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About the Story"An interactive short experience."
This game is intended not as an exploration or a challenge, more as a situation. Stylistically interesting for its lack of banners, opening-titles, location-headers, status-line and meta-verbs such as "save".
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]
13th Place - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)
-- Duncan Stevens
The problem is that, really, The City doesn't do enough with its premise. The backstory never really shows up, and backstory is what might have distinguished this from its many predecessors; if there were some interesting story behind how things became how they are, the game might stay with the player for more than a few moments after playing.
-- Duncan Stevens
The game is quite small, but with a thought provoking plot, a bit George Orwell 1984ish.
-- David Ledgard
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Plotwise, it's as if somebody chopped up Mikko Vuorinen's Leaves (another escape-from-the-institution game whose name had only tenuous relation to its contents), added two tablespoons of Andrew Plotkin's Spider and Web, garnished with a sauce of Greg Ewing's Don't Be Late, threw in a pinch of Ian Finley's Babel, put the mixture into a crust made from tiny pieces of various other text adventures, stirred, baked for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, and served it up for this year's competition. Now, I'm not entirely convinced this is a bad thing. I think that lots of great works of art, interactive fiction and otherwise, are really just inspired melanges of things that had come before, so I'm not particularly opposed to such derivation on principle. For me, though, some of the derivative aspects of The City didn't work particularly well. This was especially true for the "Spider and Web" stuff -- I felt that the game crossed the line between homage and rip-off, heading the wrong direction. In addition, the convention of waking up with no idea of who you are or where you are, despite how well suited it is to IF, is starting to feel very tired to me. Perhaps I'm just jaded, or burnt-out, but when I saw the beginning I said "Oh, not another one of these!".
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
It won't take you long to realise that this person is you. And then the very boredom of your situation (which is equal for the character and the player) will make you want to break out of the situation that has been set up for you.
The first time I played it, I concluded that this was impossible. It is not--or at least not as impossible as it may seem at first glance. You should persevere: there is more to the story than just the first two location.
But even if you manage to reach the rest of the game and play it through completely, it will not leave you satisfied. There are a number of problems with The City, some of which could have been easily solved, and some of which couldn't. Solving the easy problems would push the game to a 3-star rating, but getting a 4-star rating would involve major extensions.
The easy problems all have to do with guess-the-verb situations, unimplemented objects, and stuff like that. The game was not beta-tested, and it shows. I didn't find any outright bugs, but lack of synonyms and guidance makes the game feel a little rough, and makes some of the puzzles far too difficult. I needed a walkthrough, and I won't be the only one.
The hard problem is that as it is, The City is only a fragment of a successful story. It could be the beginning, it could be the middle, it could even be the end, but we need more background, more action, more identification with the main character, before the situation presented gets the emotional power that Barlow is presumably striving for.
As it is, the game is too inconsequential. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and it could be used to great effect within a more substantial piece.
The puzzles are quite hard and I had to resort to the walkthrough several times, mostly because of guess-the-verb problems or general lack of knowing what the goal was. The game does get better on a replay. The nyances of the story and the depth of implementation are more noticeable on the second go. The story is easily worth 4 stars but guess-the-verb, hard puzzles and shortness drop the rating a notch.
Nevertheless I liked the surreal and dystopian setting.
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The City on IFDB
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