Quick Take Review: Basically an interactive version of And Then There Were None... or wait, I mean a NON-interactive version.
Okay, another one I didn't finish. I didn't finish with this one because I just kept getting mad. And madder and madder.
The story is promising: you and a bunch of other suspicious eccentrics are summoned (or lured) to an abandoned laboratory in a remote Russian village for unexplained reasons. It's a motley crew including a beautiful journalist, a sketchy doctor, a put-upon repair man, a pair of self-obsessed celebrities, and remarkably the warden of the prison you escaped from. Add a pair of suspicious police officers and cue the murder parade! Contrived? Yes. Been-There-Done-That? Yes. But I'm a sucker for these kind of stories and it's a testament to my love of this genre that I read for as long as I did.
Please note the verb choice. I read. And read. And read. I did not make any decisions. I didn't choose to go on any multiple or branching paths. The only options I was ever presented with (and those being EXTREMELY rare instances) was the very occasional opportunity to choose in which order I wanted to examine things. Regardless of the choice I made, all would be examined. This was not a game. This was not even a branching narrative. This was a short story written in the second person that I read paragraph by paragraph, selecting the only option available to me: "continue."
|Who Among Us had all the interactivity of one of these.|
My fondness for this kind of (admittedly dopey) story kept egging me on, kept me reading to see if it would ever turn into anything approaching an interactive narrative. It did not. And the reason I started getting upset, is that I know from my own experience how taxing and challenging it is to write ACTUAL Interactive Fiction. The kind that gives the player (note I didn't use the word "reader") options. The ability to look at objects and examine them more closely. The ability to move where you wish. The chance to fiddle with things, push and pick things up. Interact with your fellow non-character players. That takes a lot of work. What doesn't take near as much work is regular prose. Part of the pain of writing interactive fiction is knowing that maybe 90% of what you write isn't going to be seen by the average player. But you write and code all of that extra work so that regardless of who's playing and what choices they make, you never break the illusion of seamlessness. Of potential. That their choices matter and that they can make those choices their OWN.
I didn't finish this piece. By the time I hung up my hat four of the guests had already been brutally murdered. Perhaps if the text had been written in a more engrossing manner I would have kept at it, but, while not dreadful, the style of writing could be best described as perfunctory. Not enough to warrant the fact that the author decided to enter a piece of NON-Interactive Fiction into a contest specifically written for pieces that encourage and reward and respond to readers attempts to interface with them. Man, if all the web based games turn out like this, I may have to skip this platform all together. We shall see.