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12th Place - 13th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2007)
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Use of Medium - 2007 XYZZY Awards
Rezension zum IF-Comp 2007 (German)
Man spielt, indem man in der (Neben-)Rolle des Protagonisten das Spiel spielt. Die Handlung darin scheint in einer kriselnden Zukunft stattzufinden, in der die Menschen nicht mehr die Vorherrschaft auf der Erde haben. Wesentlich mehr kann man leider nicht sagen, ohne zuviel zu verraten, denn der Weg ist hier das Ziel. ...
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Number of Reviews: 9
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DE deservedly received mixed reviews and ratings in the IF Competition. The environment is sketchy; many objects are unimplemented and don't respond to investigation; the plot is mysterious and takes some time to unfold; the writing is highly stylized and may annoy or put off some players; and there is very little by way of puzzle, except perhaps for the meta-puzzle of understanding what is going on and why this work is interesting in the first place.
On the other hand, DE also features many strange and memorable images and a genuinely novel setting; it plays new and interesting games with the relationship between the player and the work; it does ultimately have a good reason to be interactive fiction rather than a story on the printed page (however long it may take you to understand this point); and the oddities of writing eventually prove to be part of a strong characterization within the work. What's more, the final state of the work is surprisingly moving and even beautiful, I thought.
So: absolutely not everyone's cup of tea, but a piece well worth exploring, especially for people who are interested in the boundaries of interactive fiction.
A number of reviewers have mentioned the sketchiness of the implementation, and some have suggested this may have been a purposeful choice, or at least one explainable within the world by the narrator having been in an understandable hurry. Now, given the backstory of the game, I have absolutely no problem with most nouns and actions being unimplemented; the problem I had was that when I got a reply from Inform, rather than from my narrator, it was jarring. Something as simple as a comment in the narrator's voice, rather than letting it fall through to the default parser response, would have alleviated this - just something that kept me immersed in the world.
Also, I didn't find the implementation sketchy so much as inconsistent. In some places, examining things brought the reward of another section of the story; in others, it was just pointless and frustrating. I think if the responses stayed in the narrator's voice throughout, it would make players more likely to examine things, rather than just mechanically work through the in-game-provided walkthrough.
And clearly this author can write! One excellent example, after you see the narrator do something that a human would never, ever do: "It hurts, but it also feels like someone is stroking your hair." (Actually, that doesn't look so great in isolation. It's better in context, but I don't want to give spoilers.) Also - "slickening"? Best portmanteau ever.
I thought the ending was disappointing. The random, nonstandard prompts were interesting, but the actual ending (well, endings - two are possible, but both have the same flaw) was generic to the point of meaninglessness. (And yes, I did notice the cues that explained who both the people in the final scene were.)
I want to make it clear that I did like Deadline Enchanter, and I do think it's worth playing; I wouldn't go on about the flaws at such great length if I didn't like it. There were typos, but I actually didn't care, for once. I just really want to have been able to give it five stars, but the inconsistent implementation and the disappointing ending meant I couldn't.
A few games, however, like Deadline Enchanter and, a particularly memorable example from the 2008 IFComp, Violet, change the relationship between the player and the player character by giving the parser a personality. In Violet, the PC is the significant other of the titular Violet, and Violet herself is the parser, replying the way the PCís girlfriend would, adding tidbits of information and occasional commentary on the playerís attempts to solve the puzzles.
In Deadline Enchanter, itís even more complicated. The PC in the game is another player of a piece of IF within the game world. The parser in this game is the voice of the person within the game world that wrote the IF game.
Still with me?
Itís terribly surreal at first, playing DE, but as you move through the game it starts to make more sense and you start to understand the rhythm of the game. Through the course of the game, you learn that what has occurred is that the parser, a princess trapped in a tower, has created an IF game as a means of training someone to go through the motions of freeing her. You, the player, is in essence playing someone who has found the game and is playing to figure out how to free the princess.
Itís a pretty ingenious setup in my opinion, but hard to classify and even harder to explain. The game ends up using a few narrative tricks that offer variety to the game play experience, and the ending... well, it gives the player just the slightest hesitation, in a manner designed to create player agency.
In the end, I liked it, and would encourage others to give it a try. Itís actually rather easy, and probably not terribly bad for beginners to IF. I wouldnít go into it expecting this is how most IF goes, though.
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