The Origin of Madame Time

Mathbrush (2018)

Blurb: As an avid fan of superheroes and a harsh critic of villains, the battle over the abandoned amusement park captured your imagination. But when the nuclear airship Mephistopheles exploded above you, it seemed like all was lost--that is, until your latent powers manifested, and you became Madame Time! Explore a frozen world of unbridled power! Use the abilities of hero and villain alike to save the day!

The Origin of Madame Time is a simple (12K word) inform game set in a single moment of time in a small amusement park. The game is more difficult than my past games, and features less conversation. Madame Time has two hint systems using your powers of Foresight and Aftersight. This game was created in fulfillment of an IFComp 2017 prize.

I've played a few games by Mathbrush before, and I've liked them, so when cherry-picking the competition I started with The Origin of Madame Time. I don't really like superhero games, I didn't play The Owl Consults which this game is a short sequel of, but the blurb talk about time, and exploring a single moment in time. That sounded really appealing.

You start off with time stopped right before the a nuclear airship is about to explode. The idea's simple, you have to save all the superheroes that are fighting in the moment. They're frozen in place, and this gives you the ability to explore everything that's going on. The map has 10 or so rooms, so it's easy to keep track in your head.

Getting everybody back to the starting point becomes one big meta puzzle and a risky proposition. There are smaller puzzles that unlock the superheros, and all of them felt natural, coming out of the game. I had fun with them in the beginning. But the game did not come with a walkthrough, and it uses a FORE command to look forward into the future. To see what you should be doing. Relying on this solely hurt the game. At the end of the game, I tried most everything, then started using the FORE command. I had done everything it was saying to do, but I couldn't RELEASE Time, could finish the game or get the final text.

I also felt that the RELEASE command was under used. It was the first thing I tried when I started playing the game, hoping for something cute or funny. But just the poor response of: You would die right now if you started time. That makes it hard for you to release time, on an instinctual level.

There's nothing wrong with that line, but I see it as a missed opportunity. Because as the player progresses through the main puzzle, releasing time at different parts could be funny, could be clued, and could give some more backstory. I know this game isn't a magnum opus, really it's a nice piece of work fulfilling an IFComp prize, but this one thing could have added some color to the game.

In the end The Origin of Madame Time became a frustrating game that I failed to complete. With no walkthrough and a hint system that wasn't accurate, I struggled with something I was enjoying in the beginning. I wanted to like this game, but I have to be honest with myself and not score the game higher just because I like the author. I will say, it does have some good puzzles that did work. But because at it's core it has only one meta puzzle, and that puzzle felt broken for me, the game scored lower than it should.

Score: 7