Review: "Fish and Dagger"

Fish and Dagger was entered in Spring Thing last year. I enjoy IF games with visual elements, since those are the games I usually make, and I somehow missed out on this one at the time.

The story is pretty good. Others have mentioned the Metal Gear trappings—a franchise famous for its self-referential elements.

In Metal Gear, the story’s meta elements usually comment on the idea of non-intervention, which is reflected in the stealth gameplay that punishes the player if they draw attention to themselves. Metal Gear Solid 3, for example, allows you to avoid a boss fight if you don’t harm any soldiers, and avoid another boss fight if you leave your machine off for a certain amount of time.

With Fish and Dagger’s short length, it is hard to do anything so complicated as that. Fish and Dagger is instead a commentary on complicated stories that overstay their welcome. That’s both a dig at the copius amounts of Metal Gear lore, I assume, but it also contrasts nicely with the fact that Fish and Dagger is brief and replayable.

Fish and Dagger also has some interesting mechanical ideas. The first thing that pops out are the segments with the flashlight cursor, where you have to search in the dark for the correct link. This approach makes the screen feel like a real territory to be navigated rather than a document of text.

Something similar has been done in Even Cowgirls Bleed, where links are triggered on hover. I don’t think this idea has been taken to its full potential, with predictable outcomes, though.

The second thing that is interesting are the slideshow-like, click-to-advance segments. Unfortunately the game is a bit inconsistent and it is hard to tell when you are supposed to click the screen, and when you are supposed to click a link. Still, if developed, this approach could be used to clearly divide a game into linear sections and choice sections.

The game’s design is attractive. The character images and dialogues look very nice, and the music is ambient without being distracting.

Some parts of the design could use touching up though: a few links are much smaller than usual for no apparent reason, and the sidebar uses the default Sugarcube theme—an oversight when the rest of the game has been thoroughly styled.

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