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3 Stars IFReview Rating Last Ride of the Night

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:54 

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Mordechai Shinefield


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3 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Playing "Last Ride" was an odd experience for me, because not only have I taken this NJ Transit trip a number of times, I've also visited the train simulation at the Franklin Institute with a bunch of friends including my significant other. So there was an eerie sense of familiarity in the setup. I'm not sure this helped, ultimately. I just complained about not knowing what the author was talking about in "Flametop", and now I turn around and complain about the opposite in "Last Ride": I have a fairly vivid memory of what those NJT trains are like, which seemed to keep imposing itself on top of the game image and in some cases conflicting with it. So what follows may be clouded by that subjectivity.

The about notes say that this is the author's first IF, and it has that feel. There are a bunch of rough corners and bugs, many of which would be caught by rigorous beta-testing or possibly by an author with more experience editing his own work. There are a bunch of typos and a few misused words ("extradite" for "extricate", for instance). Looking under the seats produces a blank line. You can't talk to the passengers while sitting down because you "can't reach" from where you are. The conductor uses his intercom key even after you've stolen it from him. Touching people "has no effect", in a situation where it probably would be construed as molestation. (I've never actually *tried* going around touching strangers on a NJ Transit train, but I'm guessing that it wouldn't go over too well.)

In most places, though, the implementation would be fine for another type of game, but seemed a bit shallow for an Art Show piece. Some scenery is mentioned in fleeting descriptions but turns out not to be there when you look at it; many things that are there can't be moved, taken, or otherwise interfered with. The NPCs would be adequate if I had enough other things to do, but not quite deep enough to keep me entertained for the whole time.

On the positive side, the author put a fair amount of work into the secondary senses: you can smell and listen to a large number of things, for instance, and there are views through the various windows of the train that are not all the same. Good stuff, but I wanted to be able to pick up the pieces of trash and do things with them, manipulate my luggage and other people's, and so on. Maybe an appropriate response would've been for me to get arrested for theft, but I still would rather have been allowed to try -- especially since "Last Ride" *does* allow me to do a certain number of illicit and dangerous things. Why those and not others?

I also had the vague feeling that "Last Ride" didn't really know what it was about. I don't mean "didn't have a plot": "Last Ride" has more plot than "Flametop", but I never felt any doubt about the *point* of "Flametop", which is to enjoy fiddling around with the guitar. With "Last Ride" it's less clear. Some aspects of "Last Ride" are whimsical, like the business with the restroom mishap; some are serious or even depressing. I tried really hard to get the two passengers to communicate, on the theory that this might lift some of my PC's angst, but if there's a way to achieve that, I couldn't find it. The endings of the game that I did find seem to be on different levels of seriousness and plausibility. If "Last Ride" is meant to be a pure mood piece about loneliness and distancing, then I think some of the goofier responses are counterproductive, and it would help if the passengers were slightly less generic. If, on the other hand, I'm supposed to be achieving some goals, it would help if they were better hinted. I thought of a couple of things to try to accomplish but wasn't able to get anywhere with them, and I wasn't sure whether that was because they're unimplemented or because I couldn't find the right approach.

So: a solid first experiment, but not quite as richly implemented as I'd like an Art Show piece to be. Most of my complaints would probably not be an issue in a more game-like piece, since there would be puzzles and goals to move the player along.

    Emily Short Profile

    IFReviewer Rating
    10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

    Name Emily Short
    Gender Female