IFComp 2011: Tenth Plague

Spoilers follow the break.

The second Bible adaptation this Comp, this game tells the story of the first Passover. Not, mind you, the story of the captivity that preceded it or the exodus that followed, but just of the one night when the tenth and last plague of Egypt hit, killing the firstborn son in every house that wasn’t marked with the blood of the lamb. You play the part of the plague.

Or rather, of part of the plague, which has split itself into autonomous intelligent pieces in order to multitask. As such, if you fail to slaughter your  assigned children, or refuse to do so, another piece will pick up your slack. The plague is portrayed as something amorphous but visible and corporeal, like a nanite swarm. People can and do try to fend you off, with various degrees of success, resulting in environmental puzzles. But in the end, all but the chosen people are helpless against you. Even Pharaoh, who’s portrayed as essentially hypnotized into his decisions by God, cannot save his infant son when the plague converges and rejoins for the final stroke.

In other words, this is a horror story, with you as the monster. Worse, you’re a monster impelled by God’s will. The plague knows this, and is even proud of it, relishes the deaths of innocents as a job well done. This isn’t a devout game, but neither is it mockingly irreverent. It’s a work that dares to take scripture at its word without making excuses for it.

It’s pretty short, but I think I agree with the author that it takes the idea about as far as it can go. After you win, it exposes an interesting feature, worth commenting on: the in-game commentary. This is done Valve-style, with examinable commentary nodes as room features, and it’s almost more interesting than the game itself. The author describes the scriptural basis for game elements, and how the game changed over the course of development (mainly in the characterization of the plague), and various possible actions I hadn’t tried. It’s from the commentary that I learned that it’s possible to refuse your mission, and that you can kill people in a variety of different ways — I had been only using the verb “KILL”, except in one puzzle that required something else, but apparently you can specifically stab and strangle and so forth, to different effects. This came as no surprise, really. The game is pretty thorough in its implementation.

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