IFComp 2013: Vulse, by Rob Parker

I’ll get through as much of the Nineteenth Annual Interactive Fiction Competition as I can. My criteria for numeric grades, unchanged in many years, are here. As always, if you’re a judge, don’t read on unless you have already played and reviewed the game yourself, and if your averse to spoilers, you won’t want to read this even if you aren’t judging.

Blurb: A dead body floats down a river into the heart of an infuriating small town. As the locals grapple with the murder, they must also contend with the breakdown of cause-and-effect and the realization that the world is not for them anymore.

Apparently narrative IF is dead. Four games in and I have yet to see anything even resembling a coherent story. This feels more like a hypertext beat poem than an actual work of IF. There is a vague pretense of having a temporal and spatial frame, but for the most part descriptions just blur into each other randomly in a way which seems to say nothing in particular but conveys a vaguely frustrated sense of urban decay. There’s points for mood, and I might dare to ennoble this with the name of “art”, but it’s not making terribly effective use of its interactivity: there’s no sense of player involvement that really ever emerges. Giving the player some influence on and interest in the world-state, and making the world-state more comprehensible, would go a long way towards making this something which actually works as IF. As it stands it just doesn’t present anything save mood, and while that’s an important element, it can’t actually prop up a piece on its own.

Rating: 6

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

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