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Shade

by Andrew Plotkin profile

Travel
2000

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(89)
4 star:
(121)
3 star:
(50)
2 star:
(12)
1 star:
(10)
Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 282
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- rec53, June 9, 2012

- libsrone, June 6, 2012

- kala (Finland), May 25, 2012

- Herr Rau (München, Germany), May 9, 2012

- zylla, May 2, 2012

- The Xenographer, April 30, 2012

- EsotericAlgorithm, April 28, 2012

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing and Creepy One Room Short IF, April 8, 2012
by octofuzz (Trondheim, Norway)
Played it over an Easter vacation in a hotel lobby and was absolutely captivated.

Easily solved in under two hours but I think it will take several runs through for me to appreciate all of its subtle messages and meaning.

Great for beginners as well (it was the second ever game I completed).

Download, absorb, enjoy.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Solid Four-Star Game, March 20, 2012
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: andrew plotkin, one-room, short
Play the game if: you simply want to enjoy a competent and in some places innovative work of interactive fiction without getting bogged down in complex intellectual challenges.

Don't play the game if: you want to be dazzled with narrative brilliance, or if you want more out of IF than good prose and atmosphere.

Shade is a work of interactive fiction that could easily have doubled as a script for The Twilight Zone. In fact, certain very apt comparisons could be made to (Spoiler - click to show)Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", a film adaptation of which was shown on The Twilight Zone.

The bare mechanics of Shade work rather well. In fact, the very question of "difficulty" doesn't even seem to exist in this game. Plotkin's writing is sharp enough that when the rules begin to change, the differences will leap out at you even though they're rather subtle - details such as (Spoiler - click to show)The protagonist's vacuum suddenly being full of sand, or the apartment's plant changing species.

The apartment setting is implemented with convenience in mind, the game allowing for multiple locations in a single-room setting without forcing the player to resort to constant commands of "enter" and "exit". My favorite games in IF focus on synchronizing the kind of decision-making underlying in-game actions with the player's own mind. Such games, and in this case Shade, impart a sense of intuitive control and completeness that can help the game transcend itself in the Turing-esque sense that IF has always striven to accomplish.

There is only so much one can discuss in the story itself without referring to heavy spoilers. The fact that there even exist heavy spoilers is in and of itself something of a spoiler, which poses something of a problem. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, the attempt must be made.

An undeniable strength of the story is the atmosphere. The one-room setting achieved the right balance of comprehensibility and potential to explore; the pacing of your introductory searches around the room is good enough to introduce all the important elements at play and keep them in your mind at all times.

Perhaps because I've seen this particular brand of story before, Shade's actual narrative doesn't come across as particularly fresh or new for me. This is likely more a subjective nitpick than an objective criticism, but there you go. What might be called the second act (Spoiler - click to show)(specifically, the process of turning all of your apartment to sand) was for me a rather laborious process of carrying out the obvious, even though I understood more or less where this story was going to end. Even before getting to this stage I'd more or less guessed the ending - showing that while subtle details will leap out at you, there's an added risk of too much foreshadowing.

The result was that I wasn't as gripped by Shade as I might have been - the two moments of genuine excitement being the realization of what was actually going on (turning out to be something I'd seen before), and the epilogue of sorts, which is written rather well.

Still, this is, if not a great work, at least a very good one; the implementation of the setting, the comfortable command system, and the prose are by themselves enough to make this game worth your time.

- Relle Veyér, March 1, 2012

- deathbytroggles, January 29, 2012

- Hagbard Celine, January 26, 2012

- E.K., January 18, 2012

- amciek (Opole), December 18, 2011

- MonochromeMolly, October 26, 2011

- trojo (Huntsville, Alabama, USA), October 10, 2011

- o0pyromancer0o, September 30, 2011

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
No second chances, September 22, 2011
by Deboriole (San Diego, CA)
I enjoyed this game to a point. That point came when I became completely stuck and had to look at a walkthrough. Turns out I missed one opportunity and therefore could never solve the game. There was no indication that I was hopelessly stuck, so I rambled about for an hour until finally throwing in the towel. That did not make me very happy! There could be a simple solution to this...

(Spoiler - click to show)I really wish the helicopter would have come around again... I failed to look out the window in the two turns I had, and was not able to finish the game as a result.

- dacharya64, September 3, 2011

- r6144, August 6, 2011

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
The "Jacob's Ladder" of Interactive Fiction, August 3, 2011
by John Daily (New York)
There is a reason why, eleven years after its release, people are still playing (and discussing) Shade: It's a benchmark game. Beautiful in its elegance and completely immersive, its seemingly simplistic gameplay belies a sophisticated core.

The player begins in his (or her) apartment, several hours before embarking on a Burning Man-styled trip to the desert. The game starts off walking the player through mundane tasks, which serves two purposes: First, it eases the player into the game's vernacular; second, it puts him on comfortable footing, which is an important detail, as it makes the slow descent into its surreal Hell even more stark by contrast.

Designer/Writer Andrew Plotkin ensured that Shade can be enjoyed by players of all levels. A creatively implemented help system, woven into the story, walks the main character through tasks that need completion without being intrusive. For those who don't need such hand-holding, opting out is as simple a matter as not looking. For all its newbie-friendliness however, Shade features writing that works on several levels; statements that might initially elicit a chuckle become downright sinister as the game progresses.

I hesitate to call Shade a game, because the writing and pacing is so dead on (if you'll pardon the expression); although you will be ahead of things during the game's middle section, it's a necessary evil dictated by the plot, and it's safe to say this will not be the case as you progress toward the finale. Be forewarned however: if surrealism and ambiguity aren't your thing, then you may want to bypass this one. Shade is the Jacob's Ladder of the medium: not very scary while you're experiencing it, but it gets under your skin and stays there long after the word "END" appears on-screen.

- Digibomber, July 29, 2011

- LaFey (Porto, Portugal), July 15, 2011

- calindreams (Birmingham, England), July 14, 2011

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Surrealist IF at its best, July 6, 2011
by katz (Altadena, California)
Surrealist interactive fiction is largely an untapped resource, and this well-written and well-crafted little game shows what the genre is capable of. It's atmospheric, creepy, and suffused with a sense of inexorability that builds as the player finds him- or herself moving things along towards a foreboding conclusion.

The ambiguous ending frustrates a lot of players, but I appreciated it. It seems clear enough to me--the game isn't excessively complex--Plotkin just never states it overtly. Surely there's room in the canon for a few intentionally unresolved endings, and if they belong anywhere, it's in a surrealist game.


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