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7 Stars IFReview Rating Unraveling God

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:42 

Game Profile

Author
Todd Watson

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Adrift

Release Year
2002

IFR Overall Rating
7 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
House or Office: House, but I can't actually fault this one for lack of imagination
Played to completion?: Yes
Rating: 7

This was a distinctly bizarre game, turning on a story and a moral choice in a way that reminded me of Tapestry a few years ago. I thought parts of it were rather silly — Satan dressed in cowboy boots and calling himself Lou was amusing. Tapestry I thought was somewhat preachy; this one is if anything more blatant, in the sense that it provides you with an Obviously Right and an Obviously Wrong choice to make, in the ultimate analysis. I'm still not sure I've seen a game that manages to deal seriously and successfully with moral choices on this level.

Nonetheless, this was more interesting and better executed (though I'm still not a big fan of some UI aspects of the Adrift Runner) than many of the other games available in this selection, and it attempted (for instance) some real characterization. It also contains one of the few attempts in IF to show a sexual scene without pornography — that is to say, in a way that contributes to the overall shape of the story. (Granted, it's not terribly explicit, but most non-AIF IF tends to avoid even this kind of thing.)

So I thought this was definitely an interesting attempt, though I found the gore overexplicit in a way that was not actually frightening, and I didn't find the ultimate moral choice very revealing. The queasy moment where you realize that you have chosen to let Justin die is much more disturbing than the end-of-game material, whichever choice you make there.

Side Note: I know that people in the Adrift community have been hoping a well-written game, entered in the competition where it would garner lots of attention, would vindicate the system against the common complaints that rec.arts.int-fiction tends to muster against it. I don't know whether these games will do that; certainly I still find some aspects of the Adrift interface annoying, no matter how meticulously-assembled the underlying game is. I am also usually unable to play Adrift games at all, what with the Macintosh and so on.

However. My conclusion on playing the three games submitted to the competition is that the latest version of Adrift does seem to be significantly more powerful than its predecessors, or else that the game designers put in significantly more work than the designers of previous Adrift games I've played. At this remove, it's not clear to me which is the case. It seemed to me that the games that turned on puzzles and examining scenery — especially "A Party to Murder" — were betrayed by the templating parser of Adrift, because actions that worked in some contexts did not work in others, and there were mysterious problems with the way scenery was implemented, which made it hard to get into the puzzle-solving aspects of the game. Unraveling God, however, worked (to my mind) quite smoothly. Perhaps a plot that turns on triggered events and conversation menus just happens to function better with Adrift's capabilities.

Anyway, this is the first Adrift game I've played where my response wasn't one of "yuck!" or "well, it's pretty good given what they had to work with". I thought this genuinely worked at what it was trying to do, being not just "good given this system" but "as good as it would be if it were written in one of the mainstream languages". The remaining quibbles I had with it — with the writing in some of the hell passages, and the simplification of the moral choices — would have been an issue no matter what he'd used to write the thing.

Is that vindication? I don't know. Maybe. But if you want a game with a lot of objects and puzzliness, I still think you're better served by Inform or Hugo or TADS.

Emily Short Profile

IFReviewer Rating
10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Emily Short
Gender Female

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