IFComp 2011: Operation Extraction

Spoilers follow the break.

And finally I’m up to the third and last of this year’s HTML/Javascript games, and the one that’s the least like conventional IF, in that there’s no specific player character. You’re in control of a team of three people, a strike force trying to rescue an abducted weapons researcher by disrupting a planned transfer from the hotel where she’s being held to a more secure location. Most of the time, your people move about independently and on their own schedule, and all you can do is switch your vantage point, and therefore whose actions you’re observing. Every once in a while, though, one of them will face a decision, and you get to tell them what to do — provided you’re with them at the time.

The whole business of switching between characters acting in realtime reminds me a bit of an old FMV game called Psychic Detective, which gave you the ability to ride around in people’s heads. Both in this game and that one, it’s tempting to just go switching from person to person at random in an attempt to get the big picture, but sticking with each character through an entire play-through is the best way to grasp what’s going on and where everything is. There’s one big difference between the two games, though: here, you’re not bound to characters. Every time the person you’re following leaves the room, you have to explicitly follow them with your next click or get left behind. Also, you can just go wandering off by yourself if you like. Although you can jump instantly to any member of your team, most of the hyperlinks in this game perform IF-style room-by-room navigation. It gives an impression that you’re a real but invisible and intangible entity in the gameworld, like a spectator in a FPS. And yet, when you’re with one of the player characters, you often get their inner thoughts narrated to you.

The story is serviceable enough, and seems to have a fairly large number of variations and endings where different members of your team get killed or not. But it’s more interesting as a formal experiment than as a story.

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