IFComp 2010: Divis Mortis


“Divis Mortis” by Lynnea Dally

The infection has spread. They are coming.

Tut tut, looks like zombies. I’m not expecting too much, but then Glulx games are usually more ambitious that your typical z-code entry, so I could be wrong. Let’s find out. Spoilers await:

Yes, it’s zombies. Zombies in a hospital. I awake in a radiation chamber with a terrible hunger, and immediately wonder if I’m a zombie myself. Apparently I am not. In my first attempt I get my hands on flashlights I can’t open, food I won’t eat, medicine I won’t take and a gun with no bullets before being eaten by the first solitary undead I stumble across. Maybe should have been titled “I Wanna Be The Zombie?”

On my second attempt I make it just slightly further (successfully barricading the doors) before starting to look for hints. Pushing the exercise stairs three rooms to climb the barricade was a bit much. And who can’t lift exercise steps anyway? But really, this is a symptom of a larger problem in the game: It’s inconsistent in how it draws attention to important items. Some rooms (like the Pharmacy) are empty and purposeless except as a place to write “Some pills are sitting on the counter.” Others (like the weight room) nonchalantly mention key items (exercise steps, rope) in-line with scenery, and even seem to imply that there is nothing useful in the room. This isn’t helped by the sometimes lacking synonyms or verbs. I mean, to give you my experience I just need to provide anecdotes:

> open can
You remove the lid, salivating at the prospect of food.

> eat food
You can’t see any such thing.

> eat peas
You scarf the vegetables down, eager to…

And a simple case that could have been handled with an instead rule:

> take pills
You already have those.

> eat pills
You pop the recommended dosage of pills into your mouth.

It took me forever to find the scissors to open the flashlight and lamp. I thought, “surely there must be some other way to open this stupid plastic packaging.”

> unwrap flashlight with gun
(the flashlight (wrapped) with the handgun (loaded))
That doesn’t seem to be something you can unlock.

> shoot flashlight
(the flashlight (wrapped))
You aim and fire. You have 2 bullets left.

> open flashlight
(the flashlight (wrapped))
You rip at the plastic crap, but you never could do it with your bare hands. You need a sharp object.

When I finally did get the lamp open and I wished to drop it down the stairs I thought of a great puzzle solution. I would turn the lamp on, stick it back in its stupid indestructible packaging, and drop it. The light would shine through the clear plastic. But no:

> put lamp in lamp crap
(the electric lamp in plastic lamp crap)
That can’t contain things.

And finally getting downstairs, I’m unable to open the electric panel because I have no screwdriver. Hints? “You must get past the car zombie.” What? I’ve searched this place high and low, and found no so-called car zombie. There’s no garage either. The description of the panel says something like “if only you had a quarter or a screwdriver.” Too bad I can’t pick up the coins mentioned in the same drawer where I finally found the scissors. In the end, I read every hint and scoured every room, and was unable find a car zombie or screwdriver so I could not finish the game. The writing’s nothing to write home about, the puzzles feel a bit unfair (and there are some missed opportunities for very good alternate solutions) and I may have found a showstopper bug.

This is making me re-evaluate some of my other grades. Since I didn’t really like it, and it’s badly in need of testing and possibly broken…

Verdict: C-


4 responses to “IFComp 2010: Divis Mortis

  1. Victor Gijsbers

    The car zombie is in the car, outside in the parking lot. You can get there by going east and south from the main hall. The problem here might be that the game sort of suggests that the main door needs to be barricaded, while this is simply not the case. But the game is definitely not broken — I finished it. ;)

  2. “You must get past the car zombie.” What? I’ve searched this place high and low, and found no so-called car zombie. There’s no garage either.

    Did you even try going outside? Last time I checked, you can’t park a car in a hospital lobby, and they don’t all have garages.

    Also, it seems weird to me to knock off points based on the belief that either (a) you can put equipment back inside its molded plastic display material once it’s been cut up, in any meaningful sense, or (b) said material is “indestructible” enough to cushion electronic equipment from being damaged when dropped down a story onto a hard floor. Maybe those notions have a certain video game logic to them, but they don’t seem to map well to reality.

    • I was going to get all XKCD on you and prove that a flashlight in clamshell packaging would survive a four-meter drop, but I’m not enough of a physics whiz to do the calculations properly and apparently thermoformed clamshell drop test is one thing YouTube cannot provide. Therefore, I will concede that my solution may have been video game logic speaking.

  3. Victor has noticed exactly the problem I had. I barricaded the front door (as the game suggested when I examined the bench, looking for something to use getting up the stairs). Later, I did try to go outside, but all of my attempts to unbarricade the door ended in my (perhaps timely) demise.

    The other issues are small, but they added up and by the time I was trying to go outside I had lost all faith in the game. I assumed I had put it into an unwinnable state (and I’m not alone in this experience).

    Skimming other reviews, I can see that I had a peculiarly poor experience with this title. That’s okay – my poor experience is as valid as the good ones others are reporting. My score, based on my own unspoiled two hours with the game, stands. The good experiences of others (and the zombie love) will balance that out in the comp, and I expect this game to rank somewhere in the middle.

    That said, I am encouraged to give the game another go (non-comp) and see if I can complete it, as others seemed to effortlessly do.

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