IFComp 2011: The Myothian Falcon, by Andy Joel

This is the twenty-second (and probably last) 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: “That day, the 9th of June, 3145, started out like any other, perhaps a little hotter than usual. Then Maisy DeValle entered his office.”
Vic Gantry, P.I., has a new client. She is wanted for the murder of her rich husband, Lawrence.

Hmm. First we get a surreal take on The Big Sleep, and now we get what seems like it’s going to be a sci-fi take on The Maltese Falcon. Patterns in Comps are strange, and it looks like this is going to be the year of the wacky take on hard-boiled detective fiction (2010 was The Year of the Zombie, 2009 was The Year of the Hangover, and 2004 was the Year of the Cryotube).

This one’s in Quest. I’m not sure when I last played a Quest game. Anyways, I don’t have an interpreter that works with Quest 5 and had to play this one online, so this has the remarkable property of being the only game for which I am acknowledging (because I have no choice) the existence of mid-Comp updates.

The initial room description has a comma splice and a sentence fragment. I might read these as intentional genre style markers, except that there’s no indication of intentionality. What is clearly intentional is the shift in person and tense: it’s a third-person, past-tense work, which is interesting stylistically and appears to be correctly done; I didn’t catch it lapsing into any unseemly defaults. There are some idiomatic peculiarities, such as the use of “was sat” and building names without articles that gives me a vague sense that the author either isn’t a native speaker, or is deliberately imitating a non-native speaker, of American English.

State management is wonky: I’m told that “an attractive woman, hopefully a new client, was sat [sic] on the left one, waiting for Vic to ask her what her business was.” long after I’ve sussed out her business, and she doesn’t seem to leave until I actually walk out of the room. I accidentally fell into a conversation that seemed to belong later in the game with the fairly innocuous command “>ASK PIGGY SUE ABOUT DRINK”.

This work unfortunately lacks the descriptive vocabulary I’d associate with the period it’s clearly trying to emulate: for instance, I found the overuse of the word “guy” problematic (where the like of Hammett tended to come up wuith synonyms which had connotative shades). It doesn’t feel very hard-boiled, in the end, and the introduction of the sci-fi elements is distracting at best.

I can’t find anything particularly bad about this one, and it’s got a certain level of polish, but somehow it jsut felt awfully colorless and didn’t ilve up to any particular ideal, as far as I could find. There were a lot of NPCs, and I couldn’t always find quite the conversation topics to make things move forwards, and I eventually just ran out of enthusiasm.

Rating: 5

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

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