Review: Harbinger

This work does is not strongly interactive, but I thought the story was strong. It was not as feared, yet another wizard’s apprentice story, nor did it turn into a dark, gothic horror.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

My criticism about interactivity is mainly related to lack of plot branching. The author has employed two types of hyperlinks: orange for text that can be expanded as an aside, or purple links, which jump to a new page of narrative. The vast majority of purple links occur towards the end of the page, so they function as “continue” buttons.

The writing might fall into YA were it printed — the lead is a magical animal and his partner is a 12-year old girl with some budding magical ability and a wise old (magical) aunt who lives in the woods. I wouldn’t say the themes are childish, though. The raven has some legitimate worries, and the evil that is pursuing him isn’t a comic book baddie.

The writing conveys time pressure very well. There is constant sense of pursuit. The player is given either/or choices at several points — there is not enough time to choose both options, so one must be forgone. There are sacrifices along the way, right up to the end. Nonetheless, the player may choose to allow for little kindnesses at times, even recognizing their potential cost, and this informs the personality of the crow.

In my opinion, the best place for the author to put effort to improve this work would be a spellcheck and then a couple proofing passes by folks who are fresh to the material. It’s not a short work, so there’s some acceptable level of errors, but this exceeds that threshold.

I wish there were a way to dump a text stream seen by a player in a Twine game, and to allow for annotation or at least highlighting. This would serve the function of a transcript from a parser-based game, which is a useful way to provide feedback to an author to improve successive iterations of a text. Absent that, the best I can do is paste, as an example of what I came across:

  • magical ingrediants
  • He doesn’t loser his blade,
  • PUrsued by evil magic, ignored by
  • SHe can’t be more than twelve years old.
  • There much be something I can do.
  • strapped to a horses bck,
  • on the country roads.None
  • streets of the capitol city
  • She reads you passaged, hoping
  • . The girl’s head jerks upand you’re
  • he town will be destoryed.
  • her neice’s thick hair.
  • done something regretable
  • covered in amterial,
  • The with sits
  • you seccumb to sleep
  • known eachother.
  • sensation lingeers,

This is not a story that lends itself to replay; I would guess that was never the intent – it is too long and too linear. Players may take this off the shelf after some time in the way you might reread a book, but I don’t think that text variations or alternative endings would be motive enough. In principle, if the author wanted to, she could add some mechanism to rewind to a midpoint, and take the story from there, and fan out the later story, but it would be a lot of work.

Evaluation:

Story: 8

Voice: 7

Play: 6

Polish: 3

Technical: 5

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 5.8

 

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