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Friday, October 4, 2013

Review : Trapped in Time

Okay. I'm a sucker for time travel stories. They are possibly my favorite kind of stories. However we also have the only entry entered in the "PDF" category. What the hell does that mean? PDF? Last I checked it was't a computer programming language. It was a easy and routine way to display and print static text. How on earth can this possibly be interactive. I think it is very possible I'm missing something here.

Quick Take Review: Old school Choose Your Own Adventure Story with a really really cool twist.  Highly recommended. Best if left unspoiled.

Full spoilery review after the Jump!

Wow! What a cool game! And I'm saying that about a pure and unadulterated choose your own adventure story. I mean the whole thing is written in a 34 page PDF that looks like it was written in Word. And yet: not only is it awesome, but I have no qualms about actually calling it a "game".

Here's the skinny: You start the game outside the Copenhagen Institute of Chronology, about to make your maiden voyage through time. The game starts slowly but atmospherically. You run into your buddy in the lobby, you chat with the receptionist (or not, you know. You can choose to ignore these people), ride a snazzy elevator and are presented before this cool time machine. I was even impressed that after all of this build up it even gave you the option to refuse to go into the time machine. Wow, I thought, that's giving the reader agency! Little did I know. Little. Did. I. Know.

So you enter the time machine. Things do not Go According To Plan. Not surprising. What happens next though was: You do travel through time and in fact are directed to start again at the very start of the game. However, now you're given an option that whenever you're talking to someone you can tell them about what happened by adding "20" to their passage. The more you explore, the more you discover, the more mathematical options you're given to scenes you've already been through. It was an extremely cool conceit and handled very well. I wound up having to have a little "cheat sheet" with all of my different options on them as I played through the same scenario over and over again, trying to figure out the solution.

Granted: I love this kind of conceit. The whole Groundhog scenario is one that I find particularly alluring. Who among us (callback!) hasn't dreamt of reliving a portion of our lives over and over again, in a attempt to finally get it right? I've long considered my own interactive fiction piece based on this conceit but I keep rejecting it for being too ambitious.

But what author Simon Christiansen manages to accomplish in 34 odd pages is a really clever and fun story puzzle, which is really my favorite kind of IF. I have to say, for as much as I've been bitching and moaning about the hypertext-choose-your-own-adventure fare, if done well this can be a great medium. Also: on a cool little side note: once you've "completed" the story there are all of these cool little easter eggs for you to find. I won't say more than that, but this is a story that delights even after you've completed it.

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