The Uncertainty Machine

Developer/Publisher:  Ratracer Games
Year Released:  2003

Review by Gordon Aplin (July, 2003)
At Quandary we haven't reviewed too many 'freeware' games simply because we haven't had the time or the download capacity. Though we are always happy to link to them on our Free Fun pages when we become aware of them, to review every 'freeware' game would certainly tax our time and resources. (But if any of our readers would like to volunteer for the post of 'freeware' adventure game reviewer please email us). 

Having said that, there are times when a particular game is brought to our attention by people whose opinions we greatly respect so we can't resist having a look at it. The Uncertainty Machine by Eduardo Campos (Ratracer) is one such recommended game and it has indeed justified the praise it has earned.

The Great Divide
The Uncertainty Machine is a thoughtful and intelligent adventure with a resourceful female protagonist by the name of Susan Gant. Susan is a journalist with First News who foils a mugging on her way to work but misses out on the story (or does she?). Her editor assigns her to investigate a simple burglary that may not be quite as simple as it first appears. To tell more would be to give away certain plot twists so you will just have to play it yourself to find out exactly what happens.

The introduction provides the background to the story in just a few lines of text. Set in an unnamed Western country in the near future "Citizens are assured a 'perfect' life" but this comfortable life is at the expense of the growing number of those known as the 'Off Limits'. The 'Off Limits' don't feature very strongly in the game but they are a constant reminder to Susan of the growing divide and to the fact that her society is not as 'perfect' as she has been led to believe. Eduardo's message is clear without being 'preachy' and the sensitive player will make the connections that are much closer to home than we may wish. At the end of the game Susan is faced with several choices and while the choices are yet to be made there is uncertainty J.

Before you get to the possible endings, of course, there is much to do and I was pleasantly surprised at both the length of the game and the complexity of the challenges that Susan (and you) must face. The story of Susan's investigation takes place over two days and it is a nicely-paced mystery with periods where you make good progress interspersed with odd moments where you won't quite know what do next. Conversations are well-scripted and may provide clues or trigger new locations. There are many inventory items to collect and use and you will need to be resourceful, as you will quickly learn when you try to use the lift. Your inventory is always visible in a thin scrolling bar at the top of the screen.

Apart from this bar the game plays in a full screen and I liked the clean, uncluttered lines of many of the locations. Susan's movements are a little jerky as she walks mainly due to the character sprite trying to maintain perspective, but you will soon get used to it. A map is provided to enable you to move quickly between locations as Susan learns of them. The interface is easy to use with a right click to look at things (some inventory items will allow you a closer look) and a left click to use them. I particularly appreciated the fact that you could 'look' (right click) at objects in the game world and Susan would give you a description. Too often games allow you to interact with objects before you learn what they are. The game uses the AGS engine and provides text for all descriptions and conversations and the music is quite good. There are no voices except for a single message to alert you that you have received an email.

The Uncertainty Machine is a 20MB download that unpacks to about 60MB on your hard drive. I played it on a PC running Win 98 and the game behaved perfectly. There is little uncertainty about whether or not you should try this free game. If you like a good conspiracy/mystery adventure to investigate with some fairly challenging puzzles then you won't hesitate to download it.

You can download this game from Ratracer Games. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2003. All rights reserved.

System Requirements: