FailSafe is a great sci-fi game from Jon Ingold, author of several modern IF classics like The Mulldoon Legacy and My Angel. FailSafe is set in a pretty standard – I would say cliché – sci-fi setting where you're helping the lone survivor of a tragic space battle through your comm interface. Although the game is linear, there are three different endings (all of which are quite interesting and surprising, I might add) that depend on how you solve the final puzzle.
Although the setting isn’t nearly as interesting as, say, Babel, Delusions, or The Mind Electric, what makes FailSafe interesting is the experimental nature: the commands you type are actually what you say to the panicked survivor at the other end of the line, who does whatever he tells him to do. A lot of effort has been made to maintain this “text parser as a real conversation between you and a guy on a damaged ship” atmosphere, from the broken words you hear the survivor says (and when you type something the game doesn’t understand, the survivor says “sorry .. too much static”), to the complete removal of game verbs like SAVE and RESTORE. This makes it impossible to save, of course, which does feel annoying at first – especially because there is a time constraint, so you will likely be replaying the game several times to “get it right”. However, the game is quite short, and the writing is good enough to hold your interest, although puzzles could have been more challenging.
Overall, I enjoyed FailSafe quite a lot. It’s one of the more successful “experimental IF” titles that don’t let the experiment get in the way of fun. If you enjoy IF, especially short, competition-sized works you can finish in a few hours, FailSafe is well worth your time.Reviewed by: Underdogs