IFRO

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name!
Emma Goldman


Login | Register


Username:
Password:

Who is Online

We have 673 registered Members.

There are no Members online.

There are 15 Guests online.

5 Stars IFReview Rating Journey from an Islet

IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-20 09:11 

Game Profile

Author
Mario Becroft

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Tads2

Release Year
2001

IFR Overall Rating
6 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
First of all, how big a coincidence is it that I'm playing two games in a row penned by New Zealanders? Are we seeing the harbingers of a Kiwi revolution in IF? Well, maybe not. Journey From An Islet isn't a bad game, but it doesn't give much context for either the PC or the story, and the result feels a bit like walking around in a painting. The beginning of the game deposits you on a mountaintop, with only these words by way of introduction:

You have seen many strange and wonderful places in your travels, but
the world where you have fallen remains quite dark and enigmatic.
What will time bring; how will you continue your journey...?

Fair questions, but I was hoping I could get some others answered, like: "Who is the PC?"; "Why is he/she traveling?"; "How did he/she get to this islet in the first place without a boat or something?" These questions never got answered -- not even close, really -- and consequently I felt pretty disconnected from the gameworld even as I explored it. Granted, even some of the most revered IF offers empty PCs and no explanations, but those games (like the Zork series) tend to offer an absorbing setting and tons of clever puzzles, which help shift the emphasis away from questions about the story. Journey is pretty sparse in every department, and I found it pretty hard to engage with.

Actually, I should amend my earlier statement. The game isn't sparse in every department -- one thing it provides is a fairly thorough implementation of first-level nouns. Of course, given that most of the game concerns itself with describing a pretty landscape, most of those nouns have to do with the landscape, too. Usually, I find exploration satisfying, and feel pleasantly immersed by deeply-implemented description, but for some reason, this game's text just left me cold. I think perhaps that vivid, forceful landscape description is a lot harder than it looks. Take, for example, the game's description of a mountain path overlooking a forest:

Southwestern mountainside
A narrow path twists dangerously around cliffs and chasms as it
passes down the mountainside. Protruding crags cast weird shadows
against the snow. A dark green carpet of dense treetops rolls across
the west, smothering the ground, not penetrated by sunlight.

Compare this with a similar passage from Andrew Plotkin's A Change In The Weather:

Rocky Outlook
A wide angular tongue juts out from the hillside. The park stretches
off to the north and west, a vast expanse of bright meadowland,
patched with dark woods and stitched with streams that glitter in the
sunlight. In the distance, a lake reflects white fire from the
setting sun.

In the first passage, the room name is as one might identify the spot on a map, while in the second, the name reflects the direct experience of the PC. In the latter passage, we get striking, original images -- a "tongue" of rock, a lake of white fire -- whereas in the former, the images are flatter, more cliched: "weird shadows", a carpet of treetops. Finally, Plotkin maps inanimate landscape features onto active verbs, further strengthening the imagery by relating the woods to patches, the streams to stitches. The Bencroft passage attempts the same trick by having the treetops "roll across the west", and indeed that's a stronger point of that passage, but the sentence ends up tripping over itself by throwing a final descriptive clause that is too distant from its object and unlinked by any connective phrases, making us pause to figure out whether it's the ground or the treetops that the sunlight isn't reaching. And once we've made that pause, we have to wonder: how is it that we know from way up on the mountain whether or not the sunlight is penetrating the trees beneath?

I don't intend that breakdown to demonstrate that Journey's prose is awful -- in fact, it's quite serviceable throughout. However, while serviceable prose describing a puzzle can be pretty transparent, it is unable to carry landscape descriptions all on its own; these require something stronger. For this reason, I was most engaged with the game when it was describing puzzles, and least so when it was in its more common contemplative, exploratory state. Between the flat writing and the lack of context, I found it difficult to care what was going on in the game -- it all seemed a little arbitrary. The game employed some visual tricks that were helpful. Crayon sketches were scattered judiciously throughout, and unlike Arrival's crayon-work, these sketches had the effect of creating a soft, watercolor ambience rather than a childlike one. Also, the game selects the background color based on the time of day, and this too is an effective trick. Still, these techniques weren't enough, for me, to counterbalance the sluggish prose, and I left the game feeling pretty unmoved. I know from experience that about the only way to become a better writer is to practice, and I look forward to seeing the author's next game, to see that improvement in action.

