Friday, October 03, 2008

IFComp '08 Reviews: Trein

There is a review below which will contain spoilers. The review will only be visible after you click the "Read more!" link. This sentence, however, is visible now. And it will keep going on until it has reached approximately 393 characters. So I'm going to type a little more. And a little more. And this should just about cover it. Why have you read all this anyway? It would have been better to have scanned over it.

Short version: Long-winded prose fails to take advantage of the medium, much of what is mentioned is unimplemented. There are multiple endings, however, and the writing is mostly competent.
Rating: 4
Number of Unseelies Encountered in Prose to Date: 0

"Trein" by Leena Ganguli had a story to tell, but seemed to want to do so in prose rather than interaction. The first text-dump is about a screen long, and most of the initial descriptions span a very long paragraph. There were three endings (I was able to view all three within an hour), but the author did not seem to understand the mechanics of IF. Many of the text dumps could have been done as a longer, more interactive sequence. Prime example (and this is from one of the ending sequences, so don't read if you don't want some major spoilers):

As you enter the Waterway, a foul smell assaults your senses. You ignore it, however, as you know that however unpleasant this may be it could be nothing compared to remaining here at the mercy of whoever might wish to do you and your country ill. You edge your way along a stone walkway until you can go no further. As you reach the end, you see a channel cutting its way through the stone structure, with fast-flowing water that could carry you away in a heartbeat. Already, you feel its tug at your boots. Making sure that the precious cargo that you carry won't get wet, you dive in without thinking - you don't need to be reminded that this water carries the town's waste, and you try to ignore this particular fact.
I think it would have been much more effective to have to keep pushing your character forward through the muck, turn after turn as the text rebuffs you with descriptions of the smell, etc. Keeping the evidence dry could have been a minor puzzle in and of itself.

The puzzles that are actually in the game (the walkthrough notes them as puzzles) are very straightforward. The game also drops some pretty leaden hints on top of that:
You wonder if you should ask someone about him.

You could probably climb the wall if you had a rope.

As you make your way back to the South, towards the secret passage, you hear faint footsteps coming from that direction. Aware of danger, you feel it is best to avoid going this way.
And more of that sort.

The prose, while mostly confident (and again, long winded), had some peculiar moments and a couple of typos, but nothing major. Even if the author is steadfast about the long narrative chunks, more synonyms for the objects in the game would have been helpful, and much more thorough implementation of mentioned nouns would help.

The story felt like is was going to go a more supernatural direction than it actually did, and I admit to being a little disappointed. The game continually hinted at spirits and faeries, but actually contained only political intrigue. I am however thankful to the author for teaching me the word unseelie. I was previously unaware of such classifications.

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