IFComp 2011: Taco Fiction

Spoilers follow the break.

We join the protagonist, a down-on-his-luck schmo, as he’s about to make the worst decision of his life: attempting to get enough cash to pay his bills by robbing a taco joint with an unloaded gun. The plan goes wrong before it even really gets started, and you instead wind up infiltrating some sort of secret society. Criminals? Cultists? More like a bunch of rich guys and local business owners playing at Hermetic Order while they conspire to preserve the status quo, which is to say, to keep the likes of the player character down. There’s one sympathetic NPC, the proprietor of an ice cream store near the taco place. The schemers are trying to drive her out so they don’t have to compete with her; she knows she’s being harassed, but has no inkling why, or how organized her enemies are. You could see her as a love interest for the PC — she certainly enjoys his attention — but she’s basically more of a fellow-sufferer, a comrade-in-arms in an unsought class war.

I really like the craft on display. This is a game with a definite story that proceeds in definite stages, but the format is enough of a classical adventure game to make it not feel constrained. That is, you can roam the environment freely, making discoveries at your own pace. Also, the prose has a lot of character. Here’s a bit that caught my eye early on, a description of your gun:

Small enough to be carried inconspicuously in your pocket, but big enough to scare anybody it’s pointed at, this is a kind of gun with a specific name–a brand name, like cars have. It also has a “caliber”, which is a number that refers to what kind of bullets you can put in it, but you can’t remember that either.

The PC gives you other opportunities to smirk at his stupidity, like when he mistakes Greek writing for Russian, but he doesn’t let it stop him. Might as well go for broke when you’re broke already, right? As to where it gets him, well, my session got him within sniffing distance of a great deal of ill-gotten cash, but the whole experience left him with no gains other than a good story. There may be a more successful ending that I haven’t figured out, one where you solve both your problems and those of the ice-cream seller, but to my mind, the ending I got, of victory slipping through your fingers at the last moment, is truer to the character.

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