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9th Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 10th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2004)
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2004 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Denfinitely, an unsual work of IF. The atmosphere is dark and feverish, the plot explores the dark side of Kabbalah. Thrown into the main character's shoes, you'll be playing this adventure through the eyes of Jack Pudlo, a young jewish boy whose precarious health turned him into a cynical misanthrope. It's very well written, every part of the text reinforces the main character's mental state and his (sick) relation to the surrounding world.
The map is not huge, but in order to explore it in full you'll need to unravel many puzzles. The game is claustrophobic, crude and profane; reality is constantly blurred by a mixture of Jack's paranoia and hallucinations, on the one hand, and occult manifestations and magic, on the other. This is as much as I can say without spoiling gameplay.
The implementation is smooth, and I've only stumbled in a single disambiguation problem during the whole game. There are no "guess the verb" situations and commands parsing is implemented rather mercifully; smart implicit actions replace tedious commands sequences, sparing the player endless typing when it's obvious what he has in mind. The commands set in not huge, and non standard commands are either obvious or hinted at in the text. I advise you try out any action that comes to your mind, for the atmosphere of the game will push you in directions that are worthy to explore (especially the dark side of Jack), even when these actions might not have a direct impact on the story course.
Jack Pudlo reminded me of Francis Orme, the main character of Edward Carey's Observatory Mansions, who's own narrative (like Jack's) is distorted by his own personality and selfishness, and chronic disease becomes an excuse to moral superiority and misanthropy.
The story ending is quite unexpected, and I still can't decide what to make of it. The ABOUT text is very strange indeed, and I'm left with the impression that it contains clues to decode further layers of narrative meanings — for example, the theme of "war" is mentioned in the ABOUT, and constantly leaks into the story background, from the distant sounds of the outside world, growing in intensity as the story approaches its end, but it's never explored or directly connected to the plot. Kabbalah being a central theme (and device) to the story, I suspect that there is more to the plot than meets the eye at first sight.
The game seems like a big trolling on one hand, while on the other hand, it is highly polished.
For the polish: the writing is smooth and clear, with really vivid images. The game borrows heavily and openly from Shakespeare. It delves deep into Jewish culture. There were no bugs that I noticed. The ending was very clever until the last bit. Overall, a game with a lot of polish.
On the other hand, it trolls you. It uses sensuality and profanity from time to time in crass ways (not to arouse or for art, just to be gross). The character has an odd relationship with God that is hard to describe. And the ending openly insults the player. The ABOUT text is bizarre.
Overall, a weird game. It's like a very nice cake flavored like mustard. I'd love to learn more about its background.
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