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Reviews by Jim Kaplan

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Zork: A Troll's-Eye View, by Dylan O'Donnell
A cute, underdeveloped idea, July 5, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: one-room, zork, short, parody, fantasy, dylan o'donnell, puzzleless, fanfiction
Play it if: a five-minute joke game playing off Zork cliches sounds like your cup of tea.

Don't play it if: you're hoping for a full-blooded critique of NPCs and minions in old-school IF.

This is a short game, short enough that it would probably take longer to read a review of it than to play it. A one-room, puzzle-less game, A Troll's-Eye View's basic function is to turn a little part of Zork on its head by showing it from the perspective of the embattled guardian troll encountered early in the game.

This is an excellent idea for a game in my opinion. Unfortunately, the execution is undercut by a rather limited implementation of the idea. The writing plays with the timeless Zorkian language, but not in a very complete way: a fair amount of the responses are stock Nelson-era statements which feel anachronistic.

It's one thing to pose a question about identity and agency in games. But you don't really need to make a game to accomplish that, and deciding to make use of IF as a medium for the critique of IF sort of demands more than this game has to offer. Only the barest mention is made of the troll's reasons for being there - not, in fact, much more than the game A Troll's-Eye View parodies. So while it does mirror Zork in certain respects, they aren't really the right ones to produce a critique that is particularly new or memorable.

A more complete attempt would have taken the perspective of a character with more agency, such as the main antagonists, as the gulf between their potential relationships with the protagonist and their actual non-existent relationships are much wider - and therefore a more fruitful source of study.


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