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The Act of Misdirection

by Callico Harrison

Fantasy/Historical/Horror
2004

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(5)
4 star:
(29)
3 star:
(19)
2 star:
(2)
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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Play Act I!, July 17, 2018
by f-a
The first Act is marvelous and exquisitely crafted: perfect specimen of a "restricted choice" IF where the player still feels in control. Excellent experience and (for me) a pinnacle in its genre.

The remaining adventure (Act II and III) are less interesting/funny, but worth playing with a walkthrough.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Work of Art, July 16, 2018
by Whystler
Related reviews: harrison misdirection
This game is a work of art, and as such, it takes a mind which can wander and forgive the mechanical quirks. It deserves a 5 as a work of fiction, but because of certain stumbles in mechanical planning that made some transitions awkward, I had to knock it down to 4 for IF. If you have an open mind to these things and persevere for a great story, then please, entertain yourself, and spend time savouring this delicacy.

Unique and 'magical' opening, well-implemented but standard middle and finale, February 3, 2016
This game is set in old London. The first act is amazing; you play a magician in the middle of an act. The level of detail in the opening is astonishing, and is a must-play for every IF fan.

Sadly, the game goes downhill from there. It is still a very good game, but nothing can compare to the opening. You spend the rest of the game trying to understand more of your background and visiting various mundane or mysterious locales.

The game takes less than an hour to play. Some of the puzzles are very hard, and getting the 'best' solution requires that you bring some objects with you from one area to another, with no chance to backtrack if you missed them.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Trigger story, May 19, 2015
by jessewhite (Northern canada)
This game is the first 'modern' text adventure I have ever played. I have been a fan of text adventures since '82, and I have played through many of them, well into the 90s when I stopped. Having recently watched the "Get Lamp" documentary, i thought of trying the genre again on iPad.
I tried Art of Misdirection because it was the first interesting title I found on the alphabetical list, unfortunately i didn't like it.
The reasons that I will share need a caveat preceding them. When i played through Art of Misdirection, I didn't know of this review web page and a few of my criticisms are listed elsewhere on this forum. Had I known the scope of Art of Misdirection, I likely would have picked a different game. Since I made the error, I am adding my review to help inform would-be players of Art of Misdirection.

First, I noticed the moniker 'interactive fiction' is how these types of games are called now. I call them as they were originally dubbed 'text adventure'. This is a major point. This game is not an adventure, and I am hard pressed to even call it a game. It is what is called a 'trigger story' in Dungeons and Dragons. This means that there are no puzzles, no quest, no purpose other than finding the 'trigger' to activate the next part of the narrative. This is postmodern text gaming, where the player (should I say experiencer??) is meant to be fulfilled by experiencing the story, characters and the world it is set in. If I recall correctly, the Infocom game " A Mind Forever Voyaging" was leaning toward this ideology. I think it is boring.
Second, it is overwritten with cluttery verbiage, and confusing , non-sequitorial insertions. The game Trinity used insertions, but these were clues, drawn from literature and history. The insertions in Art of Misdirection are self referencing, and intended as moody, but ultimately hobble the story.
Third, being a trigger story, Art of Misdirection puts the player (experiencer) in a passive position, as most of the scenes depend on dialogue. The dialogue is the story here, thus the dialogue needs to be rolled out. This choice as a game element is a bad one, as the trigger can be passed thru by repeatedly typing "look". The game responds by giving you the next bit of dialogue automatically along with the room description.
Last, i hated that there was a preset gender to the game. I played thru the opening, picturing myself as a man, kinda like Hugh Jackman in the Prestige... And then as the 2nd part unravels I am being referred to as "girl". It actually took me a while to realize that I hadn't jumped into the body of another character ( I was hoping this was the body which matched the girl's head in the opening, but no). Regardless, it was a jarring switch, which is lousy writing. Good games make your gender/appearance irrelevant, so that you as a player can imagine yourself in any way.
In the end, this game ( it is not really a game) does not create the illusion that you as a player are in control. Your gender is preset, the story is train-tracked and there is very little incentive for you to keep going beyond interest in the story's ending. I'll take the old 'find treasure game' every time.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Real Gem, October 13, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a strong game with excellent narration and very clever plotting.

Don't be put off trying it by the critical reviews. Bad IF rarely receives actual reviews, and I suspect most authors criticize parts of this piece because it is very, very good.

I am unaware of anything else Harrison has written, which is a shame. I do hope that this author creates more interactive fiction at some point.

The good:
> An original story with an interesting twist.
> Many well-written characters and dialogue.
> An alternate ending which you are incredibly unlikely to get on a first play-through.
> Freedom and choice in the first half, although, with many constraints.

