It is pervaded by a strong melancholy: the main character starts the
game attending at a funeral of a friend and starts wondering about the
meaning of life. Going out of the church he'll interact with some other
NPCs or visiting locations, but none of them will include a real
The story has only one ending, that is difficult to be found because
the game doesn't "suggest" it. Thinking "in reverse" about it, anyway,
looks like no other ending could be possible. Nothing special, anyway I
suggest it if you like something 'puzzleless' and have a taste for
So where's the review? This is more like a resume.
I've been playing some of the entries for IFComp '06 (not as a judge);
if a game in which you ultimately kill yourself is your forte, and you
happen to own a Windows PC, then I suggest you try "Initial State". It
includes the classic amnesiac cliché, but integrates it into the story
in such a way that you can hardly fault it: you awaken, inside the
sleeping chamber of a colony vessel adrift in space, the sole survivor
of a horrible mutiny. You erased your own memory in a futile attempt to
dull the pain, but you discover the truth again, despite your former
self's attempts to keep you locked up safe and sound on the lower level
(not terribly dissimilar from the IFComp's "Another G------ Escape The
Locked Room Game", albeit in far better taste). The game is a solid
concept, but not without its glaring flaws: the world, albeit far
better developed than the one in "In The End", is still lacking in
background detail, and numerous typoes give the otherwise polished
prose the feel of something written by a remarkably literate
10-year-old (in the early 80's, no less, judging from the stock
reactions achingly reminiscent of an old Scott Adams game). There is
also an unfortunate oversight by which the player can "win" the game
long before it should be possible or even appropriate. All in all, the
game could only have benefitted from being written on a proper
adventure design system of some description, not to mention the aid of
Another entry somewhat along the same line of thinking is the ADRIFT
game "Requiem", also an entry in IFComp '06; more of a
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel than a proper game, though, with fairly
obvious "branch points" in the story, several coming to the same
conclusion. Disguised - perhaps too well - as a detective novel with a
supernatural twist, the game reveals its true colors only during its
"final confrontation" with the enigmatic cultist Martin Cairns: if you
follow the not-so-subtle hints far enough, which may take a few undos
and restores, you will discover a conversation route that leads to the
revelation that your entire adventure has been a St. Elsewhere-esque
fantasy. The real you is trapped in a vegetative coma, and your wife
has finally made the decision to pull the plug: this, unless I am much
mistaken, is the game's "optimal" ending, and while it ties everything
up nicely, it comes almost completely out of nowhere and may come off,
as with "In The End", as a disappointing anticlimax. Certain awkward
phrasings and redundancies hurt the early segments, but it doesn't
suffer from the annoying typoes of Initial State. Overall, nothing
groundbreaking, but a diverting 10-15 minutes.
I like a good journey of discovery, but even though cruel, brutal
truths about your character are always more fun to discover than brave,
heroic ones, nobody likes feeling that they've just been cheated out of
a game for no good reason. "Initial State" at least manages to paint a
picture of the ultimate no-win scenario before shoving you into the
void; "In The End" and "Requiem" both suffer from feeling like there's
something you're supposed to do to avert the inevitable, but the author
has decided nonetheless to kill the protagonist without the player's
consent. Even AGETLRG (which features one ending where you escape the
room only to be hit by a blunt object, and another where you escape the
room only to be set upon by the zombies it turns out you intended to
lock out) terminates the player only after the stated goal of the story
is completed, not to mention for darkly comedic effect. The
protagonists' deaths in "In The End" and "Requiem" can only be
described as "pointless".
Perhaps the easiest and simplest option for making a game that ends in
the protagonist's death is not to write one at all.
> So where's the review? This is more like a resume.
I must admit, Jacek, that you're right.
I'll be more a 'reviewer' in my next review.
That isn't actually the optimal ending. There are others.
I found a bunch of endings, but pretty much all of them seemed to
branch off from the "showdown" with Michael Cairns. Of course, there's
the option of waiting, which only brings you to the opening's
"conclusion"...and even then, you don't learn anything.
I guessed it was the optimal ending because it resolved the most out of
any of the endings I've encountered...then again, if there's an ending
where you actually wake from your coma and rejoin the living...or is
the whole thing just a red herring I swallowed?
