I guess it’s time to update the term “text adventure” to the more generic “glyph adventure”.
This is a browser-based game in which all of the player’s input consists of icons, or I suppose, ideograms. The game uses a slick interface which features limited animation, sound effects, and text to tell the story, and prompts the player to drag color-coded icons into corresponding trays to express responses.
These audiovisual effects are not just window dressing — they are integrated into short story, and although the input is entirely non-verbal, the player can express choices with reasonable confidence of their meanings and significantly influence the course of the game.
This is a short parser game that did not make a lot of sense to me. It is set, presumably, in World War I, although it mentions a partially disassembled radio, which would have been unusual field kit in WWI (a wired telegraph in trenches okay, but probably not a wireless set). Also, there is an aluminum desk, which would not have been found in that era — metal desks of the period would have been steel.
The blurb hints that this will be a conceptually interesting piece, and indeed, I have to give the author credit for unusual format. When I went to downloaded folder for this game, I saw a bunch of files, including the inform source text, but did not immediately see a game file. Conveniently, there is a README file in the same location that explains what’s going on: the source file *is* the entry itself.
To experience this story, the intention is that the reader have the source code open in one window and the compiled story open in another. For most people, that would mean loading the source into the Inform IDE and compiling it. The default view in the IDE is source on one side and running story on the other. Since I already had Inform installed on my Mac, I just double clicked the story file and the IDE launched; then, I hit “GO”, and the story compiled. I assume you could do the same for other platforms.
In principle, the author could have distributed the compiled game as well, which would have allowed people without the IDE installed to look at the source in a text editor and open the game in any of a number of interpreters. However, unless the editor were set up for Inform syntax highlighting, the intended formatting of the source would be lost.
I agree with the author’s classification of this as a children’s story, and would say that its ideal audience would range from around six to nine years of age, plus or minus, depending on the child. For a story aimed at that reader level, it is lengthy and at points the pace wanes, so I don’t think this would be a story that you would hand to a child on an iPad and hope that they would be self-entertained. I think it would work better as a serial bedtime story, with one chapter per night (two if the child is an effective manipulator). Most of the hyperlinks advance to the next page of text; few involve minor choices. Nonetheless, I think younger kids would enjoy advancing the story this way in the same way that they would want to be the one to flip the page in a traditional bedtime book.
The author acknowledges that “This project was supported with a fellowship from Harvard University’s Houghton Library on the occasion of their 75th Anniversary.” Given that relationship, it is not surprising that the library is the star of this work, and that at least some of the story is devoted to touting its resources, particularly its collections.
Setting the story in a real location known intimately by the author always runs the risk of apartment-syndrome, i.e., that the story world will come across as a high-fidelity simulation of the location, but will lack narrative force. There is a little of that here, but there is a story grafted onto this framework.
This is the third of three submissions by Chinese authors that I have reviewed as part of this year’s IFcomp, and it is head and shoulders above the other two in terms of translation. The other two stories, The Murder in the Fog and The Fifth Sunday, were murder mysteries, but this one is more in The Twilight Zone horror category.
The format is the same as the other two works: text is displayed with a typewriter effect and requires a lot of button pressing to see a page of text. At the end of a page, there is a binary choice. I believe this game only offers to choices, but the second choice varies depending on the first one, so there may be more than four combinations. It takes some time for the text to display, so I only got through two runs of the game.
This work is titled an essay, but I think discussion might be more accurate. In a formal essay, I would expect a thesis followed by arguments that support the thesis. This work does not suggest that there is a one-size fits all conclusion that is supported by objective evidence, but lays out a personal account, mostly in chronological order, of how the author came to her current views of herself, her religion, and the intersection between the two. It is largely autobiographical and involves some soul searching, but frames the progression against what was going on in broader society at the time. In addition to being an opinion piece, the author has provided links to definitions for those not familiar with the subject matter as well as links to websites, videos, and other resources that provide additional information.
A walk In The Park has a very schizophrenic feel to it — parts of the game are implemented in impressive depth, but the playing area feels arbitrarily circumscribed and the flow of play is unusually narrow, requiring some specific but not necessarily intuitive choices. The imbalance between narrative importance and degree of implementation gives me the feeling that this game might have been more an exercise in learning Inform 6.
To be completely honest, I put off reading this story for a while because of the heavy subject matter — I thought a story about Alzheimer’s would be depressing and frankly wasn’t looking forward to such a downer experience. There’s no way to write about Alzheimer’s and not address themes of self-betrayal, loss of independence, and alienation of loved ones, but the approach makes all the difference.
A heavy handed story told from the perspective of a spouse or friend could come off as an emotionally exploitive made-for-TV LifeTime special, but this story is presented from the point of view of an affected, insightful individual, played out gradually, and not squeezed for maximum drama, but just described.
I have played a number of parser-based games by this author, but this is the first of his works in Twine that I have come across. If this is his first twine work, I would say that he hit the ground running, as the medium is well suited to this story.