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About the Story""But my madness speaks:
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Welcome to the Citadel of Justice. The Inquisitor is waiting." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]
Nominee, Best NPCs - 2000 XYZZY Awards
3rd Place - The Top Five IF Games (Adventure Gamers, 2002)
-- Duncan Stevens
More than any other IF game I have ever played, Kaged allowed me to truly visualize my world. The walls of the Citadel are cold and grey, cameras everywhere to ensure no employee dissension. The living quarters are sterile and unwelcoming. It is somehow enchanting, but frightening also, and the ultimate resolution of your quest is remarkably satisfying.
-- Evan Dickens
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As a mood piece, "Kaged" is excellent. Every bleak, oppressive nuance of the world you live in comes to life in the vivid writing, enhanced by graphics and sound (the opening picture is especially evocative), and your own character is well-drawn. As a story, it is ambitious, but less excellent. I felt that what began as tightly woven threads unraveled near the end--and not just because of the protagonist's dissolving sanity. I came out of the experience with no real understanding of what had happened and why.
-- Suzanne Britton
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The plot wouldn't be that bad if you took only the very beginning and very ending of the game. At least it would be original. But when I saw the middle of the game and all those story twists I felt that I was seeing another bad movie with all the cliches and standard devices that I have already seen a thousand times. And the author manages to place at least two conflicting plots in this game.
-- Stas Starkov
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Kaged is original, well-written story with a rich vocabulary, but I couldn't figure out exactly who was on which side sometimes, which caused some confusion and spoilt the atmosphere.
-- Dorothy Millard
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
On the one hand, I have to admit that it does an outstanding job at achieving what appear to be its goals. By the end of the game I was twitchy, angry, and thoroughly awash in the reality-questioning quasi-madness brought on by works like Brazil and 1984. Like those works, Kaged is a kick in the head all the way through, and a very powerful kick at that. In a way, I love this -- I find it a brilliant indictment of authority run rampant, and perhaps even a radical thesis on the problems of non-interactive IF. All that makes me want to rate Kaged quite highly indeed. On the other hand, if I give it what it wants, doesn't that make me complicit? If I truly believe in resisting totalitarianism (and I truly do), then shouldn't I resist Kaged and its demands by giving it the lowest rating possible? Shouldn't I raise my voice as strongly as possible to insist that IF like this is unacceptable? Maybe I should. But then again, what about that old rationale of irony? Sure, Kaged shows us totalitarianism, and controls us with an iron hand, but isn't it just making a point by doing so? Sure. Of course it is. It's all ironic, you see? That's what it is. And it certainly would be overly paranoid of me to think of that as just a rationalization.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
I played this twenty years ago and played it again just recently (because I had honestly forgotten most of it) and was swept away both times. I have generally enjoyed frequent plot twists as long as they're fun (e.g. Wild Things) and don't negate everything that came before (e.g. The Game). Multiple times while playing Kaged I thought to myself "Hey, this isn't logical" (Spoiler - click to show) like when the guard was conveniently asleep knowing that in this government that would be dangerous), or the code on the matchbook for no reason and then it would be revealed later that I was correct and the inconsistency was intentional. I also felt like many of the plot twists were foreshadowed so that I didn't feel cheated at the end. (Spoiler - click to show)My favorite was being told that the Commissar had front-row seats to the execution, very cheeky. I also figured out the final twist with about five minutes of play time left (Spoiler - click to show) because of all the cameras which was a brilliant move by Finley. Throughout the game I felt empowered and thrilled by the chase, until right near the end where I felt powerless but compelled to press on. The parallels between the story and my experience as a player were often step for step.
My only critique of the structure was the ability to die at several different points along the way. While I understand that seemed necessary to conceal the ending, it feels like in retrospect that those ways of ending the story do indeed negate the final ending.
Many have commented that the puzzles are poorly clued. I frequently use walkthroughs while playing and I didn't have to resort to one here. And I felt many of the puzzles were heavily clued (Spoiler - click to show)(the armband one especially, and even how to help the boy) but your mileage may vary. However, there is one structural issue (Spoiler - click to show) being allowed to access the 10th floor before helping the boy that killed the plot flow a bit early on.
Finley's writing is, as always, a treat and despite the game's flaws I was happy to be along for the ride.
Kaged is illustrated with a handful of surreal images, which do more to strengthen the mood than to explain anything.
Sounds interesting when you begin, and there are a few interesting puzzles, a couple of which I thought were a little unfair. The first is (Spoiler - click to show)what it takes to get into the Bureau of Records - (Spoiler - click to show)there are two solutions, both of which remind me of the kind of tough puzzles commonly hurled at players back at the time this piece was written. The second is (Spoiler - click to show)sabotaging the security system for the prison doors. In all likelihood, you'll have to backtrack at least once for an important clue or item, leaving someone waiting. To be fair, the author did write the story to make it impossible to get into an unwinnable state, and does give the player ample opportunity to avoid death, so you don't have to worry so much about save scumming.
At one point, you're faced with a choice whether to continue the story or let it end. If you slug it out to the end, you'll discover (Spoiler - click to show)there are no good endings. You can either die or spend the rest of your life in a mental hospital, where you will receive regular electroshock "treatment." So having ended the game halfway through is really the closest thing to a good ending there is.
What I was hoping for in a true story of the Orwellian genre, was a large back story about how oppressed the citizens are and how thoroughly corrupt the government has become. There's hardly any of that here. Instead, you ultimately learn that the spreading madness (Spoiler - click to show)is fabricated by the Inquisitor himself, who is implanting people with Augmented Reality gear and projecting sounds and "three-dee" images that only one person hears or sees, and then using that as "evidence" of their loss of sanity and putting them away in the State Hospital. All that because (Spoiler - click to show)attendance at the public execution trials has been declining lately, and so all the time you spend in the latter part of the story, (Spoiler - click to show)breaking out of prison cells and running away from guards, was all staged in advance. You had become an unwitting contestant in a game show of life-or-death.
If the story had been advertised for what it is, and didn't lead me to believe it was an actual interactive struggle against a totalitarian regime, then I would have liked it better. The length of the game is just right in my opinion, not too short and not too long, and there aren't too many puzzles. It's worth a couple hours of your time, and that's all.
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