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Nominee, Best NPCs - 2009 XYZZY Awards
Jay Is Games
The premise of Dead Like Ants seems straightforward enough: resolve the conflicts posed by the five dangerous creatures threatening the colony. This could easily become an epic quest, but Pacian chooses instead to go down a simpler, more poetic route. The game's main goal is not so much to present a steep intellectual challenge as it is to tell a story and offer a thought-provoking experience; on those counts, the game succeeds brilliantly. Pacian possesses real talents in the realms of language and characterization, and the game's insect cast in particular benefits from his (or is it her?) skills. (by Jess)
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Dead Like Ants was a joy to play. As short and simple as it is, it packs a great deal of emotion, effortless whimsy, and a strange kind of humor which is dark yet not depressing. In the afterword, the author credits Lewis Carroll as inspiration, a muse whose contribution is powerfully felt without coming across as derivative in the slightest. And the prose is so... the only word I can think of is smooth, by which I mean that it succeeds in being elegantly sparse without sacrificing evocativeness. The parser will rarely give you a response over a line or two long, and yet each description contains all the information you need and still pulls off sounding downright pretty. (by Nate Dovel)
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Includes reviews of Dead Like Ants by Greg Boettcher, Stephen Granade, Jon Ingold, Jacqueline A. Lott, Mike Roberts, Dan Shiovitz, Lucian Smith, Mike Sousa, Duncan Stevens and Jake Wildstrom.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Instead I got this really strange piece with insects anthropomorphized into beings more like people (a widow, a lawyer, a damsel, not a spider, slug, and damselfly); more importantly, I got a tale of twisted tenderness and ambiguous triumph.
The navigation was a little strange ("sunwards" and "widdershins" replace some traditional directions), but once I got that figured out, interacting with the other characters was...interesting. After a number of encounters, you start (Spoiler - click to show)wondering how THIS daughter is going to die. It puts the reader/player in an interesting position, to (Spoiler - click to show)root for your character's demise, so you can "win".
That (Spoiler - click to show)"repeated-death-to-gain-victory" mechanic would be all well and good, but it's the epilogue (Spoiler - click to show)from the Queen's point of view that elevates it from "a strange tale" to "a strangely beautiful tale."
The game is short and polished, and combines atmosphere and message into an enjoyable package. The gameplay, however, is definitely on the slight side: it consists mostly of exploration, but the exploration becomes predictable rather quickly. Nevertheless, it is recommended.
The game uses non-standard directions (such as "widdershins") and it provides other surprises that toy with your expectations of interactive fiction.
The numerous NPC's were surprisingly charming. The writer derived inspiration from Hans Christen Andersen, Lewis Carroll, and the musical "Into the woods". The game has an overall fairy-tale feel.
Once you pass the initial surprises, the games puzzles are not very difficult. This is a game to be finished in less than half an hour. I recommend it to everybody, because it has a great effect and doesn't take long to play.
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