(A great one-room horror game: Marika the Offering - Details (ifdb.org))
Immediately upon pressing any button to start, Marika the Offering throws the player into the suspense. A meticulously described room, an ever so slight hint at a backstory, and a pressing sense of urgency.
“The air is musty and offends my nostrils. My remaining life can be measured in heartbeats. I must act!”
As is evident from the quote above, the game is written in the first person. Readers/players may differ in their interpretation of this. For me, whereas the second person invites a feeling of complicity or of teamwork, the first person elicits a dramatic distance from the character. More like an unseen co-author or even puppetmaster than an agent within the story. In IF, this makes me experience the text more like an engaged reader than an active player. In this story, I found this worked very well, as it focused my attention on the emotions and the internal struggle of the character Marika.
On the opening screen, the player is told she can access the backstory to the game at any point by typing STORY. After a few exploratory moves, I decided to do so. I was treated to several pages worth of exxposition. Those opposed to reading long chunks of text in their games might want to skip this. I’m not, and I enjoyed it. A rather standard horror/fairytale setup which doesn’t do anything too original, but it’s engagingly written, it sheds some light on the protagonist’s background, her relations with other people from her village, and it offers some insight into why Marika came to be in her present situation.
The game itself consists of a clever inversion of the standard escape-room genre. Other reviews will provide more information for those who want it.
I want to draw more attention to the incredibly high standard of craftsmanship involved in the making of Marika the Offering. The gameplay is so smooth that it might not be immediately apparent how finely tuned some of the design decisions actually are.
–There is no TAKE. Justified, since this is a one-room game. After careful examination of the surroundings, all necessary objects are visible and available for manipulation. Likewise, INVENTORY is unnecessary. The response to this command stays nicely within the flow of the story by pointing out that you want to keep your hands free for any unexpected events.
–The entire game revolves around changing the state of this one room you’re in. The opening screen immediately gives the player a rather lengthy and detailed description of the space. What is remarkable, at least once one pays attention to it, is how seamlessly alterations to the game-state are incorporated into this description. All the changes still result in a spontaneous text, without stutterings or hesitations when reading. Again, this is done so smoothly that is is hardly noticeable, until one compares the quality of Marika’s evolving room-description with some less-successful examples.
A good horror story, not original in content but nigh-on perfect in execution.