IF Comp 2010: Aotearoa

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, if appropriate.

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: Aotearoa

This is kind of fluffy, and there are (as mentioned by other reviewers) some potentially uncomfortable cultural implications behind the white-boy-saves-all adventure plot; though I, at least, didn’t read it so much as a comment about what the native population was capable of.

As to the prose, it was proofread and smooth, but less would have been more, in some spots. I mean that on both the small and large levels. At the level of sentence, not every noun needs an adjective; some of the descriptions got into enough detail that, paradoxically, they became less visual and less evocative. And at the level of turns, single commands sometimes produced a whole wall o’text.

However. As others have observed, there was a huge amount to like here. It is highly polished, and reminded me of Blue Lacuna not only in certain interface choices but also for its extensive natural environment and vibrant animal life. The story is engaging, and the pacing pleasantly variable, starting out with reflective actions and slower puzzles and then picking up the pace as things get more tense. The puzzles themselves are on the easy side, but generally satisfying.

Anyway, I’m playing and reviewing with limited time, at this point, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have a slightly more leisurely excursion with Aotearoa. All the same, I enjoyed it quite a bit. One of the top games this comp in quality and design.

4 thoughts on “IF Comp 2010: Aotearoa”

  1. kind of spoilers …
    I think that, at first glance, the premise does seem problematic – white boy solves brown people’s problems, but this is largely circumvented by the fact that any time the protagonanist does something remarkable (tending someone’s injury, getting past a certain obstacle, making friends with a certain large creature, etc), it’s because Eruera tells him how to do it. At least Tim Cooper doesn’t fulfill the “white man apology fantasy” or whatever by becoming the AWESOMEST adopted member of an indegenous population and then saving it somehow (e.g. Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, etc etc etc) – and his ‘alter-ego’ is also a Maori boy who shows him how to do things. Also, the narrative does get rather political about how the Maori were able fend off attempted imperial invasions with their dinosaurs and so are way less effed and have better race-relations compared to basically every other indigenous population in the world, which I thought reflected an unusually critical understanding of colonialism. That said, I don’t think the problem is avoided completely, and if you live, Tim is something of a national hero at the end, which made me feel kind of weird.

    So yeah.

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