IFComp 2007: Reconciling Mother

Spoilers follow the break.

Before I talk about this game, I’d like to start with a little history lesson. The first system specifically designed for creating text adventures to become widely used by amateurs was AGT. Released in 1987, it was the sole language used in an annual text adventure competition held on Compuserve in the days before the current comp, but has prety much fallen out of use by now as more sophisticated systems appeared. AGT was based on an earlier, more primitive system called GAGS, which was basically not powerful enough to do puzzles beyond a few preordained types, such as unlocking a door with the right key or killing a monster with the right weapon. Some of the less-well-regarded games written in GAGS and AGT didn’t even bother with those basic minimal puzzle types, using the adventure game medium solely as a way to throw prose at the player in the form of room and object descriptions.

Which leads us to the game at hand. It’s a great deal larger than those old games, and it does a little more than object and room descriptions — there are a few NPCs that react to objects presented to them as well. This in no way changes the fact that the game is all descriptions and no simulation. The gameplay consists of walking around, picking up objects, reading descriptions, and eventually reaching the last room where you win. And when I say “you win”, I mean that you wind up in a room without exits, and with a description describing the ending. You can keep on playing, drop objects in that room, etc. Death in this game is done the same way.

And what’s in all those descriptions? Increasing randomness. It starts off acting like it might be a sincere but badly-done attempt at a coherent story, some kind of spy story on a college campus, but it sloughs that off the moment you find your way from the university physics department to the secret base on Ganymede. Anything can be a launching point for a rant on mysticism, Discordianism, Norse mythology, silly made-up movie plots, descriptions of the author’s favorite books. It leaves a strong impression of a caffeinated undergraduate trying to see just how much he could type in a single night. There’s nothing wrong with that — I can imagine myself doing something similar many years ago. I can also imagine myself entering it into a competition and placing very low.

Rating: 2

4 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 15 Oct 2007

    You might want to fix this – there isn’t actually a spoiler break.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 15 Oct 2007

    Whoops! Fixed.

  3. Benjamin Sokal on 15 Oct 2007

    “It leaves a strong impression of a caffeinated undergraduate trying to see just how much he could type in a single night…” LOL. Your reviews are entertaining and enlightening.

    Some games I really want to like because it appears so much writing went in to them. Maybe that’s because it sometimes takes me hours to write a single paragraph, and I forget that some people just spew out text without agonizing over it (and occasionally without thinking at all, it seems)

  4. Merk on 26 Oct 2007

    What an odd game. It’s as though the author had ten different ideas, and decided to just put them all together. There’s something going on about how people already “know” what’s going on in his life (and it’s in the blurb), but it’s only developed in the prior spy’s notes. I think, at the end, it’s supposed to just be the author’s wild imagination you’ve become trapped inside. But I dunno. It’s at least memorable.

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