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.
This is a short piece, more interactive poetry than an interactive story. It is worth trying, but I recommend playing when you know as little about it as possible.
About the Holocaust so much has been written that I would not dare to write anything myself: I am too far from it, understand too little, suffered nothing direct from it. I would be afraid that anything I had to say would amount to an insult to those who do not have the luxury of regarding it from a distance.
Oddly, I think that is why I found “Buried in Shoes” effective. It is about the way these events echo, signifying grief and horror and the banality of evil, for people who had no direct contact with them.
The final question brought tears to my eyes. I felt blind-sided and angry. I typed NO. How dare you ask me to forgive what was done to the Holocaust victims? I thought. It’s not my place to forgive, and it’s cheap of you to ask, and if I said yes, would I not be trivializing a suffering so vast that I can’t even comprehend it?
I went back and tried the yes ending, afterward. (Not that in fact it makes much difference to the output.) But the reason “Buried in Shoes” worked for me is that it called up this strong instinctive resistance. It’s possible that the piece worked for me in spite of the author’s intentions; if I had taken it merely as a little sermonette on the value of forgiveness, I think I would have found it rather trite. If it had been a non-interactive piece, I also wouldn’t have cared for it much, because most of its power (for me) came from being asked to make a choice I don’t feel I have the right to make. I foresee that this game may be starring in some future discussions about the power of interactivity.
Hm. All this said, did I think it was a deep piece of work? I don’t know. It does, like a poem, find a strong simple image for a hard idea. I admire this. Do I feel changed by its content? Not so much.
On a separate note: the breadth of the material in this comp is encouraging, but I’m not quite sure where to start in scoring “Buried in Shoes” against a plot-rich short story, or a taut, funny puzzle game.