IF Competition: Red Moon

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.

Implementation: not awful, but not hugely polished. Writing: okay, with a couple of evocative bits. Plot: Meh.

This is short enough that it’s not going to waste any vast amounts of your life, and there is some imaginative stuff in it, but on the other hand I am not sure I can strongly recommend it either.

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My thought on reaching the end here was:

You are shitting me.

Not, as I think the author hoped, because the twist was a Shock, but because it’s such a cheap old gimmick. (See 9a.) And besides, that outcome is infinitely less interesting than the strange horror hinted at during the setup, in which the shadows themselves seem to be animated with evil intention, and light doesn’t work as it should. That was more the stuff of a new Doctor Who episode and less the stuff of magazine slushpile — or would have been if it had been done with more discipline and fewer heffalumps.

On top of this, the interaction design — in which the player has to repeat the same action over and over again in order to get to any ending — runs really contrary to IF player expectations and habits; so the odds are good that you’ll trap the player with nothing at all to do, increasingly bored and frustrated, until he goes to the hints, rather than letting him make this great discovery himself. It’s possible to pull this off (see “Hunter, in Darkness”), but you have to be kind of clever about how to tell the player he can’t do something while simultaneously hinting that actually he can (or that that’s the only sensible action, so he’ll be inclined to try again anyway).

On points of implementation: I can MOVE SHADOWS as though they were embodied physical things. I cannot, on the other hand, talk to my sister, or give her or show her anything, or do anything to comfort her except to hug her.

Bottom line: the author has potential, given a better premise.

11 thoughts on “IF Competition: Red Moon

  1. “Heffalumps”? What the heck’s a heffalump?

    I must give Red Moon’s author a kudo for watching _Waking Life_ and learning the rules of the setting. Unfortunately, I saw that movie too, so, no surprise for me.

    -R

  2. Having just played this, it reminded me of the debates over whether it’s better to have one verb for using items — ‘use’ — or to create a verb to eat, drink, throw, wave, and so on. This seemed like the same thing, only the verb in question is ‘z’.

    I did like the morphing text once I caught on to it. It reminds me of a game from a previous comp (name escapes me) where you could try to go through a door 20+ times, with increasingly annoyed (and funny) failure messages. The rhythm it creates is really fun.

  3. “On top of this, the interaction design — in which the player has to repeat the same action over and over again in order to get to any ending — runs really contrary to IF player expectations and habits; so the odds are good that you’ll trap the player with nothing at all to do, increasingly bored and frustrated, until he goes to the hints, rather than letting him make this great discovery himself.”

    I was one of these players. I suppose the author could have put in more of a hint that this would happen, either in-game or otherwise, but then it might have derailed the entire premise. It’s kind of a trap — if he wants this sort of trick to have the impact it could potentially have, he really needs to hide it, thus risking that plenty of people playing it won’t get it at all.

  4. Well, you can *shine* your sister. This is either an obscure usage of that word in English that I’m not aware of, or a strange bug.

  5. From the hints, it seemed like the game wanted the player to deduce that the room wasn’t real before the ending. That’s difficult for the player, who has no baseline reference for what’s real or unreal in the game’s universe.

    I liked the idea of a soldier dreaming through the eyes of the enemy, and seeing himself/herself as an alien monster, but I wish the story had handled the reveal more elegantly.

  6. Not, as I think the author hoped, because the twist was a Shock, but because it’s such a cheap old gimmick. (See 9a.)

    Not to mention 4a.

    I’d like to be able to say that heffalump is better than none, but I’m not sure it is.

  7. “Heffalumps”? What the heck’s a heffalump?

    It’s one of the things the shadows look like. But I found it a little hard to reconcile with the tone of the rest of the game, because “heffalump” originally comes from– well, see for yourself:

  8. I didn’t misread the small mention in the Q&A section of the walkthrough that the entire game was written in just three days by a first-time author, did I? Admittedly, it would have been better if the promise of the initial few minutes carried forward into the whole game, but… 3 days? That’s still impressive for 3 days. Not win-the-comp or even make-the-top-ten impressive, but impressive nonetheless.

  9. I didn’t misread the small mention in the Q&A section of the walkthrough that the entire game was written in just three days by a first-time author, did I?

    I don’t think I saw that myself, but someone else has since mentioned it. If so, that is indeed not bad for the time put in.

  10. It’s possible to pull this off (see “Hunter, in Darkness”), but you have to be kind of clever about how to tell the player he can’t do something while simultaneously hinting that actually he can (or that that’s the only sensible action, so he’ll be inclined to try again anyway).

    The first Heart of Gold scene in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is another good example of pulling this off.

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