Vincent Zeng and Chris Martens


Summary: technically successful but artistically flat

[spoiler]The game’s blurb very accurately explains what this is doing

I feel about this very much as Emily Short and Katherine Morayati seem to.

The story is very short: each play through takes only a minute or so. The narrative itself seems inconsequential in every respect and (so far as I could tell) in every version. About the closest thing it comes to anything that could be called excitement is a dog running off with a shoe. I tried quite hard to get different endings, and did not come across anything dramatic or notably more satisfying than the others.

This is not so much an innovative system developed to tell a story, as a trivial story developed to show off an innovative system.

That system itself is not without interest. It avoids the greatest complexity of interactive stories where the player can control multiple characters by keeping their paths mostly separate. But it keeps track of what has happened in order to produce a reasonably convincing short summary and conclusion at the end of play. Its brevity encourages multiple play-throughs, and, even after I became convinced that there was no way of diverting it to some really unexpected place, I enjoyed playing with it for a bit. It really does seem a worthwhile technical endeavour, and for that the authors are to be congratulated.

A mundane tale can be the starting point for something interesting, as in Queneau’s Exercices de style. But in the end, this is not a game that has a hundred different stylistic variants to show off — just some rather mundane differences in story path. The writing is workmanlike, but not intrinsically interesting. There’s not much meat on the bones, though it would be interesting to see what could be done if the system were harnessed for more ambitious ends.

In so far as this is a proof of concept, some comments on that might be in order. I didn’t find the look or feel very satisfactory: Times is not a satisfactory screen font, and it’s especially unforgiving in white and red on black. Nor is centred type easy to read. Some further graphic design work would be in order. But the basic system seems sound enough: it’s really a question of finding something challenging to do with it.[/spoiler]