IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 07:53
Oh, oh, oh, what do I think? A good plan, but the execution didn't work for me. Damn.
I was always behind in picking up where I was supposed to be, in the plot. The pacing was off. I picked up the book, and was away facing one set of fears before I knew that I was troubled with them. Then I solved that phase of the game, and was back, and discovered the arriving police, which explained why I was trying to face these fears in the first place. You see? Solutions before problems.
The writing, in detail, was fine. (The one thing I did know was that I was embroiled in a nightmare. That fact pushed in on me from all directions, and it was very satisfyingly claustrophobic.)
Then there's the puzzles. Way too disconnected for me. I didn't get the idea of the dark puzzle at all, not without reading the hints; then I was thinking, oy, no wonder the author stuck all this cruft onto the statues -- there's no elegant way to communicate the point of this puzzle. The duck puzzle was atmospheric, but a totally different atmosphere from the main game. Ditto for the crystal dome. (I didn't stumble on "listen to crystal", either, but at that point I'd gotten somewhat impatient.)
I've always been a heavily puzzle-based author, of course, but this game might actually have worked best without any puzzles in the flashback scenarios at all. Or at least much more straightforward ones. Just scenes dealing with the three subjects would have been as effective, without distracting from the plot. As an example -- the dark scenario, but without the statues. I liked the beginning of it; you're crawling around, doing things in the dark. (Although I played "Aayela" before "Fear", and I think that did a better job of the dark thing.)