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city.txt
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The City

by Sam Barlow profile

Science Fiction
1998

(based on 8 ratings)
4 member reviews

About the Story

"An interactive short experience."
This game is intended not as an exploration or a challenge, more as a situation. Stylistically interesting for its lack of banners, opening-titles, location-headers, status-line and meta-verbs such as "save".
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]

Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 1
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 6
Baf's Guide ID: 473
IFID: ZCODE-1-970930-AA42
TUID: a2wy18vpncjce925

Awards

13th Place - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide


An short experimental work, not entirely successful. The main puzzle involves breaking out of a Delusions-esque loop, but this game lacks the backstory of Delusions and doesn't do nearly as much with the conceit. Lots of standard features, such as UNDO and SAVE, are disabled, and there's no status line or location names; the author's reasons for all this hacking aren't clear, but it's fairly disconcerting. It seems like the point was to be nihilistic and gloomy, but the game's too short to have any real emotional impact.

-- Duncan Stevens

SPAG
The problem is that, really, The City doesn't do enough with its premise. The backstory never really shows up, and backstory is what might have distinguished this from its many predecessors; if there were some interesting story behind how things became how they are, the game might stay with the player for more than a few moments after playing.
-- Duncan Stevens

The game is quite small, but with a thought provoking plot, a bit George Orwell 1984ish.
-- David Ledgard
See the full review

>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page

Plotwise, it's as if somebody chopped up Mikko Vuorinen's Leaves (another escape-from-the-institution game whose name had only tenuous relation to its contents), added two tablespoons of Andrew Plotkin's Spider and Web, garnished with a sauce of Greg Ewing's Don't Be Late, threw in a pinch of Ian Finley's Babel, put the mixture into a crust made from tiny pieces of various other text adventures, stirred, baked for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, and served it up for this year's competition. Now, I'm not entirely convinced this is a bad thing. I think that lots of great works of art, interactive fiction and otherwise, are really just inspired melanges of things that had come before, so I'm not particularly opposed to such derivation on principle. For me, though, some of the derivative aspects of The City didn't work particularly well. This was especially true for the "Spider and Web" stuff -- I felt that the game crossed the line between homage and rip-off, heading the wrong direction. In addition, the convention of waking up with no idea of who you are or where you are, despite how well suited it is to IF, is starting to feel very tired to me. Perhaps I'm just jaded, or burnt-out, but when I saw the beginning I said "Oh, not another one of these!".
See the full review

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Member Reviews

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3 star:
(4)
2 star:
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Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Bleak Fragment, February 12, 2008
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Related reviews: bleak, short
The City by Sam Barlow is a short, bleak game. You start out in a bland room, with only a video recorder, a tape, and a remote control. So what do you do? You watch the tape. On it, you see a person just like you, in a bland room.

It won't take you long to realise that this person is you. And then the very boredom of your situation (which is equal for the character and the player) will make you want to break out of the situation that has been set up for you.

The first time I played it, I concluded that this was impossible. It is not--or at least not as impossible as it may seem at first glance. You should persevere: there is more to the story than just the first two location.

But even if you manage to reach the rest of the game and play it through completely, it will not leave you satisfied. There are a number of problems with The City, some of which could have been easily solved, and some of which couldn't. Solving the easy problems would push the game to a 3-star rating, but getting a 4-star rating would involve major extensions.

The easy problems all have to do with guess-the-verb situations, unimplemented objects, and stuff like that. The game was not beta-tested, and it shows. I didn't find any outright bugs, but lack of synonyms and guidance makes the game feel a little rough, and makes some of the puzzles far too difficult. I needed a walkthrough, and I won't be the only one.

The hard problem is that as it is, The City is only a fragment of a successful story. It could be the beginning, it could be the middle, it could even be the end, but we need more background, more action, more identification with the main character, before the situation presented gets the emotional power that Barlow is presumably striving for.

As it is, the game is too inconsequential. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and it could be used to great effect within a more substantial piece.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A nice philosophical sci-fi story, December 5, 2007
I wouldn't call the game "experimental". It has a peculiar thought-provoking story and very cosmetic changes to the standard look and feel of the parser, but that's about it. UNDO, SAVE and RESTORE are disabled for some reason but they are not needed either.

The puzzles are quite hard and I had to resort to the walkthrough several times, mostly because of guess-the-verb problems or general lack of knowing what the goal was. The game does get better on a replay. The nyances of the story and the depth of implementation are more noticeable on the second go. The story is easily worth 4 stars but guess-the-verb, hard puzzles and shortness drop the rating a notch.

A short surreal loop with no save, restore, or undo, February 12, 2016
The City has some great descriptive writing, but suffers from a few problems.

You wake up with amnesia in a mostly empty area and follow a surreal plot with a What Happened? ending. This has been done in shows like The Island, in short stories, and many times in interactive fiction (although this is an early example). The City doesn't bring much new to the table plot wise.

The game is short enough that the author felt justified in disabling save, restart, undo. This had an interesting effect on the atmosphere.

The puzzles were highly unclued with some guess the verb problems.

This may sound like a negative review, but the descriptive writing was a joy.

See All 4 Member Reviews

The City on IFDB

Polls

The following polls include votes for The City:

Dystopia by dacharya64
I love dystopian fiction, and after playing Square Circle, I decided I had to see if there were other dystopian tales in the IF-verse.

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