IF Comp 2010: Pen and Paint

As has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game.

I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with a couple of years ago: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. In 2008 that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale, and it made my reviewing process a happier one in 2009, so I’m sticking with it. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.

Next up: Pen and Paint.

This has a cute premise, which casts you and your wife as creators who build universes through writing and art. (See also: Myst.) Something has happened to disturb your wife’s paintings, and you need to enter and revise the accompanying books in order to restore stability to the created places.

Unfortunately, the world in which all this takes place is extremely thin. The references to your friends and servants seem whimsical but without much cohesion to suggest that there is a consistent world concept at work. Your wife consistently refuses to respond to conversation, which makes her easy to implement but cuts down quite a lot on the feeling of spousal affection. Room descriptions tend to be bare, but even then a lot of mentioned items aren’t described. And I have no idea how we’re supposed to finish without a walkthrough, since there are conversely quite a few objects that are present and are necessary in puzzles, but don’t warrant a mention in the room description.

Anyway. It’s occasionally cute, it’s good-natured, and it has one or two nice images, but it’s also essentially unplayable without the walkthrough as far as I can tell, and there’s not a lot about it that’s likely to stick with me.

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