IFComp 2008: Red Moon

First-time entrant Jonathan Hay gives us a brief, nightmarish vignette. Spoilers follow the break.

(I really mean it this time. Immediately after the cut here, I am going to completely spoil this game with a single sentence.)

“It was all a dream.” It’s the stereotype of bad endings in fiction, a lazy writer’s way of making things unhappen. But it can work, provided that everything beforehand was written with this ending in mind. And so it is here. Not only is the whole thing written specifically as a dream, nearly everything that’s implemented is part of some classical am-I-dreaming test. You’ve got your unreadable printed matter, your light switch that doesn’t affect the light, your clock that gives a different time whenever you look at it, etc. The command “pinch me” doesn’t work, but only because the author hasn’t implemented any nonstandard verbs at all; “hit me” takes its place.

The reason for this redundancy is that making the player come to the realization that it’s a dream is the whole point of the game. Let me describe how my first session went: I looked around, noticed something that made me think it might be a dream, and typed “wake up”. The response was unequivocal: this was not a dream. So I kept investigating my surroundings, found another clue, tried waking up again… and got a different response, this time less certain. From this, I concluded that I could wake up if I found enough evidence to convince me that I was dreaming. This seemed to work: eventually I was allowed to wake up.

And when I did, the revelation after waking — that I was actually a space alien preparing for invasion of Earth — came completely out of left field. It seemed like an inversion of the usual it-was-all-a-dream ending: the moment you wake up is the moment it stops making sense. At any rate, it made me laugh. It was as if the painstaking buildup to the just-a-dream part meant that some other twist had to come out of the blue without warning.

Reading the walkthrough afterward, I found that the game wasn’t quite as technically sophisticated as I thought. Evidence of dreaming irrelevant; just typing “wake up” repeatedly is enough to win. Also, if you examine certain things multiple times, you can in fact get some foreshadowing of the ending. So much that formed my opinion of the game is false! A rude awakening and unexpected revelation.

Rating: 5

1 Comment so far

  1. Merk on 25 Oct 2008

    It’s not just foreshadowing. It’s pretty much the *same* ending, except the one you got lets the protagonist and the sister live. In a way, the four alternates have a leg up because there’s a little more to it.

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