One of my favorite entries in the 2002 IF Competition, When Help Collides placed a disappointing 18th – roughly halfway down. The game is almost impossible to describe, so suffice it to say that you start the game as a sort of disembodied "help feature" who must answer IF players' distress calls to disburse the appropriate hints. Not long after, the game turns into something else entirely, and before you finish When Help Collides, you will have played at least two out of three funny segments that include a hilarious parody of a D&D session, and a geisha simulator (no, it's not what you think) that plays like a neat little strategy game.
I think one major reason most voters dislike When Help Collides is that they expected to see a "text adventure with a coherent story" in a text adventure competition, and nothing else. Which is a fair criticism, I suppose, but ultimately one that is too narrow-minded, because the game was legitimately coded with a text adventure language (Inform, in this case) and offers you a parser to interact with. Moreover, it was not the first competition entry that is not strictly IF. For instance, Andrew Plotkin's Lists and Lists in the 1997 competition is much less IF-y than this game (it was basically an interactive introduction to programming). When Help Collides is not a coherent story. It is a collection of three virtually unrelated mini-games, all of which are amusing and obey their own weird brand of internal logic. I see nothing wrong with that. The only gripes I have with the game are the confusing and unfairly difficult prologue, and the fact that it is virtually impossible to "win", from the way the mini-games are structured. After struggling through the disappointing prologue, I had a blast with all three main sections of the game, and even replayed it a few times to see if I could do better. No, I didn't "get" the story – if there was one to get – and I didn't know what was really going on. But I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. After all, we don't get upset when we realize there is no backstory to abstract puzzles like Rubik's cube. Like the cube, When Help Collides is a clever and neat puzzler that will entertain you – if you are willing to suspend your convictions on what a "text adventure" should be like. Highly recommended.Reviewed by: Underdogs