You do not volunteer to be an SIA agent. The job is forced on you. The Strategic Intelligence Alliance secretly implants a chip in your brain. Initially, the chip is dormant. However, when the agency needs your services, the chip is activated and you are instantly transported to the SIA headquarters. Before you even have a chance to take in your surroundings, an agent gives you the briefing for your first mission.
According to the agent, a building with the sign 'The Golden Age of Advertising' has been disappearing and reappearing across the globe. The agency suspects scientist Webster Wotsletter and his five sons are behind this strange phenomenon. SIA has developed a protocol to predict where the building will appear next. Your job, as an SIA agent, is to go to the building and assess the potential threat posed by Wotsletter and his family.
You are not asked whether or not you accept the mission. If you have any chance of returning to your previous life, you simply have to do as the agency orders. After the briefing, SIA agents unceremoniously teleport you to the mysterious building. The front door appears to be locked. Walking around to the back of the building, you see a strange contraption. There are flickering lights and levers. Does this mechanism open the front door? As you start tinkering with the device, you get the feeling that you stepped into a surreal and mysterious world. Slip Space beckons...
Slip Space - The Burma-Shave Analogy is an extraordinary adventure game designed by Dan Markosian. The game thrusts players into a bizarre world full of strange devices waiting for you to unlock their secrets. It may not feature cutting-edge graphics and the themes explored may be a little too exotic for some players, but with its clever design and innovative puzzles, Slip Space offers a challenging and highly entertaining gaming experience.
The game takes inspiration from the advertisements used by Burma-Shave shaving cream in the 1920s. The Burma-Shave advertisements consisted of a series of small billboard signs that were placed along highways. The signs were intended to be read in sequence, often delivering a humorous message involving the shaving cream. Some of the signs also contained messages against speeding.
In Slip Space, Dan Markosian compares the Burma-Shave ads to our perception of reality. As explained in the game, our perception of reality can be likened to viewing a series of signs on the highway. Among the infinite number of inputs constantly surrounding us, we only perceive a limited number. Piecing together those snippets, we form our sense of reality. The game asks how that perception might be altered if we experience the fragments of information in a different way. Would the overall image be radically different? Would time and space have the same meaning?
Asking similar questions, Wotsletter and his sons eventually develop a technology that can warp reality. Using this technology, the scientists are able to make 'The Golden Age of Advertising' building disappear and reappear. However, at the beginning of the adventure, Wotsletter's motivation for teleporting the building is unclear. It will be up to you to discover what the scientist is truly seeking.
Slip Space is played from a first-person perspective, using a very intuitive mouse-driven interface. The game is designed as a series of slideshow images. You can turn to the left or right by clicking the left mouse button on the edges of the screen. On some screens, it is also possible to look up. The mouse icon changes to indicate that you can walk in a particular direction or interact with an object. The game does not include an inventory system. In fact, Slip Space does not have any inventory-based puzzles. In order to overcome the game's challenges, you need to carefully examine your surroundings and determine how you need to interact with the various contraptions you will encounter.
The game begins just outside 'The Golden Age of Advertising' building. It turns out that the building belongs to Wotsletter's son Uber. Once you solve a couple of puzzles, you arrive at an area called 'The Shave'. Designed by Wotsletter and his sons, 'The Shave' makes up the central hub of Slip Space. From here, you need to solve several puzzles to gain access to realms dedicated to Wotsletter's four other sons. In each of these realms, you will need to tackle additional challenges. The game's story gradually unfolds as you explore each area and solve puzzles.
The Shave and the areas dedicated to each Wotsletter son are a joy to explore. Mr. Markosian has carefully designed each location to have an otherworldly feel. Whether you are aligning planets or stepping on platforms surrounded by clouds, each setting feels unique and foreign. This fits very well with the game's theme of altered perceptions. You never know what to expect from the next realm, making your exploration very fulfilling.
However, where Slip Space truly shines is in the puzzles department. The game is full of cleverly designed logic puzzles. Between The Shave and the realms dedicated to each son, there is a great variety of challenges. For the most part, solving these puzzles involves examining your immediate area and trying to understand how various devices work. You will need to decipher patterns, understand connections, and figure out how several machines work together. While some of the puzzles are very straightforward, others may leave even the most experienced adventurers scratching their heads for a while. Slip Space is not the kind of game that would be recommended to someone new to adventure gaming. However, none of the challenges in the game are unfair. Hints are sometimes available in the immediate area and there is no penalty for trial-and-error. With a little patience and perseverance, all of the puzzles should be doable.
The most important aspect of the puzzles is that they feel original. Do not expect generic slider puzzles or jigsaws in Slip Space. You will not have to put up with annoying time limits or slide a piece of paper under a door to recover a key. Mr. Markosian has avoided trite puzzles experienced players will have seen many times in other games. Instead, what we get is a remarkable collection of unique logic puzzles. At least for me, many of the challenges in Slip Space felt rather fresh. It was very nice to actually figure out how the puzzles worked from scratch and get immersed in the strange world of Slip Space. It is hard to find many other games that successfully implement so many novel challenges.
Despite its clever design and outstanding puzzles, Slip Space is not a game every adventurer will enjoy. For one thing, the unusual theme about how we perceive reality may not appeal to all gamers. The strange environments and the odd imagery during the story sequences may be too outlandish for some players.
Adventurers looking for a deep and branching storyline will also be disappointed. Beyond the initial information you are given about SIA and Wotsletter, there is little plot development in the game. You discover more details about the scientist and the agency as you travel through each realm. The game's ending also does a nice job of explaining the purpose behind your explorations. However, if you are looking for a significant amount of character development and a richly detailed storyline, Slip Space will not deliver. At its core, Slip Space is a game of solitary exploration. It is about discovering foreign lands and tinkering with strange devices. If that's not your cup of tea, you will be frustrated with this game.
Slip Space's approach to some of the puzzles might also represent a problem. Especially during the early portions of the adventure, Slip Space is good at giving you feedback when you successfully solve a puzzle. However, as you delve deeper into the adventure, the game does not always indicate that you have found the correct solution. Similarly, it is not always clear what, if anything, happens when you press a button or pull a lever. This was probably a deliberate design choice to prevent players from randomly stumbling on the correct solution without fully understanding how a given puzzle works. Nevertheless, the lack of feedback can be frustrating in certain areas and should have been avoided.
In the end, Slip Space - The Burma-Shave Analogy is a unique and enjoyable adventure offering. The game features a variety of surreal locations that are a joy to explore. There are a substantial number of logic puzzles, many of which feel original. The limited plot development and the lack of feedback on certain puzzles can be irritating. However, despite its issues, Slip Space is still a triumph. It is remarkable that a single person is responsible for designing this game. It is not the kind of game that will appeal to everyone, but if you are looking for a good puzzle adventure, do not miss Slip Space. You can purchase a copy from the game's official site.
Special thanks to Marina for bringing Slip Space to my attention.