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About the StoryNecrotic Drift is a survival horror text adventure... but with graphics and sound! An homage to the old Magnetic Scrolls game in presentation, Necrotic Drift follows the story of gaming store employee Jarret Duffy when all hell breaks loose in his mall.
Getting past the waves of undead in his path will require ingenuity, imagination, empty demands for the return of pre-casting, the ability to use common mall objects as weapons and twenty-six alphabetic keycaps working together with a functional 'enter' key.
It's text, baby! (... with pictures, natch.)
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Winner, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2004 XYZZY Awards
"Necrotic Drift" is easily the best of Robb Sherwin's games to date with the most solid design and implementation, and the best blend of story and interaction. The writing is excellent, and the characters are some of the best-written in interactive fiction. If you were planning to try some Sherwin and just never got around to it, this would be an excellent place to start.
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Necrotic Drift contains all the elements you'd expect of Robb --
bittersweet schmaltz, randomised combat, human, sympathetic characters,
tangential epigrammatic title, brilliant squick-out humour, big
textdumps and a streak of geek a mile wide. There are plenty of
references to previous Sherwin games, particularly Fallacy of Dawn and
Chicks Dig Jerks. It's his biggest and most skilful game to date.
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Jarret Duffy has life skills problems. He's earning $5.51 an hour as the assistant manager of Benji's Gaming and Role-Playing Emporium, is fumbling his way through an on again/off again relationship with Audrey Case, and keeps renting The Fellowship of the Ring to point out trivia to his roommates. Years ago he was voted Best Role-Player at an RPG convention, but he's missed a few saving throws since then.
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After some character-building, Necrotic Drift kicks in for real when Duffy, Audrey, and a few others are trapped inside the mall one evening by an array of undead pulled straight from the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Duffy, who knows the D&D rules by heart, at last can apply all this previously useless knowledge to saving his friends, and perhaps begin to repair his pathetic existence in the process.
Necrotic Drift is a Robb Sherwin game. That means plenty of gross-out frat-boy humor, a bewildering blizzard of gaming, sports, and pop culture references, and a general wallowing in American suburban mall culture. Luckily, that also means plenty of genuine wit, some surprising character insights, and some real soul underneath all the gags. Certainly some of the jokes are going to resonate more with some than with others. If you grew up nerd in the 1980's, you'll likely find a lot of this -- such as the just-mentioned fact that all of undead in the mall are just D&D Monster Manual entries brought to life, strengths and weaknesses intact -- funnier than others might. Of course, and for better or for worse, a pretty good chunk of us playing IF today are indeed aging 1980s nerds.
Couched within all of the gags and puzzles is the real heart of the game, which is Duffy's relationship with Audrey and his need to grow the hell up. I wouldn't say it's amazing storytelling -- some of Mr. Sherwin's attempts at earnestness, particularly in dialog, are downright clunky, and there's a curiously unresolved feeling to the whole thing in the end -- but the game manages to be touching in spite of it all.
Did I mention this was a Robb Sherwin game? Well, that always means a nice collection of bugs and other technical flaws. Certainly they're not as bad here as in some of his other efforts, but they're noticeable enough nonetheless. The menu-based conversation system broke on me toward the end of the game, offering totally inappropriate remarks applying to stuff I'd done ages ago. There's also piles of unimplemented scenery, and not enough attention has been paid to the parser, leading to occasional frustrations. Many perfectly reasonable actions were left completely unprovided-for. (Spoiler - click to show)When I was looking for a virgin to drink the holy water for the ritual at the end of the game, I wanted to call on Trett, my fellow employee at the game store. I would have bet money that guy had never had sex. But then in the epilogue we learn that the plump little fellow not only had sex but filmed it (ewww...), so what do I know?
Still, and like much of Mr. Sherwin's work, Necrotic Drift is somehow endearingly more than the sum of its parts. Oh, and the graphics and music are pretty cool too, as is the Magnetic Scrolls homage of the game's on-screen presentation and accompanying manual. (There's that 1980s nerd culture again...)
Featured on Radio K #8, December 21, 2016
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