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.

1 comment:

George Shannon said...

> 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.

That would have been really neat. And a chance to add more of the unexpected 'things are not as they seem' details.