The Uncertainty Machine
Release date: 03/2003
Developer/Publisher: Eduardo Campos (ratracer)
Game language: English
Freeware Download 20,1 MB
A review by slydos 10th April 2003
Since the development of adventure games is neglected by big companies such as Vivendi (Sierra) or Lucas Arts, smaller companies successfully occupy the so left market gap, as the genre fans really don't want to let themselves be changed to shoot-and-die recipients. Simultanously to this development there are more and more fans, who don't only dedicate their free time and creativity to playing games, but even become developers of their own. The offer of more and more suitable programs and tools, that facilitate the development of adventure games, helps them. In the case of "The Uncertainty Machine" Eduardo Campos "ratracer" used AGS, Adventure Game Studio, and created a considerable freeware adventure for the fans.
As players we receive some additional information first: we are in the near future in a country of the western cultural environment. There is a strict separation between the "Off Limits" and the normal "Citizens". These "Citizens" live in well-known western prosperity, the others are excluded from it. We hardly get to know more about the "Off Limits".
Susan Gant is a young reporter at First News and wants to enter the building this morning, when she witnesses a robbery. One of the "Off Limits" is threatening an older man just in front of the newspaper building. Susan interferes and calls the police, what drives the offender out. Both men disappear fast and Susan remains surprised thinking about what just happened.
This day her boss entrusts her with the investigation of a theft in a noble neighbourhood. Her investigations lead to the trace of more far reaching events, Susan gets between different groups, who pursue obscure goals and learns about an invention, which could change the world...
After downloading of approx. 20 MB, you only must unpack the ZIP-file and start the EXE-program - the game installs automatically and takes in the end (with savegames) approx. 60 MB on your hard disk. With the installation on my computer unfortunately no direct connection to the sound card could be made, shown by a short error message when starting. (sound however could be established in the configuration file ACSETUP.CFG with the change of the parameter digiwinindx to the value 1. Otherwise I would have had to do without the Jethro Tull-like music and others.)
The start menu offers the usual options like New Game, Load, Credits, Quit. Besides there is the practical menu-option "Help", where one can get a detailed description of the control elements. We select "New Game" to watch the prehistory and then get involved in the above described assault and slip into the role of Susan.
"The Uncertainty Machine" is a 3rd-person-game and almost exclusively mouse-controlled, whereby we can look at objects and characters with a right-click, a left-click executes actions like take, speak etc.. The scrollable inventory is always visible at the top of the screen. Here too we get descriptions of objects with right-click of the mouse, sometimes we get even more, because there are objects, like cell-phone or laptop, which can be used thereby. With one left-click we select an inventory object to use it at the screen. If you want to put it back again, you must click again with the right mouse button.
Driving the cursor over the screen, you get describing texts at hotspots. Susan likewise moves with one mouse-click. She surmounts larger distances between different locations by city map, where during the game more and more places are marked. The only key we have to keep in mind, is F9. Thus we call the main menu at the top of the screen, which replaces temporarily our inventory bar. By the Save-option we open a dialogue box, in which we can name up to 20 different savegames, beyond that we can only replace old savegames with new ones.
Controls and handling are excellently designed, intuitively detectable and don't leave much to be desired except a larger number of savegames.
The graphics can be described as semiprofessionell. Perspectives and proportions of the backgrounds, which are times simply times lavishly and lovingly designed, are correct.
More and more locations are accessible during the game, as the editorial office, the crime scene in a noble villa, a park, a museum, the police station and others. Rather pastel shades are used than piercing comic colors, and in some places filtered photo parts are masterly inserted. The character graphics can please either. Both Susan and the relatively large number of non-player-characters are very realistically drawn. In addition Susan wears chic different clothes - "The Uncertainty Machine" takes place on 2 successive days, so we can watch her both in skirt and trousers.
Besides the pleasant static graphic the movements or better the jerky perspective shrinking when changing from foreground to background and vice versa look somewhat amateurish.
The puzzles in "The Uncertainty Machine" are imaginative, logical and well integrated into the story. The difficulty level slightly increases towards the end, but there are sufficient hints and finding them never takes too long. Besides the predominant object-/inventory-based puzzles you also must crack codes. In each case it's always important, to visit locations again, talk repeatedly to people and use your tools like laptop and phone.
The course of the game is linear and has no dead ends. So if you for example enter a room, that seems to have no exit, you can be sure to free Susan by the found items. In total the puzzles have medium difficulty and are fun. No unnecessary and frustrating game extensions like mazes or action elements or timed sequences. The approx. 8 hours of playing time are actually filled by the ingenious story and puzzle design only.
The end hides something special too - there are several possibilities to finish, wait and see!
An exciting detective/mystery story, only knowing in the very end whom to trust or not, and what it's all about. This first game by Ratracer Games is indeed recommendable, even when the graphics are not state of the art. Story and puzzles do come up to the expectations of adventure fans. Especially remarkable the well written texts and the certain significance attached to the logic of the chronological sequence of events. By the way it only costs the download time which is worthwhile anyway!
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
This switch must be repaired
Fast moving with the map
This statue plays an important role
Demonstration at the post-office
Finally the graphics are nearly professionnell