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About the StoryLiving under the Stalin era, in four parts.
15th Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)
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Number of Reviews: 5
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It would have been better had the misery been *interesting* misery, April 14, 2013
(Spoiler - click to show)I died of starvation once, but then I started plowing potatoes and grain like a mad man so that I'd be ready when they came to collect my share for Mother Russia. No matter how industrious I was, though, I was always pinned to the ground, called an enemy of the collective, an enemy of the people, an enemy of Russia, and killed. I'm not sure if it was a bug or what, because I always had more grain and potatoes than the game said I needed, even after feeding my dying wife whom I couldn't bring myself to euthanize... because somehow, someway, I knew we would survive.
Yes, life in Stalinist Russia is horrible, but you get a sense of this about ten or fifteen moves into the piece and the rest of the game is not terribly interesting after that. I mean, I admire the premise, and the ambition of it, but I think it could have been done in a more engaging way. Bit more of a plot. Bit more promise that the misery to come would at least be interesting misery. More than four beta testers next time, Michelle.
This wasn't bad, per se, it just wasn't good. If you're going to take us back in time and show us how miserable a certain period was, you have to make it engaging enough that people will actually want to stay in the Hell you've (re)created for them.
And I didn't get far enough into this one to figure out where the title came from, which made me sort of sad. But they kept killing me!
Gigantomania's broken into four parts. Three require repetition and fawning to the local bureaucrat, and the fourth pretty much ignores what you try to say. It's the best one. There's always a trick to books showing people's lives are tedious without bringing the reader in, and in the case of a game, having to repeat actions to get to the next bit is just crushing.
That's the first half of the game. But then it turns toward being able to sneak around as you get more power--the (Spoiler - click to show)interrogation scene offering some wonderful, revealing ways to lose. But unfortunately anyone who has read why Communism failed will probably know this. And anyone who hasn't may wonder if all this repetition's necessary.
But the final scene is quite simply very clever. It's a chess game, and it's worth playing for that alone. I'd always interpeted "Communist style" chess as something different--the art of only allowing small advantages nobody enjoyed, more like a typical Karpov-style win where you mess up your opponents' pawns and win a tedious eighty-move rook and pawn endgame.
Here the author made the right decision. The interpretation (Spoiler - click to show)of killing all your allies to bring the enemy king near yours for the final evil laugh is wonderful and expedient. I didn't see it right away. It's the best anachronism I've seen in IF (Stalin died in '53, but the game occurred 40 years later.)
If the game could have a running side-story as clever as the last bit for each of its four parts, it would feel a lot less like Kentucky Fried Anti-Communist Tract and more like something special. I'd replay it for sure.
Gigantomania was entered in the same competition as The People's Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game, with which it shares the theme of communism. Apart from that, the two games are polar opposites. Glorious is a highly polished light-hearted puzzle game that does not take its theme seriously and brings us nothing in the way of innovative design; Gigantomania lacks polish and smoothness, but it takes its theme very seriously indeed and experiments with the medium in quite unexpected ways. If the former is a slick Hollywood production, the latter is an experimental art house movie that sometimes works and sometimes does not.
This characterisation should give you a good idea of whether you want to play the game or not, which is the only thing I want to do in this review. Everything else I have to say about the game would be so full of spoilers that the IFDB is not the place to post it.
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