Spoilers ahoy. I recommend you play this game before you read this review.
First of all, this is the second time a Ford Fiesta has made an appearance in an Ifcomp game this year already! and I’m only a fifth of the way in. That must be a record, surely.
This game is written in Intudia – a platform I have no experience of, and didn’t even know existed till I clicked on the link – that’s exciting – I have no idea of what to expect. Cool. Although, having said that, I then went away and spent half an hour exploring the platform before I started the game – but I’m not counting that in the 2 hours.
A modern gothic in the grand tradition, the game even starts with a dark and stormy night – driving to the manor, lightning flashes and thunder crashes around you. Excellent. The preamble is lengthy, but worth it, and well designed. It does a clever job of backstory, goal setting, and revealing potential sub-plots – ghosts, missing locals.
I have played through twice. Each play through took me about an hour. There are two goals here – the first is, that as a burglar, there are six pieces of jewelry to find hidden within the manor – I confess, I did not find them all. The second is that there is a dark secret in the Manor’s past – and uncovering and resolving that, for me, formed the most compelling aspect of the game.
The game is large, with sufficient branching pathways to make it nicely re-playable – however, I did reach the same ending twice. I’m not sure whether the conclusion I reached is a total bottleneck or there are alternate ‘correct’ endings, as I’m out of time, now. However, the game is compelling enough that I may go back after the comp and explore it a couple more times.
There is a lot to like about this game. It’s a compendium of Gothic horror tropes – nicely done. The horror ratchets up, and some scenes prove effective in providing both imagery and psychological stress. To the point that occasionally, my finger hovered over the button, worried about what option to choose. That said, the ability to reverse death did make some of the choices less impactful.
There were a couple of issues with this game.
One of the mechanics I didn’t like is the number of insta-deaths. Even very near the start, choices I make can get me killed – and I don’t feel that the text gives enough cues to enable me to understand the potential impact of my choices. However, having said that, in this game death is not permanent – I can go back to that point of choice and re-choose – avoiding death. But, well, I really would like to see the text enable me to avoid this.
As a particularly egregious example of this, consider the following text, taken from the game:
The corridor ends at a T. You quickly look left and right, but the corridors look exactly the same.
- Go left or 2. Go right.
1 results in insta-death. This is only the first choice in a lengthy sequence that offers a series of 50/50 chances to the player. I do urge choice authors to consider this as a thing. Cue in the text. “The corridor to the left seems to be dangerously slippery.”, “Fresh air blows in from the corridor to the right.”
There are some implementation issues – not general brokenness, but worth mentioning. Spacing issues within choices. Some grammatical issues – this probably needed one more proofread. At several points I get to a place where the only choice is “Go To 1” – Basically this seems like a ‘back’ button, but is inelegant – I’m not sure whether this is the platform or the game, though.
A note about the Intudia platform. The main variation from Twine is that the choices are presented as number items within the text, and rather than click on them, I am given numbered boxes at the bottom of the screen to click on. I guess I’m struggling to understand why – it feels limited. The text is presented in a window within the browser window – and as I pointed out in my earlier review of Dead Man’s Fiesta, this leads to an irritating double scroll bar effect. Functionality is also limited – this game would have benefited from both an inventory and a save function.
I feel (and this is NOT reflected in my scoring/review of this game) that Intudia is a good start but, as a presentation platform, needs to reconsider a couple of its decisions and has a ways to go before it’s functionally mature. However, this is only my opinion and is likely to be wrong.
In general, I did like this game. I enjoyed it’s imagery, the openness of some of the elements. While there were issues, I do want to replay it so see more of what it has. 7/10.