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Smokescreen Day#9: It’s History

Today was the release of the final mission of Smokescreen, and I have played it for your reading pleasure. You hunt down the criminal and save the day in a decent narrative tie-up.  The case is an interesting idea of searching browsing histories which is hurt a little bit by lack of feedback. It’s not my favorite mission, but it’s a good way to end the story. Spoilers within.

We start on Melissa’s page with chat with a user named Melissa, but it turns out to be not Melissa – instead, it’s Jo on Melissa’s old laptop. Melissa gave Jo the laptop before her sudden trip, but Cal (who joins the chat) reveals that he fixed it without Melissa’s knowledge, and Jo just forgot to log out as Melissa and hasn’t wiped the hard drive yet. In the chat, they reveal that Melissa’s recently decided to go on an airplane to Ghana to help her dad (a vicar) with some charity stuff for three months.  Cal is her boyfriend now, so he’s heading to the airport to see her off. Jo’s not going so as to not get in the way.

When Cal leaves the chat, Jo finds a page on the laptop that she thinks is hilarious.  She shares it with me in a screen sync, so now I can see and interact with her screen. Jo then decides to check into Fakebook while she’s here, but when she gets to the homepage, we see the Max’s login info is defaulted on the page.  Jo reveals that Max didn’t ever make a Fakebook page, so it’s clear that Melissa made a fake FB profile, and I say in chat (again I have no choice in this — just clicking when they tell me too) that she must have used this to send out the fake party invites to Max’s birthday.  I then am forced to use the IM to connect all the dots on what I saw in the last mission, that Melissa is Billy and set up Max. Jo doesn’t believe it at first, since Melissa was a good friend of hers, but she comes around to my arguments and realizes Melissa is only going to Belize to escape from the law.

We decide to call Cal to stop her at the airport. I make the call, but when I mention Melissa’s guilt to Cal, he immediately hangs up. Jo says we’ll have to convince him, and that we can find evidence in Melissa’s browsing history. But we’ll have to do it before Cal arrives at the airport.

This is the game part of the mission. You have to look through Melissa’s browsing history and find incriminating sites. You then call Cal. If it’s evidence that’s valid, he responds ambivalently and you gain a piece of evidence; you need five pieces to win.  But if it’s not evidence, he dismisses you and you lose one of your six lives. You have to get the five pieces of evidence before you lose all six lives or run out of time.

I like the basic mechanic. It’s another example of SixtoStart using typical web tools to make an interesting game system. It also teaches you not to trust your browsing history, although teaching you to hide your browsing history by tracking down a criminal using hers is a strange way to give you that lesson. The problem is that it’s a little too fuzzy what is evidence and what isn’t. Sometimes it just takes viewing one page and making the call; other times it seems like you have to view a number of pages before you get the evidence from them. It just needs a little more feedback to make it clear when you’ve got a thing that you can call about it. Anyway, I fail once and then I get it.

When you do win, Cal calls you to talk through the fact that Melissa betrayed both him and Cal. We decide that we have to get Melissa to confess at the airport and then stop her from getting on the plane. Cal will talk to her, but he needs my help. He starts the conversation with Melissa at the gate, but then you have to make a choice between two dialogue options of what Cal should say. This is pretty cool, as I definitely have the feeling that a wrong choice will sink the conversation, even if there’s a clear strategy that takes you to the right choices. You basically have Cal tell Melissa that Jamie was in love with Emma and was just stringing the other girl along until Melissa gets mad and reveals that she was the other girl.

When she cracks, Cal confronts her and they have a scuffle while Cal calls for the police. It’s a little odd that they have a physical fight — I mean, does Cal have the authority to hold her? Regardless, the police come and take Melissa away. Cal congratulations us on stopping her and hangs up.

The screen goes black and  a title reveals that three months have passed. There’s an IM client and I chat with Jo, who says she hasn’t seen me in ages. She reveals that Max has been cleared and is out of jail. Melissa was arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital because she was insane over Jamie’s death. As Jo explains this, a picture of Melissa with Jamie goes by. Cal arrives in the chat, and he gives a review of the plot just in case you missed everything that happened this mission.  He also explains that  Max and Cal are friends again and building a new site.  Jo’s written an article about dating a guy online who doesn’t exist,  and tells us Shane (the hacker creep) got expelled for hacking the CCTV cameras in the school a few missions ago. Max then appears and thanks me for the help. I say (or am forced to say) that everyone helped, and I see a picture of the three of them when Max says he has great friends.  The mission ends as Max asks Jo out, on condition she doesn’t write about it.

I get all achievements, again because they are all progress based. And that’s all. Overall, interesting game. There’s goods and bads, but I’ve never played anything quite like it, and you have to admire SixtoStart’s ingenuity. Great work, Adrian.

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