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About the Story"You walk purposefully down the sidewalk, looking neither left nor right. You don't need to look; you can tell you are being watched from whispers overheard as you pass by.
"Poor Amelia..." you hear somebody say. Poor Amelia, indeed. You hurry on, not caring to hear any more.
Reaching the Lucky Strike, you force yourself to climb the steps and push open the doors, stopping just inside to let your eyes adjust to dim light." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]
Nominee, Best Story - 2000 XYZZY Awards
-- Duncan Stevens
"Masquerade" is an excellent work of story-based IF in a little-used genre (romance, specifically, Civil-War era romance). It is perhaps the most immersive game I've played yet this year. When I started playing, my mind was still spinning with outside thoughts and residual stress. Soon, I became utterly engrossed in the well-sketched gameworld and all else faded to black.
-- Suzanne Britton
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It's interesting. I'm not a big romance story fan, but I am a fan of historical romance... perhaps because I'm a big fan of historical -anything-. And this story is set in a period that I find fascinating. So right from the start, I was interested.
But it wouldn't have held if the game wasn't so extremely well constructed....
-- Tina Sikorski
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
[This review is based on the competition release.]
Between the bugs and my inability to get anywhere with the puzzles (or even find them), I didn't enjoy Masquerade nearly as much as I wanted to. If you haven't played it yet, wait for the next release -- the author has always shown a strong commitment to fixing problems, so I've no doubt there will be one. Once the bugs have been fixed and better hints are available, Masquerade will have a great deal to offer fans of genre romance. In this incarnation, though, I'm afraid it was a bit of a disappointment.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
A lot is made of whether IF games should have puzzles or simply be about following bread crumbs through a linear story, so I think it's important to remember the games that break free of this dichotomy. There are few, if any intentional puzzles in Masquerade - but it still challenges players by confronting them with typical, but well-constructed romance-genre decisions - do you marry for money? If so, how quickly do you try to pursue true love unfaithfully? And is your 'true love' really all he's cracked up to be anyway?
On repeat plays, Masquerade turns out to actually be a very linear game. The choices you make have only a small effect on the path you take. And yet, the game wouldn't be the same without them. Somehow, I found an unhappy proposition of marriage to be as much of a challenge as a locked door - with the added bonus that when I'd dwelled on it long enough, I could immediately move forward through the story.
Of course, I did say that there were no intentional puzzles. Masquerade falls at the very last hurdle. In what is probably, for many players, the scene before the 'expected' ending, the game requires you to type something relatively obscure to perform what is surely the most obvious thing for the player to do in this situation - a problem exacerbated by the way the scene makes the opposite choice for you if you take too long. For the record, the phrase to type is: (Spoiler - click to show)TAKE TICKETS. There are a few instances like this, where the game seems to push you a little roughly to do things that could be better clued, but otherwise I think that Masquerade demonstrates how players can still feel challenged by an IF game with no puzzles.
Progressing to the next stage of the plot sometimes requires an unobvious action, and I was constantly jerked out of the story with a guess-the-verb problem or being unsure what to do next. (Spoiler - click to show)It is possible to stay in the coach (both of them) forever if you don't stumble upon the right action. Another glaring problem: when Ethan first asks you to dance, you must type >HIGHWAYMAN, YES. Typing >DANCE WITH HIGHWAYMAN won't work. However, when you dance with him later, as well as with Jonathan, you must type >DANCE WITH ETHAN/JONATHAN. (And you can't call Ethan by his name when he is wearing his highwayman costume.) Once I got to the end, I had a great deal of trouble finding a satisfactory ending, let alone the best one (As of June '08, I still haven't found it). Often, at the end, you can make a move which will bring you to an ending without you realizing it will do so.
Despite its weaknesses, I did enjoy Masquerade. I'll admit that I did not like the conversation system as much as I would have had I not played Pytho's Mask the day before; and give this game a deserved four.
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