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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mite – A review

Believe it or not this is a stuffed dust mite.

Next on the docket, we have “mite”, and “might” I say I am a “mite” intrigued by the title. Are we playing a tiny spider? Is this in reference to size (a nice contrast to the other size related title “gigantomania” (which I haven’t played yet)? I don’t know. What I do know is that it takes a certain amount of confidence to give your story such a simple and homophonic name.

Note: Please remember I spoil things in my reviews. Mostly everything. That’s just the kind of guy I am: a big stinkin’ spoiler. Consider yourself warned.

Final Verdict: Beautifully told though trifling game that becomes somewhat marred by an off putting conclusion.

Okay, I’m finished. Sort of. I mean, I am. There’s no question that I’m finished. I even got the triple asterisks You Have Won thing, and I’ve been asked if I want to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game or QUIT.

So then why don’t I feel as if I’m finished? Hmm… That probably has something to do with the fact that this seems to be not an independent game, but a small prologue for some sort of miniaturized (in the sense that you are, like, an inch tall) version of The Lord of the Rings. This game would be a pretty nice little prologue for a larger work, but ending the game on a sort of pre-quest cliff-hanger definitely left a sour taste in my mouth.

But let’s focus on the good stuff, because there was quite a lot of good stuff. First and foremost the way that the author described her world was very evocative and wonderfully immersive. I felt as if I could see the enormous flowers towering before me. I could smell the nests of roses and clumps of reeds. You know, I’m often in awe of people who manage to program really complicated things into their games (see Oxygen), but it’s even more important to remember that the biggest set of special effects we have as IF writers is the written word. And when used to paint such a lush picture, as the one Sarah Dee creates, it makes up for a lot.

For example, there are a few NPCs in the game, and their conversation system and implementation is not, how shall I put it, revolutionary. But I also found myself not minding because the setting was so beautiful.

I even got over my fantasy genre bias (well, that is until the very end) and enjoyed the ride. I loved the idea of leaping into the air while holding a large (to my character anyway) dandelion seed and floating away. I liked looking up at two lazy caterpillars napping away. I enjoyed the thrill of battling an enormous deadly spider or looking up at the “enormous” monolith of a garden gnome.

Even the puzzles, which for some reason I sometimes I had trouble with (because I am a blistering moron), were completely fair and often (like with the daffodil seed) really fun.
But I have to come back to that ending. I can understand the impulse to make this little journey part of a larger, more sweeping story. If the game had ended with me giving the prince back his jewel and then tromping back home, I would have brushed my hands and said, “My that was cute little game,” and that would be it. Perhaps you wanted me to say instead, “Oh wow! What an exciting first chapter to a possibly epic and interesting story!”

The cast of Lord of the Rings, as imagined by a four year old.
I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say that I was not whispering those exact words under my breath. For one, the whole dark and vague tidings of “the Evil that is Coming” is a fantasy cliché that has been used, abused, and then taken out back and had bullets shot into its knee caps. One of the things that I liked about this game, was that despite its fantasy trappings, it was firmly rooted in the specific. The puzzles and the trappings of the world were all different, wonderful, and specific because of your “mite” sized point of view. By cradling this idiosyncratic experience in yet another tale of “little naïve farm person goes on a quest to battle insurmountable Evil”, takes something away from the charm of the original journey.

So… Yikes. What to do. What do? Truth is, I shouldn’t have given Pen and Paint a five. I should have given it a four. This game was as good a “game” as the Warbler’s Nest, but not nearly as good a story. But it’s far better than Pen and Paint turned out to be. Decisions, decisions…

Well, despite being a fluffy story that went off the rails in the last paragraphs, I’m giving this game a 6. It was enjoyable and throughout most of it, it had me smiling. I’ll look at it like One Eye Open, in that the journey was more important than the destination.

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