IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 08:32
I have to confess that this one didn't do very much for me. It's weird,
unfriendly, incomprehensible. And it seems to be doing more or less the opposite
of what the Art Show is intended to encourage. You are travelling through a
landscape so metaphorically described and so haphazardly implemented that it's
barely possible to know what's going on. Exits that are described as present
don't actually work. Things that should be there, aren't. Things that are
present, are described in ways that make no sense.
What this means is that it's nearly impossible to envision anything at all; and
that makes it fairly hard to interact. I didn't get the sense of especially deep
immersion I associate with a really well-built IF environment (cf. Kathleen
Fischer's "The Cove" from a few years ago); in fact, I spent most of my time
staring at the screen and wondering what the heck was going on. I didn't reach
any conclusions or endings, if conclusions and endings are available.
Then there's the fact that this game (these games?) is/are three gamefiles,
which are mostly the same, but different in places. The opening text encourages
one to play all three, using a trope I consider a bit cheesy. (I did try all
three, but since I was baffled by the first game, I was really no less baffled
by the second and third; as for getting some idea of what the differences meant,
Here's the thing. I like surreal games, sometimes, but the basic requirement is
that I feel the author knows what he's describing. Maybe the thing described is
metaphorical rather than physical, but there should be *something,* some
internal logic however skewed from our own. Here I felt I had no grasp of what
was intended. Deliberate Obscurity is a risky card to play in a genre that
depends not only on the reader not closing the book, but on the player being
able to understand and move things forward. I spend most of my time trying to
make my games *more* accessible rather than less so.
One small but important design point: I was particularly irked by the
replacement of the line that comes up after you type QUIT. In most Alan games,
you type QUIT and then a prompt comes up asking you to type QUIT again if you
really mean it -- but I'd forgotten this. When faced with a prompt that did not
say 'Type QUIT again' but something else entirely, I became irrationally afraid
that I wasn't going to be allowed to leave the game at all. I typed YES several
times in a row trying to get it to stop before finally remembering this quirk of
Alan. Making your meta-verbs unfriendly to the user is even meaner than in-game
Anyhow. As always, the complaint "I didn't get it!" is an especially subjective
one to level against a piece of IF, and I'm aware that this may say more about
me than about the thing complained-against.
There were some beautiful words in it. Cobalt, alabaster, stone and stars,
individually evocative. I like these things. I wish I had been able to stick
them together in a way that made sense.