Paradox Corps

I get a definite sense here of the story having been inspired by Doctor Who. I am just familiar enough with the Doctor to note a few similarities, but I guess not so familiar that the situations cease to be fresh.

We're a new recruit for the time-travel police, and the first three chapters are spent on training missions, each under the tutelage of a different higher-ranking agent. This is followed by a crisis, a rescue, and a final confrontation in which, hopefully, the whole conflict will be resolved. The game keeps track of three different stats: diplomacy, combat, and "enigma" -- this last one encompassing skills in observation, analysis, and puzzle-solving. It goes without saying that your play style will be probably reflected by the development of one stat or another, above and beyond the other two.

And this is a game that rewards the consistency of your role-playing. The endgame offers three different strategies for the final conflict resolution, but, of course, success is only possible if you have developed the relevant stat -- that is, if you have generally behaved in the manner characteristic of that particular stat -- throughout the earlier game. What this means is that all three strategies are valid, and it is really only the ability of the actor that dictates which of them should be adopted. On the one hand, this seems really basic; but it seems to me that this sort of thing is really more characteristic of the early parts of most choice-based stat-tracking games: endgames tend to have choices that are definitely "good" or "bad", and you better have developed the correct stats for the "good" choice. Here, all three choices can potentially lead to perfectly good success endings, each satisfactory enough that a player can sit back and feel that he's won.

There's a "no stress" mode which shows you the meaning of each choice with regards to stat progression. It does not, however, give any information as to whether any choice is an advisable course of action. While I haven't explored every single possible choice, it is my belief that the reasoning for this is that none of the choices are "inadvisable". Like the ending, all choices are valid -- what matters is whether they are in keeping with the character.

Going back to the choices at the endgame, there is one interesting thing about them. The choice of strategies is offered twice, but in the first offer (I suppose if your "enigma" stat is not high enough, or if you've missed something somehow) the choice for the "enigma"-related course of action may be greyed out. Almost immediately after, though, you are asked to make a definitive decision as to what to do, the follow-up to the earlier, greyed-out "enigma" option is available: "yes, let us follow this clue which we have not actually noticed before." I thought that this was a bug, but after talking about the game's emphasis on roleplaying consistency, I'm not so sure. It now seems to me that the game is in fact slyly offering the player an opportunity to cheat. This is actually quite clever. Unlike diplomacy and combat, "enigma" requires attention to past detail, and by greying out the first option, the game makes it explicit that our hero has not noticed a clue that an astute player might have. The only way to choose the "enigma" strategy, therefore, is to cheat. And since, if the first option was greyed out, you are unlikely to have the requisite "enigma" to ensure success, well, failure is the reward for cheating, for acting out of character.

I will note that the clue in question seems very weak. It's "a blonde woman" who keeps cropping up everywhere. Blonde women aren't exactly a rarity. In visual media, you can simply have the same actress showing up without undue attention drawn to her. In print media, on the other hand, that's much harder to do. Too much description draws attention, and then you wonder why our hero never noticed until now that she was all over the place.

What else is there? I enjoyed the characters: I thought they were pleasantly diverse and well-written. There was an unfortunate tendency to jump between viewpoints and over time lapses without warning, so that you'd be halfway through a paragraph before realising that such a change had taken place; the game could really benefit from a few section breaks and chapter headers. But all in all, I thought it was a pretty solid entry.

As a breakfast, I think this would be farmer's sausage, scrambled eggs, buttermilk pancakes with butter and honey, and French Roast coffee. Hearty and familiar fare.