’s an oxygen leak in your spaceship’s main atmosphere reserve, and you are ‘fighting’ with the quarantined aft section of the ship for the remaining air. At first this seems pretty simple; there’s a little book to provide you with some helpful technical information and a guy shouting orders over a radio. You have a very simple puzzle to power on a console, and then you’re just working out an optimized setting to keep as much air as you possibly can within the time limit. Easy? Sure. On my first play I saved the forward section of the ship and got a promotion for it. I did feel bad for killing off the aft section, after realizing that the captain is a jerk. So I played again.

This time around, I paid attention to the noises down the corridor and discovered a secondary character, Andre. Andre is a turncoat, and also an expert on the oxygen system. He encourages me to save the aft section as well as the forward section. I did my best to split the air, but it looks like I got a bad ending.

I tried again, and saved both parts of the ship. I accompany Andre back to the aft, where I’m informed that we’re all going to die because the captain is a jerk and I have *no sense of self-preservation*. I thought I did good that time!

Fourth attempt: I try saving the ship and staying forward with the captain. Promotion again, and I feel like a jerk again.

Fifth attempt: I decide to be a real rebel and save no air for the forward section, and defect to the aft with Andre. At the last second I get a conscience and leave the captain et al. 3psi of air in their reserve tank. Ha! So I go back to the rebels expecting to be a hero, and what do they do? They thank me and then hand me over to be executed. This sucks!

So it’s a smart little game with a clever mechanic to it, but I’m not sure there’s a good ending. I mean, I tried saving one half, or the other, or both, but I always finished feeling unsatisfied. The walkthrough wasn’t especially helpful in this respect; I would have liked some hinting about whether there was a better ending to find. (I think this is one of the best things about the GROW games – partial success is clearly expressed).

Just a couple other notes: The use of sound was tasteful. I didn’t like it at first, but I found the audio feedback for the console interaction and the atmosphere transfers to be helpful and immersive. I think some more atmospheric sound might have been nice. Second, though the opening text is okay, it felt more derivative than the rest of the game. I mean, “Galactic Empire” is clearly a Star Wars reference, and “Jefferies tubes” belong to Star Trek (says Wikipedia) so I would have changed those names.

I realize my complaints are very small here; I really enjoyed playing this little game.

Verdict: A-

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