The less-good:
> Linear story (This isn't a contradiction--the story is linear, even railroading you into actions and choices, but you have a surprising degree of freedom in how you make those actions, which allows for a very fun early game on your second play)
> An alternate ending which you receive no clues or suggestions to achieve. I suspect most if not all players would not realize that an alternate was possible if not for the author informing them.
> Several minor typos.
> The occasional "purple prose" example.
> Some strange action/verb choices.
> No follow-up work from Harrison, which is a shame.

All in all, I enjoyed this game immensely. Very fun and very well-written.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
A Diamond in the Rough, March 21, 2012
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: callico harrison, fantasy
Play this game if: you like your IF short and simple, or you want to play through one of the more memorable set-pieces in the genre.

Don't play this game if: you're easily put off by linear and nearly puzzle-free gameplay.

The Act of Misdirection opens with a wonderful scene in which the player must perform a magic act without knowing the choreography beforehand. Fortunately, the protagonist does know, which puts the player in the interesting position of being one step ahead of the audience (as the narrative voice provides clues to the tricks) and one step behind the protagonist. The writing is very strong here, and the game effectively builds the player's sense of entertainment and anticipation as the player does the same thing to the in-game audience. It's thrilling stuff, the kind of set-piece which would make for an excellent Inform tutorial.

The rest of the game pales a little in comparison. This is not to denigrate Harrison's achievements: from a purely technical standpoint there's still a fair amount to appreciate, such as some solid NPC interactions and a setting that has the population density of character and detail just right. But the writing and atmosphere just don't harmonize with these aspects of the game the way they do in the first act (no wordplay intended?).

Beyond the opening scene, the writing is probably the chief attraction. Harrison isn't afraid to use some flowery prose, but more importantly establishes a good couple of narrative voices. (Spoiler - click to show)The contrast between the narrator's voice for the magic act and the rest of the game is a good touch, with the dramatic and confident narration in the beginning emphasizing Meldellevo's power and skill, and the following imagined diatribes from Sally highlighting how insecure a character Sarah really is. This adds somewhat to the Faustian conflict at play. The settings are easy to picture as a result of the good descriptive text, rendering progress that much more comfortable, and some tense moments have genuine punch. (Spoiler - click to show)Consider the excellent use of the single-sentence paragraph at the climax of the magic routine, as well as the "normal" ending's final sentence. There are, however, some rough patches - syntax and word usage errors not due to technical issues. They aren't really numerous enough to destroy your enjoyment of the game or anything, but together with a sense that a premise this creative could have supported a bigger story, they add to the feeling of the whole package as a little unpolished.

This is also one of the more linear stories I've encountered in IF - as the author notes, it's impossible to put the game into an unwinnable state. However, the alternate ending - and yes, there is one - relies on a sufficiently unfair puzzle that getting it is more of an exercise for a second playthrough than a genuine opportunity for the first-time player. It also means that the nearly puzzle-less environment consists largely of "guess the verb" mini-games, though these aren't particularly unfair.

Overall, this is a story with strong promise - and even as a diamond in the rough (emphasizing the "diamond"), it's worth your time. Were Ms Harrison to expand this into a larger narrative - which I would argue, is a worthwhile pursuit - I'd suggest maintaining (where possible) the information asymmetry between player and protagonist, as well as getting one (or maybe one more) friendly eye to proofread and test-play.

Good job!

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Revising my opinion, May 7, 2008
The first scene of this game is a favorite of mine: the player is called on to do a magic trick in front of an audience, though (of course) as player he does not know how the trick is done. But there's more to the scene than simply getting the trick right and solving the puzzle: on a replay, it's possible to turn the scene into a real performance, by hamming things up, tantalizing the audience, and making the most out of each stage. This allows for expressive play -- getting into the character of the PC and making the most of it -- to a degree I have seen in few other games.

When I first played, I found the pacing broke down a bit in the later scenes, and the writing became more overwrought. Replaying later, I found the later pieces of the game much more successful. I'm not sure whether this is because I was playing a later version of the game (these notes are based on version 6) or whether I was just luckier with my subsequent play-through. But on review, this piece impressed me quite a bit more than it did the first time around.

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Evocative but Linear, October 23, 2007
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)
Related reviews: non-interactive, victorian, horror
One of the effects interactive fiction generates a strong feeling of "being there", due to the description of your environs and your interaction with them. The Act of Misdirection features stunningly evocative prose; you never doubt that you are in turn-of-the-century London, seen through the veil of Victorian horror. The game also features a flashback, which is a rarity in IF. However, there are no choices in this game. It is more like you fumble around where interaction is required until you discover "the" answer, which allows the plot to continue. The ending is satisfying in a cathartic way, but still feels hollow. It's like someone is reading you an engrossing story where you have to guess what comes next at certain junctures. Fiction it is; interactive, it is not.


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