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2 Stars IFReview Rating Ogres

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 08:32 

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Alan DeNiro


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IFR Overall Rating
2 Stars IFR Overall Rating
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, well...)

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 obscurity.

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.

    Emily Short Profile

    IFReviewer Rating
    10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

    Name Emily Short
    Gender Female