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About the StoryAfter crashing your car to avoid hitting a mysterious young girl you awake to find yourself drawn to an abandoned mansion.
12th Place - 12th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2006)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
There are some technical problems that can kill you, so be warned. The first of these is a lack of synonyms for a common verb problem -- annoying. (Spoiler - click to show)The next one requires you to close the penknife. This is not optional. If you drop the penknife, even in another room, you will still die if you try to go down the steep decline! The lack of synonyms for common verbs leads straight into guess-the-verb-land for some of the puzzles (none of which are crucial to the plot, fortunately). The Sisters loses points for technical problems that really should have been fixed.
The prose is decent; it's not campy, it's not bad, it's just unfocused. Take this as an example: "You slowly wake, somewhat reluctantly." Occasionally there are little bits of prose satisfaction, such as "...you have a nagging feeling that waking will only complicate things." Jokes are rarer still. The scenes that build the sense of unease are decent; the atmospherics are unoriginal.
The plot is a little bit better than the usual, but it doesn't have the originality (except the end) to make it truly memorable. It does allow you to explore quite a bit and yet provides enough plot to keep you playing. That's worth praising. I have played better-implemented games that couldn't keep my interest alive.
The scoring system feels pinball-esque, in that you're racking up a point here, three points here, and so on. I'm not an enemy of points, but in this game, they seriously disrupted the sense of immersion.
The ending ambushes you and before you have typed more than a few times, the game is over. I'm not sure that winning is possible, and neither am I sure what role score plays here. Would I have achieved a more positive result had I score seventy instead of fifty?
As other reviewers have noted, this is not a Lovecraftian opus; my hat's off to the author for at least trying to be original, even if he did not completely succeed. Altogether, The Sisters is a somewhat interesting game that rewards you with a chilling finale`.
The game's story is considered, but the dynamic of how much you learn and when (Spoiler - click to show)(50% of the information is revealed as you explore 90% of the game, then everything else leaps out in the last five minutes) makes the outcome a little unsatisfying. The journey is what is important, because the mansion is big and absolutely crammed with examinable decor and objects, all of them contributing to the atmosphere, many of them filling in pieces of story. This is a great example of story being gleaned from the environment.
There is a catch: The repetitive nature of the locations makes it hard to stay vigilant in your searchings. You're in a multi-storey mansion of similarly laid out floors. There are many bedrooms, many tables, many desks, many wardrobes. Descriptions of even sparse locations can be 70 words long on average, and the average non-corridor room will have at least five things you can examine. This adds up to a tremendous amount of detail, but only a handful of objects you will find during your rummagings are needed to complete the game.
If you reach the end and discover that your score seems relatively poor – and you care about this kind of thing – you will need to do a reconnaissance replay in which you doublecheck every furnishing in the house, because particular objects lead into particular point-generating puzzles. But after your fourth bed, fifth table or sixth desk, you will realise how you managed to miss so many things in the first place.
The Sisters is at its best as a spooky and suspenseful exploration game. The mansion is a terrific setting, an integral part of the unfolding mystery and elaborate with atmospheric detail. But the score system and denouement are inevitably a bit disappointing. Too many of the points are attached to optional puzzles which are easy to miss, and the outcome is like a jack in the box opening in your face after the slow piecing together of the past that made up the bulk of the game. The parser has its bumpy moments and the fourth wall is broken unnecessarily a few times with jokes. The mansion is the star, though, and it is definitely worth visiting.
A great ifcomp game., August 16, 2016
The game starts with a car accident and you’re not long playing when you realise you’re trapped in a haunted house and it appears one of the ghosts is responsible for your accident. Investigation of the house and solving the puzzles within feed you, piece by piece, the story of what happened to the current ghostly occupants and, in the end, why you have attracted their attention.
The ending is of a type seen in just about every creative writing class ever given since the dawn of time – with every author believing themselves the first to do it. Not since (Spoiler - click to show)Agatha Christie wrote a first-person murder mystery where the narrator was also the villain has this sort of twist been original by any stretch of the word. It does work however, the ending is both satisfying and logically complete and even the fact that there is only one possible ending doesn’t detract from the game or the story in my opinion. This sort of ending is often used as a gimmick and is often rightly shunned because of that, however I think in this case it is both valid and entertaining.
I did find one bug that caused me to finish my first run through of the game early, without ever progressing outside to the lake. This was disappointing, since without the lake scene and (Spoiler - click to show)retrieving the music box for the two children, the main theme (Spoiler - click to show)(as written in the girl’s journal) of the game isn’t as powerful. (Spoiler - click to show)“What you do in death can’t make up for what you did in life.” Is both a clue to the nature of our character, his predicament, and the hopeless nature of the story – (Spoiler - click to show)there is no way to make up for what the character did before we came along, thus, no way to avert the end that is coming. Lack of choice, or agency, can be just as compelling as full choice, when used for a proper narrative purpose as it is here.
The bug in question was that typing “S” or “South” in the kitchen, enabled me to walk straight through the locked metal doors without opening them. Normally you would have to (Spoiler - click to show)get the music box from the lake, and bring it back into the house for the ghost children. The story is far more powerful for the addition of this small part.
On the whole, a remarkable story-based game, with a few simple, logically local puzzles. Definitely the standard I will be holding the other games I review up against this year.
Review was originally published on Silicon Dreams during the 2006 Interactive Fiction Contest.
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