Final Verdict : Fun atmosphere and generally pleasant puzzles balance out nebulous storytelling.
But of course you crazy kids want to hear more than that, dotcha! Well you can read spoilers to your hearts content, AFTER THE JUMP!!
So you are a nameless, genderless (well, I'm assuming the protagonist has a gender, it's just not specified), person who has wandered into a soggy sparsely written (though not necessarily in a bad sense) swamp on the search for the "Crystal City". What is the Crystal City? Well... even after playing the game and having even been there, I'm still not exactly sure. There's this magical(?) city populated by, I don't know, aliens or elves or something that can somehow reasonably spend their entire lives living underwater, (I'm ruling out manatees because in the only description you get upon looking at one of these denizens is that they are soggy and gangly and one thing I know about manatees is that they are not gangly) but regular humans (I'm guessing?) came around and wanted to live in close proximity to the city but couldn't because the area surrounding the city was apparently a large moat. So using a system of convoluted pumps, the humans shifted the waters and forced the city to the bottom of a muddy lake (I'm still not exactly sure how this is supposed to work), though granted the Crystal City People for some reason agreed to the scheme. But now they've changed their minds, and need a "neutral party" i.e. you to trek through the swamp and activate all of the pumps and switches to make things right. I guess? Wait, what? What was all that? HUH???
|I wasted a month of my life playing this game.|
Wetlands reminded me of playing Zork, which was the very first piece of IF I ever played as a kid. You aren't given any direction and you sort of just have to work things out on your own. The descriptions of everything in the game were not unpleasantly utilitarian, which I have to say probably made solving some of the puzzles much easier (not that they were a cakewalk mind you). But the game as a whole definitely seemed like a throwback to an earlier age of IF.
For instance, let's start with the dialogue. There are a few NPCs throughout the game, but none of them seem to have much personality. They give you terse responses for most questions (except for the conductor. Do NOT start that guy on trains. He'll talk your freakin' head off). Then there are a couple of scenes in which they suddenly flood you with exposition. You aren't allowed to participate in the conversation, you're just forced to stand there pressing "z" until they stop talking which takes a while. The author literally puts you in quicksand during one of those scenes so you don't wander off while this secretary jabbers at you with vague info-dumps.
|This is my best guess on what they look like.|
Though honestly, I'm probably being overly harsh on the plot, because it seems as if the "story" (what little of it there is) is just a frame on which to construct intriguing atmosphere and fun old school puzzle solving. I enjoyed the environments. I looked forward to each time I got to explore new corners, or when new neighborhoods would open up to me. While yes, some of the puzzles were frustrating and I did have to consult the walkthrough on more than one occasion, I also concede that that was sort of the point. The game is unapologetically focused on puzzles and I'm probably tipping the scales by focusing on the story considering the game itself seems much less interested in story telling than world building.
All in all, it was a decent game. There were a couple of puzzles that had me pulling out my hair (I can't reach the rung of a ladder, but if I "Jump" I can suddenly reach it?????) and those train rides back and forth between both sides of the swamp became tiresome real quick, but the puzzles were fun and often satisfying when I figured them out on my own. But as far as storytelling goes, this game just misses the mark for me. But it's a well written and polished game and I really look forward to seeing what this author does in the future.