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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review - Vulse

Vulse... Hmm... I don't really know what that means. It's possible that my vocabulary is about to be expanded or maybe it's just a made-up name or word. Either way, to say I'm nervous is an understatement. I really don't know if I like these web based hyper text games. Right after I published my last review I noticed that Emily Short had just reviewed the same game. And guess what? She thought it was pretty decent and a good example of the genre. Which then made me feel like a tool. Because, listen guys, who the hell am I to disagree with her, right? So now I'm just looking at this endless expanse of web-based games before me, the collection of which dwarfs the entries written on platforms I'm more used to and am more comfortable with, and I feel like an old man sitting on his porch looking at all of these young whippersnappers with their fancy i-whatsits and google-mabobers and I just want things to back the way they used to be when I understand the way the world worked : "And God created the Parser and Saw That It Was Good. And God Divided the World into the Screen and the Keyboard and There was Darkness and a High Probability of Being Eaten By a Grue."

So maybe I was too harsh on old "Who Among Us". Perhaps it was not the piece itself I was upset by, it was the fact that this "new" (ha!) hypertext format is not something I'm used to and I'm resistant to change. But... hey, it's not like I'm going to STOP being an unpleasant curmudgeon, amirite? So let's check out Vulse and see if I can open my rigid little mind a moment enough to hopefully let something beautiful enter it. Or barring "beautiful" I'd be pretty pleased with "competent" at this point.

Quick Take Review: Expertly written interactive poem. 

"There is only thick shrug and pine trees."

Well. Well well well well well. Well. To quote The Godfather Part III (best movie of the trilogy!! (just kidding)) "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

I'm not exactly certain what this was. It might have been light on the "fiction" aspect of "Interactive Fiction", in that I've no fucking clue what this story was trying to tell me. But Vulse more than made up for that in literary competence, the one thing I was eagerly looking for. Also: quite interactive, despite being run on the same engine as the last game I reviewed "Who Among Us" which had so much in common with a railroad and Agatha Christie I thought for a time it was "Murder on the Orient Express".

Jesus Christ was this a beautifully written piece. I feel like I haven't had an experience to it since the (albeit superior ) magnificent game Blue Chairs. This was not so much an Interactive Fiction as an Interactive Poem. And as much as I have a general disdain for poetry (and anyone reading this blog could excuse themselves for believing I have a general disdain for everything) obviously if poetry moves me or affects me then that's different. 

This was a weird and altogether strange... piece. (I started writing the noun "story" but then I stopped. And then I thought of using the word "game" and I also stopped.) But it was highly evocative and also genuinely interactive, a quality which seems to allow games to rise above the competition in this competition devoted to fiction of an interactive nature.   

Regardless, I deeply enjoyed the piece. From the moment. It was clear that the author was doing things with not just the programming specifications, but with the text itself, to construct highly evocative bits of description. I remember reading the Inform Designer's Manual with an entire section devoted to evocative room description. It's hard to get more evocative than this: "Rotted single-room apartment slashed to orange ribbons by dying light. Hardwood floor slick-sticky with discarded flesh flakes and hair where it's not obscured by books, undergarments, pizza boxes."

In interactive fiction, all the author/creator has as her/his disposal are words: syntax, language. While this may not have been the move cogent narrative, I forgive it the faults of fiction for the joy of craft. While neither of the two previous games I've played have been terrible, or broken, or unreadable (despite my disability in completing either), this is the first game of the competition that I've unadulteratedly enjoyed. And it also the first game that has made me excited to possibly read more of the web based games. Let's hope the promise of this game holds with its competitors. 


  1. magnificent game Blue Chairs

    Ironically, by the same man who invented the Twine engine used to make most of these weird IF compo hyperfiction works!

  2. Thank you so much for playing/reading/writing.