Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. There is a cut, then any spoiler-free comments I have, and then spoiler space, and then more detailed feedback that assumes the reader has tried the game.
But first, we have some obligatory filler to try to make sure that the RSS summary does not accidentally contain any review. Filler, filler, la la la…
Okay. Here we go.
I am not crazy about this one. It reminds me of Photopia — with the imagery and the cool puzzle and the Cadre-quality writing juiced out, leaving a stringy pulp of manipulative plot device.
As far as I can see on a couple of playings, no matter what you do, Thomas dies. This isn’t because circumstances force the same event to happen no matter what; it’s because (much less compellingly), even if you avoid one fatal accident, Thomas will somehow meet with another. The accidents are sometimes very unlikely. Causality is totally out the window here.
And without causality, we don’t really have a story. The message of replaying this is that the universe is dumping on me arbitrarily and repeatedly. What happened? Did I anger some deity? Is there a reason things have to be like this?
The ABOUT notes hint that I might be missing a “final ending”. I am not sure whether the final ending is happy or sad, but I’ve tried several solutions and I’m not finding anything that saves Thomas. On the contrary, I’m finding that it looks more and more like I can’t save him. And despite the game’s best efforts to compel me, I don’t much care: the writing is too bland, the characters too uncharacterized.
I have a sneaking suspicion (which might be wrong) that at some point we’re supposed to “wake up” and realize that Thomas is already dead and that all these different scenarios are dream/madness attempts to rationalize his death or imagine our way to some alternative outcome. This would certainly make sense of the otherwise inexplicably relentless behavior of Fate — but if this outcome exists, I couldn’t find a way to trigger it. If that is the intended meaning of all this, though, I’m not sure how well it works. Even games meant to have a message or teach about a widespread human experience (I’m thinking of “Jane”, “Urban Conflict”, and some of the anti-war games that have come out over the years) pack much more punch if they use well-characterized individuals to make their points.