Just for the record, the comp rules strongly encourage (but don't
require) judges not to talk about the games in a public forum like the
newsgroup before the judging period is up. Stephen's given the ok this
year to post about them on a blog or personal site, though, and point
to that from the newsgroup. But just posting them to the newsgroup is
a little unkind to people who are trying to avoid all spoilers before
the judging period is over, and it's also problematic because it's an
actual rule that authors aren't supposed to discuss the games at all
in a public forum, and posting to the newsgroup encourages them to do
(That said, I hope you either repost this reviews post-comp or put
them on a personal site someplace -- I have some points I'd like to
talk about in this Requiem review)
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW
I'll e-mail you on reaching the optimal solution.
...Aaaaand it seems I owe some very major apologies. The comatose
ending was quite convincing...and I suppose that's my only excuse. ^_^;
All right, just strike out everything I said about Requiem. Mark Twain
spoke the truth: "better to be thought a fool than open one's mouth and
remove all doubt". (Though it's really kinda cruel to call the game
"puzzleless" when finding the proper ending involves a fairly obscure
action. I won't dock points for it, though, since I love how it finally
But tell me, there's gotta be more to "Sisyphus" than it looks, right?
I mean, what, is the game, some kind of joke? I can't figure out how to
get past the prologue, if it is indeed a prologue...
I'd respectfully disagree. I think the 'winning move' is in fact the
weakest part of what is generally an effectively-crafted world and
mood. The problem is that there's a complete disconnect between the
world-craft and the conclusion. I essentially agree with what Paul
O'Brian wrote at the time about the game:
The first character I've been totally unable to identify with
-- the author shows us an interesting world with friendship,
intellectual interest, potential for love, and incredible
technological comfort, and wants us to believe that the foremost
desire one could have in this world is for suicide.
My problem with the game is that everything except dying in this game
is entirely too interesting: the player-character is given many
reasons for life and none for death. Which, I guess, gloms from the
outside with what many suicides look like, namely, an inexplicable
escape from what see as a happy life. But even when suicide's
inexplicable to others, it presumably makes perfect sense to the
perpetrator, and one doesn't get that sense at all here.
(Oh, and while we're discussing games in which suicide is a necessary
step to advance the plot -- but not games from the '06 comp, damnit --
how about 'Delusions'? Also, 'Outsided', if only because suicide is
the failure result from a timed puzzle, which is kinda special.)
D. Jacob (Jake) Wildstrom, Math monkey and freelance thinker
"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."
The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily endorsed by the
University of California or math department thereof.
> (Oh, and while we're discussing games in which suicide is a necessary
> step to advance the plot -- but not games from the '06 comp, damnit --
> how about 'Delusions'? Also, 'Outsided', if only because suicide is
> the failure result from a timed puzzle, which is kinda special.)
I suppose I might as well shamelessly self promote one of my games -
"Back To Life... Unfortunately" - in which the aim was to committ
suicide. Lots of times.
I guess things just feel different in retrospect. A poor finish can
color one's perspective.
Still, I maintain that much of the game felt very empty: the opening
was very solid, the drive with the woman an interesting tease, and then
nothing: the game effectively slams the door in your face the instant
the woman does. If there's some way to enter the bar (and seeing as how
I've been wrong on practically everything else, there probably is),
please tell me, but all I could find was the convenience store with its
marginally reactive NPC, and its magazine within that exists as perhaps
your sole hint that the world has no further use for you.
> the opening was very solid
Don't you find it annoying that the default for PRAY hasn't been replaced in
the funeral parlour? Personally, I find that very unsolid. It's one of the
few actions that makes sense in that context. Another action that would make
sense is KISS JON'S BODY (fairly common in some cultures) which returns the
jarring "You can only do that to something animate." Also, "dead" isn't
recognised as a synonym for "Jon" X DEAD BODY returns "You can't see any
such thing." Not what I would call a solid implementation.
I was referring to "setting the scene" as opposed to "implementation".
In other words, I thought the WRITING was good at expressing what was
going on, although I must confess it never occurred to me to try much
of anything in there. Funeral's over, go home...my thinking, anyway.