Review: Behind the Door

This is a short game written in the Quest system, and it delivers just what the blurb promised: you receive some postcards and set off to investigate their source.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

I don’t recall playing a game in this format before, and it was interesting to see what Quest had to offer. The game starts as text, but shortly after, a compass and inventory widget appear. In addition to hyperlinks, clicking on some underlined text brings up a list of actions that can be applied to that text. Similarly, each inventory item is associated with a short list of applicable verbs. In response to clicking, text is either added at the bottom of the screen or on a new screen.

The game has a relatively small number of rooms and objects, which I think is necessary for this format — too many objects would make it difficult to solve and the number of object interactions could rapidly multiply. Also, inventory would become cluttered, and there is finite real estate.

This is a quirky piece. The game can end immediately if you decide to just walk away rather than trying to find the source of the postcards. The marble ball has only four associated actions, and one of them is licking it. Although set on an ordinary street in your town, the game takes place in a fantasy setting and magical thinking is in order.

Perhaps as an artifact of the game system or just of this author, I found the game to encourage antisocial behavior. To get anywhere, the player needs to enter a house uninvited, rummage through close cabinets, pocket anything not bolted down, and trap butterflies in jars. I wasn’t happy about doing any of those things, but saw no other choice within the game.

This game is a bit more in the vein of Grimm fantasy than Disney — there is at least one arbitrary way for the main character to die without warning. The final choice in the game is unexpectedly consequential.

I thought the cover art was excellent for this game, and I would say that the writing is mediocre. At some points, the interface is clunky, for example omitting paragraph breaks where needed, or generating the same random result in immediate succession. There were some spelling and grammar errors, and I think an editing pass or two would greatly improve the presentation.

Evaluation:

Story: 5

Voice: 5

Play: 6

Polish: 6. 5 for the story, +1 for the cover art.

Technical: 5

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 5.4

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