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About the StoryThe Magellan returned to Earth two weeks ago. I however can never go home.
There are two versions of the story: Inform 7 version (2011) that uses a single-keyword parser, and Undum/Vorple version (2012) that uses clickable hyperlinks and adds an interactive map and background music.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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That said, when considered with respect to some of the more railroaded story-oriented IF out there, it actually demonstrates some comparative benefits. No chance for hunt-the-verb, hunt-the-noun, synonym sickness, or many of the other opportunities for failure that "standard" IF offers. Non-interactive NPCs seem less of an affront when the illusion of free conversation isn't even presented. So maybe there's a natural fit between this format and an all-story, no-puzzles work.
As far as plot goes, this piece is short but very interesting. In the minutes it takes to play it, the author managed to interject some surprising ideas about the mindset of the protagonist -- things that I did not expect or consider but which are immediately obvious when pointed out, things which demonstrate that the author has put some time and effort into crafting the fictional world created. (Spoiler - click to show)I especially like the way some of the ideas are revealed through characterization; the response to "mirror" in the exercise room packs a lot into a few words. The short plot and ambiguous ending practically beg for a more thorough exploration of this fictional world.
This was the first work of the author's that I've ever tried, and it left me favorably inclined to try others. Worth the time if you are seeking a quick diversion.
Starborn now returns in a high budget Undum+Vorple form that fills your web browser screen with an atmospheric and clickable map graphic and your ears with a couple of spacey pieces of ambient electronic music. The keywords of the original version have become clickable hyperlinks.
The game content remains unaltered, and is a brief evocation of the life of a human born in space in the future who is contemplating what it might be like to return to the old homeworld, gravity and air and all. The writing does a good job of placing you "outside of the Earth" in a short space of time, but short is the defining word for the experience. There's just not that much to do or see or read, and it's all over in a few minutes, making it a tiny mood piece.
Having played both versions of the game, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I found that the new one certainly demonstrates that graphics change the effect of a piece, and so does sound. The aesthetic of the screen colours and sounds was actually quite unlike whatever I had made up in my head the first time I played the game, which was mildly jarring. The more high-tech delivery generated a sense of what might be described as high production values, which the simple text only original did not connote at all. By the same token, the game hasn't gotten any bigger, so the relatively lavish new delivery feels a bit overkilly after the fact.
However, that the game might come across a little weirdly to a person who played the old version first is not really the point. This new version is more effective to me as a demonstration of how a game like Starborn can be implemented by Undum & Vorple, and also shows that this implementation is very appropriate. Given that the game is mostly a CYOA, was originally driven by keywords, has movement around a map and also low interactivity (one gettable item) I found I did prefer playing it in its new format than the old. When the parser is unnecessary and you can click keywords rather than type them, why not do so? I found this design and the attractiveness of the interface appealing, though there was one thing I missed: the ability to undo. Not because of any difficulty in the gameplay, but because more than once I found myself interested in wanting to isolate what performing certain actions would do to different parts of the interface, and there was no way to undo then redo to test such actions.
I think Starborn itself is a little small for the new format, but its basic nature is well suited to the format, and playing it this way got me thinking about the possibilities.
It's a very brief story, but the author manages to suggest a fair bit of setting in relatively little text. Characterization was somewhat limited: the player character's definition revolves entirely around one key factor in their life. I would have liked more--more story, more background, more characterization. That it feels in need of fleshing out is perhaps a flaw; that I am intrigued enough to want more is perhaps a strength.
In any case, it's certainly worth a few minutes of your time.
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