IFReviewed by John Clemens on 2007-04-28 03:16
This was my favorite of this year's Spring Thing entries, and I suspect it will get the most discussion. You play a woman about to give birth who has the option to change her unborn baby's fate through magical (and morally questionable) means.
There are some puzzles, but they do not seem to be the primary focus of the game, and they seem pretty clearly clued. Several of them involve making the right sequence of choices in conversational menus; as far as I could tell you never cut yourself off from "solving" these, though, and
the game is primarily a matter of determining what you are willing to do to improve your child's fate.
Several of the menu choices are about what you will do but rather about how you will do it. That is, they basically allow you to express your attitudes and motivations. I haven't played the author's previous game (The Baron), but I gather this is featured in that work to an even greater extent. The game itself doesn't always provide any response to these choices (several of the final menus, for instance, do not provide any response before the game ends).
At first I wasn't sure if I liked this approach (and I'm still not entirely sure), but in retrospect I find it strangely effective. In games where there are a lot of possible outcomes and each choice provides a description of the results of your choice, I tend to obsessively play
through all of the choices to find out the results. As a result I often end up not feeling particularly attached to any of the choices. With minimal external feedback, though, I felt more inclined to provide internal feedback; hence I actually found that I felt more invested in my choice. I'm not sure how effective this would be if I encountered it frequently, but I certainly found it novel.
Another interesting effect is that, rather than providing a description of the outcome at the end of the game (as is typical) you can basically find out the current outcome as the game is happening (through the crystal ball). In fact, to a large extent this the only time you are told about
the outcome; this summary of the future is not repeated at the end of the game. This also makes it clear that the focus is on determining what choices you want to make, since much of the mystery about the outcomes is removed.
One weakness I found was that I did not always feel much remorse at the actions I needed to take to improve the child's fate. I found that I felt more uneasy about harming the non-humans (the pixie and the goat) than about harming people (including myself). Rarely do I develop great emotional attachment to characters in IF, so the fact that I did feel qualms about making some choices is impressive; still, I would love to see more games which were able to instill enough attachment that I genuinely agonized about harming a character.
Finally, the game is very cleanly implemented; I don't recall any bugs or typos. I would definitely recommend it; probably not everyone will enjoy it (I have some mixed feelings about its ultimate successfulness myself), but it stretches the boundaries. I certainly hope to see more works by the
1st place on the 2007 Spring Thing.