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Obituary

by Drew Mochak and Johnny Rivera profile

Horror
2009

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- Ben Cressey (Seattle, WA), January 25, 2011

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), July 4, 2010

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Too early to tell, but shows real promise, March 29, 2010
This cooperative creation by two apparently new IF authors carries many of the hallmarks of the newcomer, but it also shows some surprising hints of both depth and capability.

As someone who never appreciated The Lurking Horror, I approached this piece with some skepticism. Horror is a difficult genre to write; it takes a very subtle skill to craft prose that will possess the reader enough to generate real discomfort. With interactive fiction, the challenge is sharply increased, as the pacing -- so important to managing the reader experience -- is subject to the flailing and detours of the player.

The authors seem to have an intuitive grasp of how to manage the pace through a series of gently-railroaded sequences. The illusion of player freedom is fairly good. It wasn't until I was finished that I realized how expertly I had been swept along. Within each sequence, the story world evolves through changes in the protagonist's mental state even if your actions fail to make the desired changes to the world's physical state. There was only one place where I stalled out for a bit.(Spoiler - click to show) It was at the ranch entrance, where, after discovering I couldn't walk to the house, I was at a loss about what to do next. It would probably be in keeping with the overall pacing to have the protagonist spontaneously notice the broken lock piece after 10 turns or so, instead of forcing multiple examinations of the gate.

The first time this game impressed me was in the opening sequence.(Spoiler - click to show) Though the introduction is somewhat confusing, and the transition to the first move felt somewhat forced, I was quite fascinated by the touch of "cinematography" (for lack of a better word) as the color scheme changed on the words "Your child is waiting." It was a very effective way, in conjunction with the change in punctuation, of emulating a cinematic match cut, and very clever use of the medium.

The writing quality is patchy. It needs some proofreading to weed out misused homonyms, run-on sentences, and the like. In addition, there are certain discrepancies in tone that disrupt the experience -- some out-of-place jokes that work against the mood-building, some points where the anger and violence of the protagonist are so over-the-top that it strains suspension of disbelief. However, the writing at its best shows flashes of real talent, as evidenced by the feeling of creepiness stealing over me in those places that seemed to have the most polish.

The overall implementation quality is quite good. The authors make excellent use of changing descriptions to keep you focused on the important part of the story. The biggest gaps I noticed are certain unimplemented details(Spoiler - click to show) (e.g. you can look at the house but not the stables from the entrance to the ranch) and the lack of hinting on the correct conversation model ("talk to", not "ask/tell").

Written for the 2009 IntroComp (where it placed first of three), it is by definition an unfinished work. As a result, I gave it an extra star for the potential that I sensed this work could have as a cleaned-up, full-length story.

The true test of an intro is whether you would be interested in continuing, and, in my case, the answer is a definite yes.


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