Paul OBrian Profile

Name Paul OBrian
Gender Male

Also IFReviewed by

Andrew Plotkin

This IFReviewer IFReviews

- 1-2-3...
- 2112
- A Bear
- A Crimson Spring
- A Day for Soft Food
- A Day In The Life Of A Superhero
- A Good Breakfast
- A Light's Tale
- A Moment of Hope
- A New Day
- A Night Guest
- A Paper Moon
- A Party to Murder
- Aayela
- Acid Whiplash
- Ad Verbum
- Adoo's Stinky Story
- Aftermath
- Al Otro Lado
- Alien Abduction?
- All Things Devours
- Amnesia
- an apple from nowhere
- And the Waves Choke the Wind
- Arrival, or Attack of the B-Movie Cliches
- Asendent
- At Wit's End
- Augustine
- Aunt Nancy's House
- Babel
- Baluthar
- Bane of the Builders
- Beat the Devil
- Begegnung am Fluss
- Being Andrew Plotkin
- Bellclap
- Best of Three
- Bio
- Blade Sentinel
- Blink
- Bliss
- Blue Chairs
- Blue Sky
- BOFH
- Breaking the Code
- CaffeiNation
- Calliope
- Carma
- CASK
- Castle Amnos
- Cattus Atrox
- CC
- Cerulean Stowaway
- Chaos
- Chicks Dig Jerks
- Chronicle Play Torn
- coffee quest II
- Color and Number
- Colours
- Coming Home
- Comp00ter Game
- Concrete Paradise
- Congratulations!
- Constraints
- Crusade
- Curse of Eldor
- Curse of Manorland
- Death to my Enemies
- Delusions
- Desert Heat: A Romance Of Sorts
- Dinner with Andre
- Domicile
- Don't Be Late
- Down
- Downtown Tokyo, Present Day
- E-Mailbox
- Elements
- Enlightenment
- Enlisted
- Episode In The Life Of An Artist
- Erehwon
- Eric's Gift
- Escape from Crulistan
- Evacuate
- Exhibition
- Fear
- Fifteen
- Film at Eleven
- Fine Tuned
- For a Change
- Fort Aegea
- Four in One
- Four Mile Island
- Four Seconds
- Friday Afternoon
- Fusillade
- Futz Mutz
- Getting Back To Sleep
- Glowgrass
- Goofy
- Goose, Egg, Badger
- Got ID?
- Gourmet
- Grayscale
- Guard Duty
- Guess the Verb!
- Halothane
- Hell: A Comedy of Errors
- Hercules First Labor
- Heroes
- House of the Stalker
- Human Resources Stories
- Hunter, in Darkness
- I Didn't Know You Could Yodel
- I Must Play
- Identity
- Identity Thief
- In the End
- In the Spotlight
- Informatory
- Internal Documents
- Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites from the Graveyards of Jupiter
- Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win
- Jane
- Janitor
- Jarod's Journey
- Jump
- Kaged
- Kallisti
- King Arthur's Night Out
- Kissing the Buddha's Feet
- Koan
- Kurusu City
- Leaves
- Letters from Home
- Life on Beal Street
- Lightiania
- Lists and Lists
- Little Billy
- Little Blue Men
- little girl in the big world
- Lomalow
- Lovesong
- Lunatix
- Lurk. Unite. Die. Invent. Think. Expire.
- Madame L'Estrange and the Troubled Spirit
- Magocracy
- Maiden of the Moonlight
- Marooned
- Masquerade
- Metamorphoses
- Mingsheng
- Moments Out of Time: Explorer Type
- Moonbase
- Murder At The Aero Club
- Muse: An Autumn Romance
- Music Education
- My Angel
- My First Stupid Game
- Mystery Manor
- MythTale
- Nevermore
- Ninja V1.30
- No Room
- No Time to Squeal
- Not Much Time
- Of Forms Unknown
- On the Farm
- Only After Dark
- Order
- Out of the Study
- Outsided
