IFComp 2011: Awake the Mighty Dread by Lyle Skains

This is the twelfth game I am reviewing for the 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition; if you’re a judge, don’t read on unless you have already played and reviewed the game yourself.

Blurb: You wake up on a train in a strange world, knowing only that if you sleep, the nightmares return. But someone else is also lost, and you must find him, or else the nightmares will capture you forever.

I expect surreal dreamscapes from the blurb. The title makes me think about Rastafarianism, but that’s because my only real referent for the phrase “mighty dread” is from Rasta and reggae.

An early room, alarmingly, has no description. That’s not the first time in this comp. Is this an easy mistake to make in Inform 7, or a conscious design choice these days? Because it totally looks like a bug. Anyways, I was totally right about the dreamscapes, with a liberal peppering of abused-child motifs. I guess it’s been a while since Triune, so this is fair game again. The writing style has a certain visceral effectiveness, so on that particular writing point I’m give this props. Unfortunately, on most other points the game’s a bit problematic. It doesn’t have showstopping bugs as such, although there’s one instadeath which seemed to come out of a story branch I hadn’t really encountered and might qualify as a bug, but one serous problem with this game is its lack of implementation depth. There are a lot of scenery items not implemented, and a lot of interactable NPCs who are curiously short on non-default responses. There’s also a persistent technical error where items which have been picked up remain in the room description. So while the writing’s decent, I’m not impressed with the effort on other technical fronts. Plus the fact that it’s apparently only part 1 of a longer work; it did seem to be ending at the point where I would expect it to get interesting, leaving a kind of hollow pointlessness. The work itself is not inherently linear, but the actual relevant actions you can take seem to be limited to a pretty linear tasklist.

Rating: 4 (5 if I feel like being nice)

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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