Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IFCOMP'15: To Burn in Memory, Orihaus

Something that has obviously had a lot of effort put into it, both in graphical and textual presentation, and that nevertheless manages to hit almost all the wrong notes that I personally listen for, in prose and interactivity. A hand-made engine.

Let me start by saying the general structure of this piece would've kept me from enjoying the prose, even if that sort of writing was something I enjoyed.

Pacing a choice-based game by providing nothing more than movement options through empty scenery is not, in my opinion, the way to go at all. Especially when that empty scenery is exclusively architecture, putting me in mind of reading an overenthusiastic guide to historical buildings. Minute descriptions of spatial dimensions are not what language is most effective at, for this reader, and the attempts at pathetic fallacy felt more to me like excess verbiage than trying to infuse some sort of subtly felt life in the otherwise lifeless surroundings.

Though blackened windows teased entrance, the tower itself allowed no
means of ingress at this level.
(...)gold hue belying the fortitude of a stronger metal — bright brass fashioned to
call to mind the sun in all its radiance.
What remained of the gate had forgotten its elegance that moment its strength fell before the sheer force of the German artillery barrage — filigree metalwork twisted and made harsh, to call now to mind the form of a corpse, ribcage exposed.  
Straining after some notion of fine writing, a notion I don't share though I do have my own ideas about that, the writing sometimes abandons the very imagery it's trying to evoke.

Gates can never call to mind the form of a corpse. They can call to mind the notion of a corpse, but a collapsed, twisted gate looks nothing like a corpse. The fortitude of a stronger material is simply "a stronger material".

By all appearances it [a crystalline gate] did not seem to be operable from the exterior.
Which, I gather, means simply: "Apparently it couldn't be opened from outside."

All else adds nothing to the image, apart from an air of "fine writing". It rings false to me, I'm sorry to say, and the writing is simply full of this.

Now, the inert setting can still work if there's a distinct and memorable consciousness looking out at it. Here, there isn't. The PC is a camera eye, and occasionally a hand that takes items and adds them to the inventory. All the emotion of the descriptive passages, as well as sounding overwrought to me, seems not to originate anywhere in the mind of the PC, but solely in the narrator.

The memories that come with each location are similar in style, though to be honest they're better written. They're disparate scenes between people or pieces of  and are probably supposed to provide a sort of  fractured narrative. Unfortunately, the writing stumbles into various sorts of quasi-philosophical ruminations that didn't really contain any narrative, so the back-story of this city will remain a mystery to me.

Finally, it was the sheer aimlessness of the experience that did me in. I realize I should've maybe kept a map, but really, it's not just the general spatial confusion, it's the lack of goals that I can't overcome. I managed to collect every item in the inventory, and the puzzles aren't really that, to be honest: the relevant "solve puzzle" buttons appear as soon as you have all prerequisites, and it's just a matter of arriving at the particular place.

Technically, there were a few hiccups, for example having to examine a certain door and find its hidden handle every time I came to it. (I chalk it up to a certain the text not accommodating itself flexibly to my progress, which I felt in a couple of other places too.) Also, white text on black background wouldn't be my reading preference, ever. After 40 minutes or so of reading my eyes started hurting.

Despite everything, I'm sure that the author has thought things out carefully enough to deliver a strong ending, when the player finally pieces together everything, and once you have the through-line, the story would merit rereading. But the pacing is so out of my rhythm, and the prose so out of my preference that I simply couldn't do it.

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