Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Monday, October 4, 2010

IF Comp 2010: East Grove Hills

Normal warnings and disclaimers apply - here be spoilers (sort of) and general first impressions of East Grove Hills, which is totally one of those teenage shows on Television Without Pity, like Dawson's Creek or Seventh Heaven.  (Is Seventh Heaven on TWP?  It should be.)  I got this amazing ginger orange sauce this week.  It is good on everything.  I am thinking of making beef stirfry.  Cabbage has a lot of vitamin C in it, and peppers were on sale.  Mmm.  Now I'm hungry.  (The risk of writing spoiler-free paragraphs?)

-- East Grove Hills --

HA, I was right!  High school.  Wow.  That never happens to me.  This one I'm playing online, so no transcript.  That makes me sad, but not sad enough to break the encryption on a library computer to download Frotz. 

Huh.  Interesting.  EGH is written in past tense, which is an interesting choice, especially since it jumps back and forth in time a lot.  It's not entirely successful.  The plot consists of little vignettes around a central event, sort of like Photopia, although the viewpoint remains stable.  The opening is strong, but the lack of interaction really detracts.  The story is structured around an implacable clock: things take place at a certain time.  This is kind of neat, but pretty much anything you type, successful or not, advances the clock.  I spent a lot of play typing three things, then undoing them, then trying something else. 

So few of these were successful that by the time I got to the point where the game hinted broadly that I might be able to save a life, I was not very hopeful.  Indeed, I utterly failed to save anyone.  Not really surprising, given that the main character is a high school student.

The author went to the trouble of rewriting the default responses, which really helped with emersion; unfortunately, pretty much nothing I wanted to do in response to the shooting/bombing helped.  I couldn't help, or hug my dying sister.  I couldn't try to talk the gunners down.  Which . . . is realistic, I guess, but feels so uninteractive that I wonder why I'm playing. 

The other big issue I had was with dialogue.  There's a relatively large quantity of dialogue, but most of it is railroaded.  Ignore a question by "saying nothing", and the game will offer you the same responses again, rather than advancing the conversation in any meaningful way.  A lot of it is pretty stilted (given a humorous nod by the game text itself, which breaks the fourth wall so often they must have the repairman on speed dial.  Bad-dum-dump-chh!).  I think my favorite line was "So let's get to work or something," a line I'm fully intending to utilize at my next project planning meeting. 

And yet . . . I found myself a little charmed.  The game itself needs work, no bones about it, but it tries to be innovative in a couple small ways, and it has a kind of offbeat quirkiness to it that's engaging, although the game itself doesn't follow through enough to be satisfying.

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