IFComp 2007: A Fine Day for Reaping

A game written in Adrift by someone using the pseudonym “revgiblet”. (The game data contains what might be revgiblet’s real name, but I won’t state it here.) The premise: you’re Death. Spoilers follow the break.

The grim reaper in this story seems more than a little influenced by Terry Pratchett, with his pointless little house in the void and his flying horse and all, but he’s not the same. For one thing, Pratchett’s Death can walk through walls, whereas Death in this game has difficulty getting through security doors. (Some assassin against whom no lock will hold.) Also, this Death speaks with a lisp, which the author tries to play for laughs, even though it basically has negative humor value. Still, they share a basic operating procedure: they don’t need to be personally present for every single death that occurs, as long they cover the ones that need personal attention. In this game, that means cases where the soul has failed to move on for one reason or another. And that provides the game’s goals. There are five souls you have to reap in different parts of the world, from Nevada to Nepal, and the process leads to visits to several other locales as well.

The fact that it’s written in Adrift made me uneasy at first. It’s one of those little warning signs. Adrift is a system for writing text adventures, and it’s been positioned from the very beginning as easier to use than the other IF languages such as TADS and Inform. Consequently, it’s the system of choice for incompetent authors. But just because a system has produced a lot of bad stuff doesn’t mean it’s incapable of producing good stuff, and this game is actually pretty well-designed. It gives the player a lot of freedom, for one thing — when I started the game, I didn’t even go straight into the assigned tasks right away, but just hung out in San Francisco for a while, picking up hints and useful objects for later. It seems like there are some alternate solutions in there, too. And the puzzle content is pretty nice — more often than not, finding solutions seems to involve an “Aha!” moment where I suddenly realize the significance of something I had discovered earlier. My only real gripe with the design is that there seems to be a limit on the number of turns you can take. I hate that sort of constraint, and there’s no real artistic justification for it here.

For all that it’s about death, it’s a light and cartoonish piece of work. At the two-hour mark, when I had to submit a rating, I had not yet finished it, but I wanted to keep going, and that speaks well of it.

Rating: 6

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