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Blue Lacuna

by Aaron A. Reed profile

Science Fiction
2008

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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8


A giant, nonlinear, story heavy game that is almost too much to handle, February 3, 2016
Unlike most games I review, I have never finished Blue Lacuna. The reason I am writing this review anyways is that I don't think I ever will.

I've tried finishing it a few times, and I haven't been stumped by puzzles (especially since I chose story mode). Instead, I just feel overwhelmed by the game every time I play. It just seems that there are so many options; by making the game more open and free, it has moved in the opposite direction of traditional IF, where the parser was restrictive.

I've always thought a more realistic game would be better, but I think in a way I prefer the restrictiveness of traditional IF; I prefer a straighter path or paths, where you have to try and figure out the right step forward.

Blue Lacuna operates as a traditional parser, but also has a keyword system allowing objects, people, and conversational topics to be pursued in depth. It is one of the most non-linear games I have seen, and is large and well-written.

If I finish the game, I will return to add more comments.

*******

I have now finished the game, and boy, was it huge!! I used a walkthrough and it still took me 3-4 days to play through.

The most tedious part was obtaining all of seven certain cutscenes.

The game gives you hints if you get lost or seem bored.

The game lasts forever, and includes four total worlds

I enjoyed the last half much more than the first half.

This is the biggest game I have every played, except possibly for worlds apart.

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Definitely Recommended., July 2, 2013
This is just one of those games that you should play if you're into IF. It's interactive, there's plenty of exploring to do and the vivid and interesting explanations aid your imagination. The plot is certainly interesting and the game is highly responsive to various commands. The hermit is a wonderful if quirky character and the game overall is a good play. the puzzles are tough enough, and get you thinking:)

Well done overall!

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Underwhelmed, April 23, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)
Based on prior reviews, I was uncertain whether or not to try this game. I got the impression I would like some aspects and dislike others, and I have to conclude that I was correct. But in the end, taken together, it's not really a satisfying ride. Smooth enough to keep me playing to the end, but I found a couple rather glaring bugs which made the game pretty much unwinnable if you didn't have a restore before that section. One of them actually printed a weird error message that should have been caught in beta testing. Travel by landmark was a nice touch, but conversation was sometimes clunky, giving odd responses or errors that a character was unavailable when you're standing in the same location.

I will say that the setting was remarkably rendered. It was neat to play a game where weather and time of day actually matter, and though the interface took some getting used to, I found it convenient and well-implemented for the most part. The vividly imagined environments were described clearly, but not overdone. Specific but not verbose or dull to read.

However, as great as the setting was, the characters and themes were wishy-washy, inconsistent, and frustrating. It was like the author couldn't decide who anyone was. While I understand about the importance of imperfection in crafting compelling characters, this was more like behaving based on whatever feels right at the time. And that's just not enjoyable. (Spoiler - click to show)For example, Rume chastises the player character for painting, for following her own nature, but it's not her fault. If the player tries to have her wake him to explain properly, there's a message that Rume's asleep and you'll say goodbye later. Okay then. So you paint and then Rume just assumes you weren't going to say goodbye at all. And let's say his impassioned plea for you to give up who you are for him is granted. Well, twenty years later, after your daughter abandons you to pursue her own life in anger and impatience, the player character is in turn abandoned by Rume, who says he must follow his own nature. And he doesn't say goodbye. No. He's gone and leaves a letter. Hypocrite much? And the same goes for Progue. Sometimes, he's submissive and deferential and sometimes surly. At the end of the game, it's even more jarring because the game tells you his attitude is submissive but he's willing to attack the player on his own initiative. He also scolds the player for not helping him when earlier, he said he hadn't Called her, and then uses the fact she didn't help him when he needed her as some twisted justification for why he deserves to get his way. It's flat-out emotional blackmail. It's true that people don't always act predictably, but
actions and words really should match up better. If you say a character feels a certain way toward you, that should be borne out consistently unless something dramatic changes the mood. And I don't just mean disagreement. That's not enough. It was like the characters had to do things to make the plot go a certain way, so weird contrivances without proper explanation or foreshadowing had to be used. If the player cannot tell the character they're controlling to do something, it is unfair and annoying to then blame the player for not doing it.

(Spoiler - click to show)And then there's the weird dichotomy between art and love, which I don't think are mutually exclusive. Love or hate, art or science, friend or foe. These make sense. But it's very possible to be capable of both love and art, and if anything, I think they enhance each other.

