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Winner, Best Setting - 2004 XYZZY Awards
For the time I spent playing it - it didn't take much more than fifteen minutes from start to finish - it was interesting enough to hold my attention, although that was partly because I kept thinking "there has to be more to it than simply wandering from place to place" and right up to the last bit, I was expecting some kind of puzzle to spring itself upon me. When it didn't, and then the game ended, I was left with the feeling that while it had held my interest for fifteen minutes, it wouldn't have kept me glued to the screen for much longer.
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The first, powerful impact is of a beautiful landscape beautifully presented. It's tempting to describe sweeping scenes with flowery prose but the author resists that temptation. The text is sparse and transparent; it doesn't get in the way of the country depicted and everything is described with an infectious enthusiasm. I was left feeling relaxed, as though I'd been there, at least in part. I presume that was the main objective of the piece, so it's a success from the first play through.
That sense of "being there" is enhanced by the sheer interactivity of the piece. Faced with something that says, in essence, "See how interactive I am!" I start to verb the nouns. This setting is deeply implemented. Almost everything can be examined, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. I know more about Appalachian flora now than I did before playing.
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That's when I realised that I needed to take The Fire Tower on its own terms. This is a game about hiking a route that the author is familiar with through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While it is possible to stop and smell the flowers and run your hands through the waters of Tom's Creek, the most significant interaction in this game is simply moving and reading the description for the next location.
I'm sure that for many players this is too little interaction and too linear a journey, but if you're not looking to solve puzzles or map rooms, if you're quite happy to just read succinct and evocative descriptions of a real world place and your movement through it, then I think this game is in fact very substantial, in its own way.
One thing that makes The Fire Tower stand out to me, from a lot of other IF games, is not just that it's firmly grounded in everyday life, but that it feels like a very personal story. I'm sure that in reality this is a careful fictionalisation of the author's real journeys, but it's full of great little details - stopping to adjust your socks, for example - that very much convey a lived experience.
Depending on what you look for in IF, you may find The Fire Tower to be a very flimsy game. But if you're looking for ambience and a sense of place, you'll find them here in rich abundance.
Well, to start off, I was expecting a little bit more implementation more verbs, and examines, which in my opinion would have made the experience way more enjoyable. As it turns out there are very many herbs unimplimented (which may be just as well; it is if art anyhow), but what was really annoying was how few 'x' verbs there were. It just didn't work well having just general descriptions and a bare minimum af 'x' verbs. I wanted to be able to take in the scene, but instead, it was more 2-dimensional than i would have liked. Sort of like listening to a book read by Microsoft Sam. Blandish.
The parts that were implemented were well done though, and rather relaxing really. The descriptions were artistic enough to be fun and not a complete bore. Not a bad substitute for a hike in the park if you're stuck inside on a rainy day.
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Recommended ListsThe Fire Tower appears in the following Recommended Lists:
Linear games by Felix Pleșoianu
The common wisdom holds that IF's greatest strength is the freedom it grants to the player (or at least the illusion thereof). Yet some of the best IF ever is highly linear.
Richly simulated worlds by Emily Short
IF in which the setting is especially deeply simulated, especially works that implement traditionally difficult systems (fire, liquid, ropes, recording devices, etc).
PollsThe following polls include votes for The Fire Tower:
No Mazes, please! by AndyC
I am a returning player to IF (which I loved 30 years ago) having recently discovered the fantastic Frotz for the iPad. Looking at some of the old games again has really blown me away. I don't enjoy drawing maps but I love reading good...
NPC-less Exploration by Dannii
Supposedly one of IFs strengths is for exploring places with few other people, often abandoned places, but I can't think of many works which have zero NPCs and consist of a lot of exploration. Usually there's at least one NPC, or the...
Games with accurate (present or historical) settings by Emily Short
I'm looking for works in the general spirit of The Fire Tower or 1893: they can be puzzly or not, have a story or not, but they should attempt to represent a real-world setting as accurately as possible, and in some detail.
This is version 7 of this page, edited by Jacqueline A. Lott on 14 April 2013 at 4:50pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item