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Photopia

by Adam Cadre profile

Slice of life
1998

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Number of Reviews: 21
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Eh...I feel like I'm missing something., September 23, 2014
by akaisha0 (Omaha, Nebraska)
I feel like this game is entirely lost on me. I saw this on so many top lists and read so many fantastic reviews I had to give it a try and I admit my hopes were far higher than they should have been. This game was a colossal let down for me. I make it no secret that I prefer text adventures to "interactive fiction" but I felt this offered me neither. I appreciate that it tried (and succeeded) at doing something new with non-linear story telling with time and the wonderful use of color. But beyond that it was dull and uninteresting. This can't be called a game, a story, or even an experience. It just fails on all counts. Photopia is easily played in less than an hour and the hardest puzzle for me was trying to figure out how to exit the garage. This game is not interactive which would be fine if it told an interesting story, but it failed on that count too. In the beginning you're led through disjointed tales under the assumption they will likely culminate into a larger scheme. The problem is..they really don't. You can infer a reasonable bit by the end of how it all pieces together but it leaves entirely too much to the imagination and gave me absolutely no reason to care. I didn't care for any of the characters or situations, I kept playing out of the assumption this was going somewhere and it didn't. This story was beyond a let down. It has so many wonderful reviews and I can't tell if I'm just not pretentious enough to see it for what it is or if I just saw through it for what it was: a dull, lifeless, uninteresting, "story". It wasn't a game, it was hardly a story. I think you should play it to judge for yourself. I think it stands as an important piece of interactive fiction history and certainly influenced games that would come after it but..even as a catalyst for a brighter future of IF games, I can't praise it.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Masterful, January 18, 2014
by scottmbruner (alameda, california)
Putting aside technical criticisms, Photopia clearly succeeds in its artistic ambitions - to create an immersive, emotional resonant experience by using IF elements to build intimacy with a touching, devastating tale. Revelatory.

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short, simple, unique IF. Everyone should try it., July 31, 2013
by Cody Gaisser (Inglewood, East Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Known Universe, ???)
The narrative content of Photopia is what I'd call a "good little story." It's not the most mindblowingly deep thing I've ever read; but it has some heart, humanity, and empathy to it. To me this in itself is more than adequate compensation for the very brief amount of time it takes to play through to the end.

The real reason to play, however, is the way this "good little story" is told. Unfortunately this is difficult to explain without spoilers - even formal aspects of the storytelling and interface present twists that are best experienced firsthand. Learning-what-Photopia-is-about is what Photpia is about.

(Spoiler - click to show)
The presentation of Photopia differs in a number of ways from traditional text adventures. It tells a very short, simple story. However you play not as a single character navigating a geographical space as the story unfolds before you in a chronologically-linear fashion; rather you experience chronologically-ambiguous fragments of the story from the perspectives of several different characters, piecing the story together as you go. The central story is set in a reality much like our own, but a fantastical side plot is introduced via a storytelling device reminiscent of The Princess Bride, The Fall, and several of Terry Gilliam's films. Certain scenes alter the color scheme of the display in ways relevant to the game's thematic content, cleverly weaving a (non-graphical) visual element into the formal tapestry of this text-based story-game. Photopia's unconventional approach to the form of IF suggests future possibilities in the medium.


Players:
While I wouldn't necessarily recommend Photopia to someone who has no experience whatsoever with traditional IF, it is easily simple enough for a beginner's second or third game. It's also unique enough that more experienced players will certainly not want to miss it.

Authors:
Take note, dissect, improve, imagine, code.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, February 11, 2013
by Cricket24
Related reviews: easy, short, beginner
Photopia is a beautiful game and is relatively short, so I would recommend it to anyone who has a few minutes here and there, whether they're beginners or not. The imagery is wonderful and good use was made of the colored text. I was hooked from the very first scene. The game has a mystery aspect to it because the story will completely shift once in a while and the player is left wondering how the scenes relate to one another.

This game is more fiction than interaction, but that did nothing to hinder my enjoyment of it. The player input is often in the form of multiple choice, and I don't think there's ever really a wrong option. I assume the game would progress the same way no matter what choices the player makes, but I would play along with it for maximum enjoyment. I played as a sort-of beginner because the game came with the iPhone app Frotz and I'm glad it did, otherwise I may never have found it.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A Curiosity, But Perhaps Not A Masterpiece, March 24, 2012
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: adam cadre, fantasy
Play it if: you have a thing for IF that treats itself as a linear story rather than a game, for this is by its very conception one of the least interactive entries into the genre; and if you're big on "emotional" stories in your IF.

Don't play it if: if the line between drama and melodrama is just too fine for you, because Photopia is chock-full of whimsy, abrupt tone shifts, and strongly communicated emotion.

There's very little one can meaningfully say about Photopia that hasn't already been said. This has to be one of the least interactive works of IF in existence - the format is actually used more as a way to give cinematic effects to literature. Most of the time you're doing the equivalent of tapping the SPACE key and moving things along.

What takes the place of interactivity is the weight of narrative: the emphasis is firmly on the "fiction" aspect here, presenting a number of interrelated scenarios revolving around a single subject.

While the concept is interestingly done - and as has been said before, has some historically groundbreaking traits - Photopia leaves me a little cold because the writing, the aspect of this work that's supposed to take up the slack from the interactivity, feels decidedly average.

