IF Comp 2010: Ninja’s Fate

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: Ninja’s Fate

This is a tribute to the late Paul Panks. It’s not a very good game — nor was it intended to be, as it splices together lots of odd bits from Paul’s already not-so-coherent games. There was one puzzle in it that I sort of solved; a lot of unmotivated combat; and plenty of scenery documenting Paul’s many releases.

Nonetheless, the game does manage to convey something: a wistfulness about the desire to create and communicate. The most interesting interaction in the game is the one where you — oh, right.

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

— the one where you thin the paint and paint the room, and then after a moment it unpaints itself again. It doesn’t comment directly on why Paul might have resisted developing a different kind of game, one that would have been more polished and more popular with his players. It just suggests a sense of impossibility and futility.

And what could say more about Paul’s relentless effort than this, after we’ve discovered the framed plaques about his works:

>get frame
Which do you mean, the first 1993 frame, the second 1993 frame, the third 1993 frame, the first 1994 frame, the second 1994 frame, the third 1994 frame, the only 1995 frame, the only 1996 frame, the only 1997 frame, the only 1998 frame, the only 1999 frame, the only 2000 frame, the only 2001 frame, the first 2002 frame, the second 2002 frame, the third 2002 frame, the fourth 2002 frame, the fifth 2002 frame, the sixth 2002 frame, the seventh 2002 frame, the first 2003 frame, the second 2003 frame, the third 2003 frame, the fourth 2003 frame, the fifth 2003 frame, the sixth 2003 frame, the seventh 2003 frame, the eighth 2003 frame, the first 2004 frame, the second 2004 frame, the third 2004 frame, the fourth 2004 frame, the fifth 2004 frame, the sixth 2004 frame, the seventh 2004 frame, the eighth 2004 frame, the ninth 2004 frame, the tenth 2004 frame, the first 2005 frame or the second 2005 frame?

I don’t know how much this game will mean to people who don’t know Panks’ history with the IF community. It’s also not a good game. But it’s not a bad eulogy. It commemorates many charming, quirky, bizarre, or plain inexplicable aspects of Paul’s work without trying to hide their flaws.

I’m sure some people will give it a low score for being a bad game, and that’s reasonable.

I’m going to give it a medium-good one for being a decent interactive memorial. It’s a competition for IF, and this is one of the things that IF can be.

2 thoughts on “IF Comp 2010: Ninja’s Fate”

  1. I didn’t realise this was a memorial to Paul (I skipped the ABOUT) and I hadn’t played any of his games before (not very Mac compatible) so didn’t recognise any allusions. So I just treated it as a piece of IF. And it worked that way too.

  2. My. I’ve been out of touch; I hadn’t heard that Paul passed away until this post.

    An IF eulogy seems very fitting, very… right. Particularly the one that you describe here.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Panks. יהי זכרו ברוך.

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