Because I’ve been reviewing some of the best games in interactive fiction, superlatives run dry; they can’t all be the best game ever. But each can be the best in their sphere; and I would say that Coloratura is the best comp-length puzzle-focused game of the last decade, and possibly of all time. Its closest competitors are Violet and Lost Pig, and i think people could argue for any of them as being the best.
It performed very well in the XYZZY’S, including winning Best PC in the nomination round due to being so far ahead of its competitors.
The author has a series of posts describing the creation of the game. This is one of the best making-of resources I have seen.
What did the game do right?
==Very strong PC==
In this game, you play an alien creature with an inhuman perspective, an unusual body, and almost mystical powers. This changes almost everything about the game, from parser responses to conversation and inventory to interactions with non-living things.
The inhuman perspective shifts over the course of the game, as you gain more information about your surroundings.
Finally, the author went to great lengths to make sure that PC and player motivations were aligned. All the solutions to puzzles are things that the PC would naturally seem to do, once you are aware of their abilities. There are no ‘soup cans in the kitchen’ here, puzzles unrelated to the story and which would not be an obstacle in real life.
The human NPCs are very well done in this game. I wonder if the author was relying on the lessons learned from earlier games like Tenth Plague and Divis Mortise, where the NPCs were less realistic. In any case, the captain and Mercy are very vivid characters, able to display intense and complex emotions in a compelling way. Perhaps one reason for their success is that emotions often ring false in an IF game, but any falseness of emotions here can be attributed to the influence of the PC.
Of course, the meat monster is very memorable. In this puzzle/person, the author asks us to reevaluate some basic assumptions about our own lifestyles, makes us imagine ourselves as the PC and take action, then breaks our expectations with the results.
== Story and pacing==
The story has perfect pacing. Most games tend to be either low-intensity, slow puzzle fests (like Lost Pig or Savoir-Faire) or fast-paced story-focused games (like All Roads or Being Andrew Plotkin). Coloratura manages to be both fast-paced and puzzle-oriented. The inhuman perspective helps here, as the PC is used to very long term goals.
The game slowly builds tension and speed by having the player learn more and more about its captors and having them learn more about you, creating a more dangerous environment.
Coloratura uses a very creative protagonist to create an incredible game, with well-done NPCS, depth of implementation (which I didn’t mention but certainly is there), and a good storyline rounding everything out. If you haven’t tried this game you should.
This was the most recent game to win both ifcomp and the xyzzy awards.