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Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 1998 XYZZY Awards
1st Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)
The author intended this game to be played with colored text. Although I normally dislike such things, I agree that it works in this case. A monochrome version is also provided for those who feel differently.
(NB: The first release of this game credits Opal O'Donnell as the author. This was a deliberate deception on the part of the real author, carried out with the permission of the real Opal O'Donnell.)
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
The colors, like everything else in Photopia, worked beautifully, adding artfully to the overall impact of the story. The work is interactive in other important ways as well. In fact, in many aspects Photopia is a metanarrative about the medium of interactive fiction itself. Again, it wasn't until the end of the story that I understood why it had to be told as interactive fiction. And again, to explain the reason would be too much of a spoiler. I have so much more I want to talk about with Photopia, but I can't talk about it until you've played it. Go and play it, and then we'll talk. I promise, you'll understand why everyone has been so impatient. You'll understand why I loved it, and why I think it's one of the best pieces of interactive fiction ever to be submitted to the competition.
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Photopia: Not a Mediocre Short Story
Does Photopia deserve to be so hallowed as it is? Quantitatively, that question may be hard to tackle. In my mind, though, the game does, without a doubt, deserve to be hallowed to some degree. It is historically important both as a work of interactive fiction and as a game, for its numerous technical innovations, and for its minimalist interactive component that makes it such a great example of a “limiting case game.” Whether Photopia succeeds on the affective level is open for debate, but my opinion and your opinion notwithstanding, the fact that it clearly does succeed with so many people is a strong testament to Adam Cadre’s ability to innovate and impact all in the same breath.
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[...] the overall layout of the story appears to be a complex weave, where you travel along the thread as it makes its way in one direction, turns around and comes back, crossing the previous parts of the weave and then continues. [...] In summary, this game is like an interactive story nestled inside another. A russian doll. A woven russian doll at that.
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Photopia isn't strictly an adventure game, but more of an interactive story, or series of intertwining stories. For the most part I normally do not like this type of game and prefer lots of puzzles to solve. Photopia, however, grabbed my interest from the start.
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Number of Reviews: 18
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
How well does it work, beyond that? Opinions vary. Some people consider it the most moving piece of IF they've ever tried. I personally found it wavered between effective and manipulative, with the main character too saintly to be true. While it was worth playing, it is by no means my favorite piece of character-oriented IF story-telling.
Well, it still plays reasonably well, although it's by no means without problems. Most of the complaints one can level at the game have been discussed ad nauseum by this point: it is minimally interactive (often little more than a short story with occasional > prompts), absolutely linear, and offers its player no plot agency whatsoever. Just the idea of a puzzleless work was quite bold in 1998; in 2008, it's old hat, and thus Photopia must completely live or die on the strength of its story.
That story is a pretty good one, but doesn't move me to the extent it does some others. From a purely literary perspective, it's a bit heavy-handed and emotionally manipulative. Alley, the teenage girl at its emotional core, is more of a sentimentalized geek wish-fufillment fantasy ("She's beautiful and charming and she likes science!") than a believable character. Still, and even if Cadre's literary reach exceeds his grasp a bit, the story is head and shoulders above the sort of fantasy or sci-fi pastiche that still marks most IF even today. And there is one moment when the story and gameplay come together beautifully, a moment that still stands for me as one of the most magical in all IF: that perfect guess the verb puzzle in the crystal maze.
Serious spoilage (really, don't click if you haven't played yet)
(Spoiler - click to show) The really Wow! part for me? In the crystal labyrinth, when you discover you can fly - amazing. That was great.
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Recommended ListsPhotopia appears in the following Recommended Lists:
No whimsy here by lobespear
Too many games use lazy high fantasy and sci-fi settings. Escapism? What are you escaping from? Here are some games that instead use interactive fiction to comment on the real world. No whimsy here.
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.
PollsThe following polls include votes for Photopia:
Games where you can't screw up by Pinstripe
Sometimes, when I'm playing a game, I spend more time juggling my save files than I do reading the text. I don't want to have to restart because I picked up the green rod instead of the clay jug (with apologies to Zarf). So I'm looking...
Neil Armstrong Commemorative Space Poll by Joey Jones
I'm hankering to play a good space-themed game. That is to say, a game not necessarily set in space, but a game that is in some way about space or our relation to space. Any takers?
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