Overall impressions: lots of interesting experiments, some of which failed
spectacularly, of course, but I'm trying to be encouraging here.
Particularly prominent in the
didn't-completely-work-but-points-for-creativity category: On the Other
Side, The End Means Escape, and Masque of the Last Faeries. I don't think
that what OTOS was trying could really be done much better, which is to be
said it can't really be done without darn near complete AI. The player is
always annoyingly stupid. But 'twas a cute gimmick. Masque's fusion of the
plot with the play-within-the-story was clever, even if the writing was less
than inspired; bugs kind of brought down the story, though. Escape had a
wonderfully creative first scene--a sort of riff on For a Change--and not
much after that, but extrapolate that first scene and you have a really,
really interesting game.
Attitude was big: Punk Points, Rameses, and Got ID were all about attitude,
and Crimson Spring had plenty of 'tude as well. Stupid Kittens and Comp00ter
did as well, in their own way, though it was sort of a stupid attitude.
Conversely, Jarod's Journey (more on that elsewhere, when the inevitable
flamewar begins) also invested the PC with lots of attitude of a distinctly
different sort, and acclimating to that attitude was probably more difficult
for many people than acclimating to the personas you're given in Punk
Points, Rameses, and Got ID. Nevermore was less about the PC's attitude than
his mood, which took some acclimation in itself.
The fight over conversation systems goes on; I don't think anyone's winning,
as such, but there were good examples on both the menu-based and traditional
ASK/TELL sides. I still infinitely prefer the latter, but I must admit that
Crimson Spring, Rameses, and Desert Heat were pretty absorbing Kaged took a
less choice-based approach and it still worked (though it helped that there
was substantial freedom elsewhere).
The comp, for me, is all about the "wow" moments, the things that you
haven't seen before, or haven't seen done so well before. There are never
more than a few--past such moments have included the dance in Sunset Over
Savannah, the ending of Babel, waking up in Purple, and the crawl in Hunter.
This time, I'd single out opening the jar of peanut butter in Shade, the
meeting with Daniel in Rameses, and, oddly, entering one of the "direction"
rooms in Ad Verbum (just because it was *hilarious*). The games with
standout moments like those aren't necessarily the ones I like
best--Metamorphoses was my favorite (and the first 10 I've given since
Sunset in '97), because the whole thing was absorbing, not because of any
one moment. (I played it toward the very end, though, and I haven't had time
to go back and finish, so that may change.) But those moments are why I
still find the comp exciting.
The top of my ratings:
10 for Metamorphoses, 9 for Rameses, Kaged, Shade, Transfer, Djinni, and Ad
Verbum, 8 for Best Man, My Angel, YAGWAD, and Dinner with Andre, 7 for
Masquerade, At Wit's End, Being Andrew Plotkin, Nevermore, Desert Heat,
Letters from Home, Crimson Spring, and Planet of the Infinite Minds.
(Sorry, Emily, but considering that my faves have been, respectively, 6th,
7th and 8th the last three years, I think I've doomed you to 9th.)