IF Comp 2012 – Sunday Afternoon

Solar flare photographed by sky lab; public domainUnfortunately, I played J’Dal and Sunday Afternoon about a week ago and didn’t write about them immediately, so details probably haven’t stuck with me, but I did make some notes as I went along.

Sunday Afternoon is well written and executed and has a familiar feel to it, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the mystery writer is someone whose previous works I have enjoyed. Or, I might be totally wrong in my guess, so I’ll hold back on publicly guessing the author’s identity.

I put a spoiler break here.

This game’s puzzle structure is complex. The game objectives are not to find a key to open the next door, to solve a one-shot riddle, or to work out some play on words. Rather, the game requires that the player pay careful attention to what other characters say and do. Then, making progress in the game so much a matter of what the PC does, but about how he can influence the behavior of others.

I thought the general goal was clear and that feedback from other characters and objects was sufficient to successfully complete the game. I can’t say that I got through without peeking at hints, but if I had taken more time and trusted the game more, I should have.

Most of the game takes place in the PC’s childhood, but it seems that he’s recounting the story to his comrades in the trenches of The Great War. It is suggested that there is some kind of causal connection between successfully completing this story in his past and his squad’s ability to make it across the battlefield. I didn’t quite understand the connection, but I think the author is willing to leave it in an incompletely explained state.

Story: 8

The backstory which emerges from conversation and exploration makes this much more than an  idle Sunday spent pining to play in the outdoors.

Voice: 9

I have a strong sense of the characters, location and time period.

Play: 7

The indirect nature of advancing plot is makes this a more difficult game to play than most. At first, I had the impression that I couldn’t inspect more than a couple items on the mantle, but once I started looking through them, I spent quite a examining and discussing everything I could get my hands on. That part of the game went on so long that I began to wonder on one hand if there was a critically important back story, or if these were a bottomless pit of red herrings. I had some difficulty in putting the *right* page of the letter in the folder; I thought that might be too finicky a puzzle, although I do agree with the explanation contained in the hints. Finally, I thought that there was little motivation to clean the chimney. Yes, the PC had heard a story about it, and when you run out of other things to do, it becomes something to try. I did it because I thought it would help me hear what was happening in the other room, but I had no idea that it would result in a big dust cloud in another room.

Technical: 8

I did not encounter any glitches in the game, and game play was smooth. The hints system worked well.

Polish: 8

This is a well written and edited work with a lot of attention to detail about the period, although a few unexplainable anachronisms (hello kitty?) did crop up. The game might work better if there were more adaptive clueing for when the player is not progressing after some time.

Average: 8

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