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October 26, 2008

IFComp: Adventures in Capture

Venturing ever farther with the next batch of IFComp entries, as I review my initial impressions of each game's opening (introduction, "About" screens, and the first location), summarized by the Capture Score from 1 (intriguing; a definite play) to 4 (dreadful and forgettable). Just a reminder, no spoilers here, just early impressions.

Games covered here include "Grief", "April in Paris", "Ananachronist", and "LAIR of the CyberCow".


"Grief", by Simon Christiansen

This game starts by asking me if I'm male or female. I like when games do this, given the extra amount of work that this typically requires, although I don't yet know how well this is incorporated into the game or what kind of impact it might have on the narrative. Still, it's the kind of thing that could give the game some extra replay value.

The game begins in a dream, at least so I'm told, and there doesn't appear to be much to the experience. "It's just a bad dream. There is no need to do anything," I tell myself, and "All you have to do is wake up and everything will be fine." Listening to the sounds doesn't help, and there is nothing in particular to see. Eventually, regardless of what I do, I wake up and find myself in bed, reminding myself that whatever that was, it was just a dream. I seem to have the belief that it was a bad dream, but there's no real indication why. I can't help but feel the experience, whatever its importance, was lost on me. I trust that will become clearer as the game progresses.

I give the game a bit more since the opening location was so brief, but there isn't a great deal more to explore right off the bat. It seems that I have a goal of waking my child Thomas and getting him prepared for school, although I expect that, given the bad dream and the title of the game, there is likely much more to this than meets the eye.

The ABOUT screen tells me that Grief is a short game, meant to be replayed several times in order to reach "the final ending," which I imagine is the most desirable ending. I enjoy that format, as long as the short experience is worth replaying multiple times. I don't get a good feel for that from the opening, however; there's little to go on except a bit of suspicion and expectation.

Capture Score: 2. Has some good qualities, but doesn't quite grab me right away.



"April in Paris", by Jim Aikin

Aikin, who previously brought us "Lydia's Heart" and "Mrs. Pepper's Nasty Secret", now brings us this piece that takes place at a cafe in Paris while on vacation. Subtitled, "An exasperating social difficulty," it's a highly polished work with quality writing and a playful tone. The opening scene, in which I begin sitting at a cafe with the goal of somehow attracting the attention of the French waiter, is skillfully laid out with good atmosphere and an interesting cast of characters. I get the impresson that it is more of a lighthearted game, one that will likely provide some pleasant entertainment.

There is not much additional information in the ABOUT screen. Aikin includes a small map of the cafe in a PDF file, which is a nice touch. My impression is that the implementation of the NPCs in this game will be key, but given Aikin's previous efforts I have reason to believe it will not disappoint.

Capture Score: 1. Should be entertaining to play.



"Ananachronist", by Joseph Strom

This is a curious entry. It has an interesting, but fairly confusing, premise; as the subtitle suggests ("A puzzle in four dimensions"), it is a game that involves time travel and the altering of time lines. My role in the game is apparently as one of the "ananachronists", the individuals whose job is to repair the "magical time bombs made by a wizard dabbling in the arts of temporal manipulation." It's not a bad premise, generally speaking, although the presentation is hampered a bit by vagueness and complexity.

Even the title is a bit confusing; I can't tell if it's supposed to be "ananachronist" or just "anachronist" -- the latter is used in the introduction, and the name of the game file is "anachron.zblorb", but the former is used is most places. The introduction tries to be witty and entertaining, succeeding in a few places and faltering in others, but the humor does serve to make the confusing background a bit more acceptable. And although the writing in general is good, it is sprinkled with typos and/or spelling mistakes.

Capture Score: 3. Has some promise, but not as much as others.




"LAIR of the CyberCow", by Harry Wilson

I can't really say much about this game, to be honest. No extra information is included with the game, and the ABOUT screen is minimal. I start at a bus stop, with the only exit up a hill to the south, where there is a chapel and a small cottage. I am carrying nothing. No introduction, no background. The writing is terse and purely descriptive, with little embellishment.

No glaring issues or problems, just not much to attract me.

Capture Score: 3. Needs more of a reason to play it.



Still more to come...

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