Next up: Wish, by Edward Floren.
Wish is one of those games where a surreal puzzle sequence is dovetailed with cut-scenes from “reality”, so that your progress is understood somehow to be affecting the real world, but the player never gets to interact with the real characters or situations.
This can work more or less well depending on the quality of the puzzle sequence and the reality cut-scenes, though in almost all cases I find myself wishing that the author hadn’t put the story at this remove from the interaction.
In the case of Wish, the “reality” story struck me as rather saccharine, and I got stuck on the puzzles — I didn’t pick up an apparently-scenery item that the walkthrough later told me I needed, so I went back and played the whole game through from the walkthrough. Overall, it’s not really good enough to recommend, but not bad enough to rail against, either. I did have a more negative reaction than I think it probably deserved in absolute terms, but I’ll save the details of that for after the cut.
The main story, about Sarah and her grandfather, bugged me. For one thing, it’s all rather contrived and cliché — the pure-hearted young girl, the kindly old man, the idealized Christmas landscape. For another, it strikes me as something approaching cruelty for the mother to tell her distraught daughter that “if she wished hard enough, and worked hard enough at making the wish come true, then everything would be fine.” Sometimes people die; in that event, how could it be comforting or fair for the child to think that was her fault for not wishing “hard enough”? I’m kind of ill-disposed to this kind of story right now, given that a friend of a friend just died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in her mid-fifties; so I’ll chalk up part of my reaction as subjective. But still.
As for the puzzles, those don’t really work either. How are we supposed to know that the gel will make people invisible? And double as a handy glue? What clue is there that we should keep NPCs talking until they get around to giving us stuff?