Saturday, October 11, 2008

IFcomp 08 reviews: Buried In Shoes

This is a review of a game in the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition. This text is so spoilers do not show up in the RSS feed. That would be less than polite. The feed is set to truncated, not full. You should only be seeing this paragraph, not the review itself. By the way, there are SPOILERS in the review. I repeat, SPOILERS. Do not read on if you do not want spoilers. You have been warned.



Buried In Shoes
by Kazuki Mishima

I've sat here for five minutes trying to figure out how to word this review. You see, I genuinely can't decide if this worked or not.

It's about the Holocaust. That raises the stakes. If this works, it has to work. Not only that, but it has to work on a par with all the other literature, film, etc. which has been written about it.

In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with this; it's excellent. Breaking it down like this seems wrong, but technically it's extremely well implemented. The prose is competent, even good. There were a couple of genuinely upsetting moments, like getting on the slab in the museum.

I guess what I'm ambivalent about is the length. It seemed far too short. All the scenes were fleshed out well, but I never really got a sense of characterization. Granted, this is much better than some of the other works this year (Grief, Freedom) at accomplishing characterization, but I still felt like more could have been done; the characters seemed rather static. Time played into this. Wouldn't the guard have thrown you out after some time? He had no qualms about yanking you off the slab. Wouldn't the houes have been invaved? Along another path, some of the items were a bit puzzly to find, mainly the photo (which I only found through the walkthrough.) In a puzzle game it wouldn't be an issue, but the game told me I wouldn't be looking for puzzles, so in my first run-through I blew right by them.

None of these problems were major, though. I'm leaning towards "this game worked." On its scale, at least. Ask me in a few days and I may change my opinion for better or worse.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

IFcomp 08 reviews: Berrost's Challenge

This is a review of a game in the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition. This text is so spoilers do not show up in the RSS feed. That would be less than polite. The feed is set to truncated, not full. You should only be seeing this paragraph, not the review itself. By the way, there are SPOILERS in the review. I repeat, SPOILERS. Do not read on if you do not want spoilers. You have been warned.



Berrost's Challenge
by Mark Hatfield

OK, so upon reading the intro and >about, I have several bodes-not-well items: wall of text intro, five items hidden in the village, inventory limits and - ye gods - "sleep and hunger daemons." You're bloody right I can't abide them; this is 2008.

Oh, how nice, you reduced my Wit score by 1. I can play this game too! See, I just reduced your game score by 1!

Seriously. There's innovation, and there's gimmickry. Hint: Displaying my bulk and weight as fractions in my character description is not innovation. If you must do this, at least do it behind the scenes.

So that got me off to a nice grumpy start. Apparently my curmudgeondom set my Concentration, whatever that is, to 100%. All the better to notice the multiple grammatical errors, portable objects in room descriptions, daemon message overload, etc.

Oh. I died by jumping into the well. It took me THREE press-any-keys for you to tell me this.

Suspecting I wasn't giving this game a fair enough chance, I decided to play it in earnest, gritting my teeth through the errors and genericness and badness. I immediately realized it was going to take me way longer than two hours to do this. So maybe there's a spectacle of an ending that makes up for all of the rest. What I saw was merely generic quest stuff. Which might fly ten years ago, but then again, probably not.


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Sunday, October 5, 2008

IFcomp 08 reviews: Opening Night

This is a review of a game in the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition. This text is so spoilers do not show up in the RSS feed. That would be less than polite. The feed is set to truncated, not full. You should only be seeing this paragraph, not the review itself. By the way, there are SPOILERS in the review. I repeat, SPOILERS. Do not read on if you do not want spoilers. You have been warned.



Opening Night
by David Batterham

The game starts promisingly enough. I like theatre and historical games, both of which are under-represented in IF.

More could have been done. When I think of Broadway, I think sumptuous - rich colors, dazzling stagecraft, everything so much bigger than in real life. And this is from someone who's seen several plays. Someone like the PC would have even more of a sense of wonder. The prose, while competent and mostly error-free, didn't quite capture this for me. A lot of it, I think, was quantity; there were plenty of short responses, concise where I was hoping for lavish. The implementation was similar - while nothing stood out as glaringly bad, there was a lot more that could have been done, especially with listen/touch/etc. Some objects didn't have descriptions. At times, it felt a bit rushed.

Now for the ending, introducing war into the scene. Part of it worked for me - encountering a giant hole in the theatre all of a sudden is effectively jarring - but part of it was strangely detached. Mostly the exposition. More, for instance, could have been done with Miranda Lily's first performance. Since the PC is already waiting in the seat, there could have been less exposition and more showing the player what, exactly, is going on onstage. _So Far_, for instance, did this well. Here, there's only abstractions, and when the game tells me I need to catch my breath, I'm not sure why. The second performance gets a lot more of this right, for what it's worth.

The above gives the impression that I didn't enjoy this. I did. It coheres, it's solid. I think what's missing is scope. As it stands right now, it's a bit small. We're dealing with love and war and death; these themes deserve maximalism that just isn't here. I know there's a two-hour time limit, but I wasn't in danger of overshooting it. Think bigger, grander, wider, more theatrical, even cinematic. The game's by no means bad, though.


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