IFComp 2011: Awake the Mighty Dread

Spoilers follow the break.

This one seems to be set in the dreams of an unfortunate child, although her reality is so unbearable that she’s managed to convince herself that it’s reality and that the world of alcoholic foster parents and crushing poverty is the dream. You spend your time exploring a phantasmagorical and eclectic city of robots who envy flesh, with the occasional frog-prince or Egyptian god for company.

The story is decent, apart from the fact that it’s just the first chapter of a larger work. This time, it really does feel like a full chapter, not just a teaser, but it still leaves the story blatantly unresolved. The big problem is that it’s just a story. It shows every sign of having been written as static fiction, as if the author implemented everything necessary to complete a walkthrough and nothing else. Consequently, there’s very little tolerance for free action, or even for doing things in a different order than the author accounted for. This doesn’t always mean your progress is blocked until you guess the right command, but NPC dialogue, and even the narrator, will often assume you have information that you don’t have because the walkthrough has you do different things, or things in a different order. It’s usually pretty clear about what actions it expects you to perform, but in a couple of places it just doesn’t support enough synonyms, with the result that important events get lost. At one point, for example, you’re told that you should get the king to take you into the palace to the north. How do you do this? According to the walkthrough, with the command “KING, GO N”. I doubt many players will think of this. More likely they’ll do what I did: try things like talking to the king about the palace, see that this doesn’t produce the desired result, then give up and go north on your own, leaving the king and his amazingly lax palace guards behind.

I’m tempted to say that this work would be better with a CYOA interface, the better to guide your actions and limit them to those that the author is willing to support. But if it were CYOA, I’d probably be complaining about the shallowness of the world model and lack of branch points.

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