- Pass the Banana
- Persistence of Memory
- Phlegm
- Photograph: A Portrait of Reflection
- Photopia
- Phred Phontious and the Quest for Pizza
- Piece of Mind
- Pintown
- Planet of the Infinite Minds
- Poor Zefron's Almanac
- Prized Possession
- Prodly the Puffin
- PTBAD 3
- Punk Points
- Punkirita Quest 1: Liquid
- Purple
- Ralph
- Rameses
- Ramon and Jonathan
- Rape, Pillage, Galore!
- Redeye
- Remembrance
- Rent-A-Spy
- Research Dig
- Return to Zork: Another Story
- Reverberations
- Rippled Flesh
- Risorgimento Represso
- Ritual of Purification
- Ruined Robots
- Sardoria
- Scary House Amulet!
- Scavenger
- Schroedinger's Cat
- Screen
- Shade
- Shadows on the Mirror
- She's Got a Thing for a Spring
- Silicon Castles
- Sins Against Mimesis
- Six Stories
- Skyranch
- Slouching Towards Bedlam
- Small World
- SNOSAE
- Sophie's Adventure
- Spacestation
- Splashdown
- Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname
- Square Circle
- Stack Overflow
- Stargazer: An Adventure In Outfitting
- Stick It to the Man
- Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country
- Sting Of The Wasp
- Stone Cell
- Stranded
- Strangers in the Night
- Stupid Kittens
- Sun and Moon
- Sunset Over Savannah
- SURREAL
- Sweet Dreams
- Sylenius Mysterium
- Symetry
- Tapestry
- Temple of Kaos
- Temple of the Orc Mage
- Terrible Lizards
- The Adventures of the President Of The United States
- The Atomic Heart
- The Beetmonger's Journal
- The Best Man
- The Big Mama
- The Big Scoop
- The Case of Samuel Gregor
- The Cave of Morpheus
- The Chasing
- The City
- The Clock
- The Coast House
- The Commute
- The Cruise
- The Djinni Chronicles
- The Edifice
- The End Means Escape
- The Erudition Chamber
- The Evil Sorcerer
- The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky
- The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm und Drang
- The Gostak
- The Granite Book
- The Great Xavio
- The HeBGB Horror!
- The Isolato Incident
- The Land Beyond the Picket Fence
- The Last Just Cause
- The Lost Spellmaker
- The Masque of the Last Faeries
- The Meteor, The Stone And A Long Glass Of Sherbet
- The Moonlit Tower
- The Newcomer
- The Obscene Quest of Dr. Aardvarkbarf
- The Orion Agenda
- The Pickpocket
- The PK Girl
- The Plant
- The Realm
- The Recruit
- The Tempest
- The Temple
- The Test
- The Town Dragon
- The Trip
- The Water Bird
- Thorfinn's Realm
- Threading the Labyrinth
- Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!
- Timeout
- To Otherwhere and Back
- Tookie's Song
- Trading Punches
- Transfer
- Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
- Travels in the Land of Erden
- Triune
- Typo
- Unholy Grail
- Unnkulia X: Escape of the Sacrificed
- Unraveling God
- Vicious Cycles
- VirtuaTech
- VOID: CORPORATION
- Volcano Isle
- What-IF?
- When Help Collides
- Where Evil Dwells
- Who Created That Monster?
- Winter Wonderland
- Withdrawal Symptoms
- Wrecked
- Yes, Another Game With A Dragon!
- You Are Here
- You Were Doomed From the Start
- Zero One
- Zero Sum Game
- Zombie!