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About the Story"I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man."
-- Chuang Tzu
Nominee, Best Writing - 2018 XYZZY Awards
23rd Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
To me, the most compelling works of interactive fiction are ones that take advantage of the unique features of the medium. “Tethered” tells a story that a conventional, noninteractive work of fiction would not be able to accomplish. The story begins with a woman being stranded during a snowstorm, but it quickly turns into something more unsettling.
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Most of Tethered takes place in a cave on a mountainside. This is a classic IF setting and so can often feel stale, but the premise of Tethered makes it come across as natural and fresh - more of a nod to IF's roots in Colossal Cave than something derivative.
Gameplay-wise, there are a couple of clever puzzles involving a rope that can be stretched between multiple rooms. One of these puzzles has an alternate solution that I found by looking at the walkthrough after I finished the game; this alternate solution may remind some players of a prominent puzzle in a prominent game from last year's IFComp. Also, I love the game's solution to the problem of navigating a cave in the dark: It's completely intuitive yet fairly original from an IF standpoint.
Like several other games from this year's IFComp, as you play Tethered further you realize that there is more going on here than appears at first. The ending is poignant and moving - and it adds a powerful twist on the game's name: "Tethered."
Make sure you check out the game's response to XYZZY.
Finally, a word about the language: Tethered is the first game in the author's new IF-writing language Dialog. It looks impressive to me so far. In particular, the rope-between-multiple-rooms feature is apparently a difficult one to implement in most traditional parser languages. The fact that it works smoothly in Tethered indicates something about the complexity of Dialog.
Overall, I found Tethered to be yet another of the many strong dramas in this year's IFComp.
There are several things for the player to figure out. In most cases, I would probably refer to them as puzzles. Here, it felt like the wrong term; they're so intertwined with the story (a story that is deep and serious but never in a way that feels didactic or overly dramatic) that I hardly noticed them. It's not often (with any medium) that my experience is so immersive.
Although I expect that the author could have made a more or less equally good story in any IF language, the several little things that were unique in Tethered made me think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity. While it in general would be silly to apply such thoughts to most programming languages (their differences being so well-defined), this is obviously not the case for IF authoring languages. Some things are more difficult in Inform 7 and therefore rarely done, something that fundamentally affects the story. A new language, such as the author's Dialog, represents an opportunity to do new things in old ways and old things in new, something Åkesson succeeded with rather perfectly.
Showpieces for new languages are a varied lot. Curses!, the showpiece for Inform, is one of the best games I've ever played: huge, puzzly, with deep connections to literature, religion, mythology and history. Ditch Day Drifter is sparser and smaller, but still pretty fun. Bronze and Floatpoint, showpieces for Inform 7, are both intensely detailed games.
This game takes a different tack. Instead of a massive adventure, it's a compact puzzle game in the snow. You play as a couple out climbing a snowy mountain, and must solve puzzles involving classic adventuring situations/items like darkness, ropes, and large pushable items.
I found the story in this compelling, as well as the puzzles. One of my favorite IFComp 2018 games.
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Recommended ListsTethered appears in the following Recommended Lists:
Favorite "atmosphere" games by MathBrush
These are games that are fun because of the atmosphere and plot more than the puzzles. These games are not too hard and not too easy. They generally have a big over-arching theme. I have included most horror and comedy games in other...
Great games in a mostly realistic setting by MathBrush
These are games that for the most part don't contain magical elements or futuristic technology. This includes games where there might be magic or futuristic technology, but you don't know until the end. So several of these games do...
My new walkthroughs for June 2019 by David Welbourn
On Friday June 28, 2019, I published new walkthroughs for the games listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works of interactive...
PollsThe following polls include votes for Tethered:
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Story of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest games...
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Overall Puzzles of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Puzzles in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest...
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Individual Puzzles of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting puzzles in games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Individual Puzzle in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is...
This is version 6 of this page, edited by David Welbourn on 28 June 2019 at 2:47am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item