IF Comp 2012 – Fish Bowl

If you like Lovecraftesque horror chocked full of mounting madness, unspeakable horror beneath the waves, and dreamlike reality that circles the edge of madness, this is for you.

This horror story has a sci-fi spin, but wouldn’t really lose anything if it were set in the 19th century in the South Pacific. Over the course of the story, reality is gradually peeled back, moving from symbolic to concrete, and the player learns incrementally of the horror that has beset the main character and his crew.

More spoilers after the cut, for those who dare risk their sanity

Story: 6

This is more a mood piece than an goal-driven narrative. The player is there for the experience, but cannot affect the outcome.

Voice: 5

The game conveys a sense of unreality that slowly sharpens towards horrid reality, but PC emotions seem muted. Maybe this is the protective dissociation from emotions that trauma victims experience, but as a player, I’d prefer to feel more invested in the protagonist.

Play: 6

Play is linear, with limited options to manipulate objects and explore locations, but game play is smooth and intuitive, particularly for those who are familiar with standard parser-based IF verbs. Consequently, this game plays relatively quickly and does not wear out its welcome.

Polish: 5

With a few exceptions, copy editing is good. Some typical amenities are lacking, such as about/credits/hints. Default responses are usually not over-ridden, and some game-specific responses are laconic.

Technical: 5

The game does not implement advanced techniques, and there are couple places where short cuts have undermined the parser’s ability to disambiguate objects. There is a single PC, a couple locations, no dialogue, limited interactions, but a complete story.

Average: 5.4

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