Don't get me wrong: Cadre's writing is fairly decent, and he can evoke images quite well in his description of things. (Spoiler - click to show)The way the car crash is described from the driver's point of view has details that give the experience a bit of visceral punch. The description of the crystalline maze was also evocative. The problem is that the subject of the narrative (Spoiler - click to show)(Alley) seems to have very little in the way of a genuine arc (Spoiler - click to show)besides just growing up, which reduces the subject's depth and makes the story as a whole feel less fulfilling. (Spoiler - click to show)Of course these things happen, and it's tremendously sad when they do, but it is the work of the storyteller to find solace in lending meaning to these kinds of tragedies. That Alley's death is the kind of awful twist that could happen to any of us is true enough, but as far as meaning goes it's rather mundane. There are also several passages where the writing is at risk of becoming overwrought (Spoiler - click to show)with the passage where Jon asks Alley out feeling overwritten, and the treatment of her curiosity and intelligence making her feel a bit like a Mary Sue character. In particular, the fact that the game wanted me to believe Alley's monologue on Freudian psychology to be a sign of genuine intellectual curiosity - when Freud's model was largely shelved a while before this game was written - really stuck out as an example of Alley being written simply as "smart". The view of the subject is also rather one-sided (Spoiler - click to show)Alley is given little in the way of flaws and as a result does come across as "too perfect".

I can understand why this story made certain readers cry, and I'm not calling them idiots for responding that way. It's just that for me personally, this story won't really stick with me on an emotional level due to the above issues. Ultimately, Photopia is better served by being upheld as an innovation on the IF concept than as a profoundly-written story - but it's still worth your time to play through it, as it offers insight into how IF tools can be used to lend cinematic effect to literature and to tinker with narrative structure.

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Well worth a try!, March 24, 2012
The story is catchy and puzzling, you really wants to understand how the different episodes fit together. And in the end the solution is quite clever, even if a bit sad. You might describe it a puzzle-less. But it does have some puzzles and even a maze or two. So puzzle-light might be more correct. Some of the later parts of the game is a bit too illogically and with bad fairytale-feeling. But still a short and easy game well worth a try.

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, December 5, 2011
In a word, this story is simply beautiful. Definitely a tear-jerker. Definitely heart-warming. I call this a story because while there is a puzzle element to it, it is not difficult. One action or just a few actions can quickly lead to the story's progression. This is a good beginner's game, but also one that will leave a lasting imprint on the mind.

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Artistically pleasant, September 5, 2011
by Deboriole (San Diego, CA)
Related reviews: photopia, Artistic
I have recently gotten back into IF and everywhere I looked were rave reviews for Photopia, so I had to play. The story is beautiful but I must admit I got stuck in several places, most notably the garage, and had to read the walkthrough. I also found an alternate ending that I have not read about anywhere. (Spoiler - click to show)Type 'wake up'. One of my favorite parts was opening the glovebox in the first sequence. Ha.

Overall I liked the storyline but found the interactive pieces a little unclear. I would recommend this game for the experience.

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Lovely, January 10, 2011
by katz (Pasadena, California)
The linear nature might turn off some players, but that also makes it a more truly story-like experience. Easily flowing narration (marred by the constant word definitions, which get tedious after a while) carry the whole thing along in a dreamlike manner.

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Brilliant, breathtaking, and deserving the praise. , December 20, 2010
by Aintelligence (Canada)
When I first noticed Photopia and it's popularity as an IF, I was very sceptical.  I was even more skeptical because the first part of gameplay was about two drunk guys swearing and drinking.  I thought, "Great! Another IF made in under an hour by two teens after a party.". I hardly gave it a chance at all, but continued reading to see where the fuss was about.

I can't tell you how much my heart changed during the story.  It starts out just a fragmentation of perspectives and story lines in no particular order, but as the story progresses, I became aware quite suddenly that the story had logic, thoughtfulness, and was so deep.  At certain points of the story (Spoiler - click to show) the part where the father is explaining about the stars to Alley, the place where you begin to fly, and the actual death of Alley I was really moved by the emotional writing and the ability of the writer to draw tears from me.  And yes, I admit, I did cry a few tears.

Really the one character which was focused on was Alley, but through different people (Spoiler - click to show)well of course there was also the spaceman, but that was invoked by Alley the personally changes really strengthened Alley's character, by showing her out of the eyes of many people around her.  Some argue her character is too robotic; being 'perfect' at everything and unrealistic, but I, on the other hand, do not feel this way at all.  Alley is not unrealistic at all.  The author keeps her very alive through the many perspectives.  I would argue that instead of being unrealistic, she is just not ordinary, in a world where ordinary sometimes means, well, like the two at the beginning of Photopia.  Alley's attitude and character make her not impossible, but a gem.  (Spoiler - click to show) The changing of perspectives was used very well to portray Alley, and to make us care about her death.  The story showed how unfair it was that such a person could be killed by pure carelessness, and was not only well-written, but had a strong moral



The story has few puzzles and the puzzles it does have are hardly worth being called puzzles at all.  However, in a broader perspective, the whole thing is one giant puzzle which you have to solve.  Slowly piecing the tiny bits and paragraphs, you have to interpret what is going on through a number of perspectives.  I believe that is what non-puzzle IF is all about; trying to determine the significance of the story you're reading through the characters, setting, and interaction. In my opinion,  Photopia was (and is) *the* driving force for modern non-puzzle gameplay as well as modern interest for Interactive Fiction.  I have not seen a non-puzzle IF come close to as good as Photopia, and I have certainly not played anything that is so emotional.

Photopia is (as stated in the title) Brilliant, breathtaking, and deserving the praise. 


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