The endings, too, didn't work for me. I think they might have worked better if I could actually respect and like anyone, but as it was, everyone was selfish and manipulative, to a greater or lesser degree. They either ran away from their problems, blamed the player character for not doing as they wanted, or abandoned the player character when they no longer needed her.

"Lacuna" is worth playing at least once, for the game world and innovative interface. But don't go in expecting to connect with anyone or to have your horizons expanded. And definitely don't go in thinking you can change the story. You can move through it at your own pace and with your own play style, but you really can't influence how events play out unless you play as a manipulative, dysfunctional person.

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Lacuna, a Blind Man's Textual Paradice, June 1, 2011
by Zack Kline (Corvallis, Oregon)
I'll get the verdict out of the way first: Blue Lacuna is a wonderful, evocative piece of work, and you should go play it right now. I know I have to justify that statement, so here goes…

Interactive fiction games are wonderful for blind computer users, as they allow us to experience settings and scenes we might not otherwise, perhaps more so than for the sighted people in this world. That was a large attraction of Lacuna for me, the richness and vibrancy of its island setting are unparalleled in the annals of interactive fiction. Other games may have similar esthetics or similar talent for description, but none I know of simulate day and night and tide with such loving detail. The world and how the player perceives it changes radically with each passing hour, and it was a joy just to wander around the island, soaking in the ambiance of a place too beautiful to be real as it changed over the course of my playthrough. I was beyond pleased to look up at the night sky and notice that the moon was implemented, and that it had phases which changed from day to day, as irrelevant as that might be to the actual plot.

What, I'm two paragraphs in and just starting to talk about plot? Yes, the game has a plot, and it is a big, sprawling thing just like the setting I raved about so much. Sprawl here is used in a loving sense--the length is not too long in my opinion, though I may quibble, just a bit, about the pacing here and there. Being IF, naturally there's potential for choice, and while the broad strokes of the plot remain the same throughout every game, there is much potential for interpretation and outright variation. A lot of that last comes from interaction with the single main NPC, who deserves a place all his own.

The single main NPC--you'll know him when you see him--is very well done. He has his own backstory which is central to the overarching narrative, and does his own thing in a manor to make you forget for a moment that he's a mass of programmed instructions. Conversation is topic-based, and sensitive to the mood of the characters--there's some Galatea-esque tracking going on in there, certainly. All told, he's a wonderful companion throughout, or was in my playthrough.

Bugs? I feel ashamed to mention them, but there were a couple minor ones. Most significantly, the NPC will occasionally go invisible--you can still talk to him, but finding him is difficult when he doesn't appear in room descriptions. I've reported this one to the author, and hopefully a fix is forthcoming. Tiny typos were perhaps a bit more noticeable thanks to my screen reader, but none jarring, and honestly they pale in comparison to the constant mispronunciation of a character's name, but that's my reader's fault and probably fixable on my end, anyway.

So, once again, play this game. Explore its setting, indulge in the plot at your own pace and according to your own whims, be swept away by the many good qualities here and enjoy a modern masterpiece of IF. I can say no more.

7 of 27 people found the following review helpful:
A tedious chore, February 2, 2011
by lobespear
Related reviews: spring thing 2008
A similarly structured narrative to Reed's previous game, For Whom The Telling Changed, with highlighted words that you can enter to move the story on as well as the normal IF command syntax. The high-fantasy elements are amped up, as is the scale of the thing. So fans of FWTCC should be well served. If, on the other hand, you found FWTCC a dull, over-written, choose-your-own-adventure in fancy clothes, this one won't sway you. The opening intro is so overwrought and half-baked it takes real perseverance to continue to the game proper, which turns out to be little more than a surreal fantasy-quest.
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
a truly accessible "interactive novel", November 9, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)
We've all heard the (occasionally justified) complaints about interactive fiction: the controls are impenetrable, the puzzles rely more on figuring out how to make the machine do what you want than actually figuring out what to do, etc. After Blue Lacuna, nobody should have an excuse not to try IF. The keyword system and extensively integrated in-game tutorial, as well as adaptive hints that never take you out of the story and two difficulty modes, make this a must-play for newcomers. Of course, the intriguing story, the living, dynamic environment, and the amazingly detailed conversations don't hurt matters. Even if you don't think you have time to devote to a novel-length IF, you should take the opportunity to explore this lush, animate environment.

