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14th Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
-- Duncan Stevens
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
When you're reading a book, you may read third-, first-, or even second-person accounts of a particular entity's exploits, and with sufficiently effective writing and characterization, you may even identify with that entity quite strongly despite its non-human traits, but no matter what you are still watching that entity from a distance. IF, however, literalizes the process of identification one step further. Not only does the prose put you in someone else's head, you actually have to guide the choices of that someone. I'd submit that when a reader is compelled to guide a character's actions, especially if there are puzzles involved, that reader will try to think like that character would think. When this happens, the identification process has reached a place where static fiction can rarely take it.
It is exactly this place that The Djinni Chronicles limns with skill and imagination.
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The game is quite linear, true, but to some extent that's inevitable if the author wants to tell a particular story about the spirit world and human nature: if the player has the power to put a different spin on the relationship between the PC and its masters, the result is no longer what the author set out to tell.
-- Duncan Stevens
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The past-tense takes some getting used to and picking up on the rules takes a while. The limitations of the character are a little frustrating, hence it took me some time to work out what to do.
-- Dorothy Millard
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
The puzzles are logical and well-clued. After completing certain puzzles I felt a pang of satisfaction that encouraged me to continue with the game. The puzzles serve to immerse the player deeper in the djinni’s world. Most, if not all puzzles, use certain concepts that are unique to this game. For example: common actions like “take an apple” are replaced with channeling the apple’s essence into your own. That essence is known as Purpose throughout the game. Purpose is an interesting concept that you will have to grasp in order to fully immerse yourself in the djinni’s world. Fortunately, the concept is well introduced and indirectly explained (as are other new concepts in the game).
The game is very well written, with the descriptions being neither too long nor too short. The characters of the three djinni are painted well with just a few sentences.
The author did a superb job with this game. It’s unique, well written, player-friendly, and contains puzzles that are just the right level of difficulty. I will definitely be replaying this game in the future.
This premise carries with it all the risk of being used simply to string a couple of not too logical puzzles together without having to worry about narrative continuity, but let there be rejoicing, for J. D. Berry has given us a far more interesting design. First, there is narrative continuity: the different fragments are sometimes strongly connected (when you play with the same character), and sometimes a bit more loosely, but they're all evidently part of the same narrative. Second, being a djinn comes with an interesting set of limitations and powers, the most important of which is the fact that you are confined to a rather small action radius, the size of which is based on the strength of your bond with the human you serve. And third, far from being will-less slaves to their summoners, the djinni actually have agendas of their own, which they must attempt to realise within the limitations set by their respective masters.
All this adds up to an odd and fascinating little game that is definitely worth playing.
One can always complain: once you have solved the puzzle of finding out what on earth is going on, the other puzzles aren't very good; the one long passage of poetry contained in the game is quite bad; and in the end, the larger narrative fell short of my expectations, or indeed any real memorability. That's a shame, because with a better narrative, this game could have been a small jewel. As it is, it's still a very fine imitation.
The puzzles in this game are clever, but it is really unpolished. There is a mysterious counter in the status line that takes some time to figure out, you are given only a few hints on what commands to do or what is possible, and even movement and inventory behave differently).
Reading the beginning of the walkthrough is immensely helpful.
God for fans of setting and story who don't mind some fussy commands.
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This list is focused on shorter games that really made me think. Each one is unique, with interesting settings and mechanics. They may not be the hardest games out there, but beating these made me feel very satisfied with myself.
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