(This is an older review of mine. I’m sharing it here to encourage everyone to play this game. It’s a gem that should be cherished by the IF-community for all eternity. Sunset Over Savannah - Details (tads.org))
A shining pearl.
Playing Sunset over Savannah is a marvelous experience.
It is a story about personal growth and difficult emotional decisions in a magic-realist setting. The protagonist goes through a sequence of changing emotions about his life and himself that reverberated strongly with me. The setting reflects that. It is an everyday beach location, a pavilion by the seashore, that is suffused with wonderment about small beauties. At defining points in the story, the magic breaks through in illusions or visions whose reality is up to the reader to interpret.
Hard as it may be, the writing succeeds flawlessly in capturing that feeling of wonder in the real. There are carefully crafted short descriptions of the beauty of beach, sun, sea… Responses to actions are clear and to the point.
Following important emotional breakthroughs the author goes all out in dreamlike prose, that fits with the moment in the story.
All through the game there is a fun, friendly humor, making the player feel at home in this world.
Of course, a bug at the wrong moment would kill the fragile atmosphere of a game like this quite swiftly. Fortunately, Sunset over Savannah is very much up to the challenge of sustaining this wondrous experience. I found one tiny bug and less than a handfull of typos. Things like sand, water and ropetying are well handled, as are swimming and diving. The little details like a small crab scuttling around in the sand or the pressure of a wave crashing above while diving add immensely to the immersion. There are also tons of meaningful responses to completely unnecessary commands, which makes it a joy to just play in the sand.
The puzzles our protagonist has to solve to get a grip on his own emotions and resolve are hard. Really hard. (To me, that is. I’m not that proficient in that department.) It was particularly difficult to find that first loose thread to get the ball rolling, and even then, the ball got stuck more than a few times. This is no punishment however, having such a beautiful place to wander around in. It pays to think about all the properties of the inventory-objects, all the possible functions they could have.
There is a good help system with vague-to-explicit hints per puzzle, but once you’ve explored all locations thoroughly, all you should maybe need are one or two nudges.
A lesser game would have a serious problem with integrating so many hard puzzles into a story that depends on depth of emotion and fragile wonderment. It would be hard to maintain the willing suspension of disbelief on the player’s part.
Not Sunset over Savannah. The characterization of the protagonist and his mental state are strong enough to maintain the illusion and the immersion.
A beautiful, beautiful game.