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Truly Interactive Fiction, July 14, 2010
by Rose (New Zealand)
The words 'interactive fiction' imply a story you can truly influence - that you're part of the process of telling the story. Unfortunately, few titles actually accomplish this. Even when the game contains multiple paths, you're still essentially playing through a detailed puzzle box. Blue Lacuna is an outstanding piece due to its true interactivity.

You, as the PC, have the ability to Wayfare - to travel between worlds and places by creating art. When called by another of your kind, you rush to the rescue - only to find yourself on a near-deserted island with a crazy old man and some very creepy trees. Who called you here? And what do they want with you?

This game goes far beyond multiple paths: you genuinely do shape the story. The characterisation of the PC is entirely up to you and you're able to act in almost any way you feel fits. In turn, your actions shape the environment, the outcomes of the story, and the attitudes of the one main NPC in ways that frankly boggle the mind. Progue is an incredible NPC; your behaviour towards him influences his towards you, as well as what encounters you will have. He can be your mortal enemy, love interest, or anything in between. No two playthroughs will be the same. Sadly, the game is so huge and time-consuming that it's difficult to live up to the near-unlimited replay potential.

The setting - the island of Lacuna - is a character in itself. Complete with succinct but vivid descriptions, day-night and weather cycles, random environmental events and an expansive but intuitive map, it's the most detailed setting I've ever seen in a work of IF. Even on third and fourth playthroughs, I'm still discovering new treasures hidden away. Exploring Lacuna even without a plot to drive you would be well worth the effort. Speaking of the plot, it's one of the few things that don't replay so well. The main events of the plot (particularly the (Spoiler - click to show)dream sequences) are less adaptable than the rest of the game, so even the most haunting parts grow dry and familiar after you've read them once or twice.

Aside from the story itself, Blue Lacuna breaks ground in other ways. You may select between story and puzzle modes; this adds to the re-playability, and means the game will appeal to both fans of narrative (like me) and those who like a challenge. I loved this touch and wish more games would offer it. While not exactly a new idea, the (optional) compass-free movement commands heightened the realism and made it feel like you really were exploring the environment instead of a game map. (Spoiler - click to show)The backstage commands were a brilliant touch; they made it way easier to find new endings and to otherwise mess around with the game environment, which is always fun.

Unfortunately, with great interactivity comes great complexity, and with great complexity comes great bugginess. (Is that a word?) On my first playthrough, an essential plot event (the (Spoiler - click to show)tsunami, if you're wondering) never triggered and the game was rendered unwinnable. Though nothing that bad ever happened again, the interpreter kept crashing during one of the conversations and there were way too many bugs and minor inconsistencies to count. I understand that the huge scope of the game makes it impossible to debug completely, but I had so many issues dodging bugs it's enough to lower the game one star in my estimation.

Blue Lacuna is a groundbreaking game that is likely to take an important place in the history of IF. If you enjoy immersive games that reward persistence and patience, then I would definitely recommend giving it a play.

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The way forward?, April 26, 2009
by gruelove (UK)
Related reviews: forward looking IF
Blue Lacuna is one of those pieces of IF that will take it's rightful place in the history of the art. My own experience of any IF is one of lesser or greater interaction with the fictional setting. Upon walking down the street, I don't for one moment think, ah! a tree, 'x tree'. I simply think 'tree', and there with all the glory of my senses, I see the beauty of the tree. This is the methodology of Blue Lacuna, and it is one which I believe will become more and more prevalent in the future. It may seem like a minor detour from the traditional and accepted 'x tree' to Blue Lacuna's 'tree', but it does undoubtedly make a very significant difference in the way the interactive experience plays out.

The world of the title is large and expansive, allowing interaction with much of what you see around you to the extent that you are able to taste the berries growing on bushes and smell the flowers etc.

In many ways Blue Lacuna is one of the few pieces of IF that could be described as a novel in the truest sense of the word. That's not to say it's the perfect example of IF of course; I'm not a great lover of the idea that we might choose the sex of our character for example. It reminds me too much of the old RPGs, and I think that it sometimes leads to a dilution of the character that invariably adds little or nothing to the work as a whole or the experience of the reader, no matter what sex they themselves may be.

My overall opinion of this work is one of great hope for the medium of IF in coming years, particularly since so many notables are investing so much of their time to push the boundaries of what is at present a wonderful and exciting area of fiction, and hints at so much more in the relatively near future.

And a very impressive and expressive future it may prove to be if Blue Lacuna is anything to go by.


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