IFComp 2014: Transparent, by Hanon Ondricek

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition is on! Get your judge on for yourself over at . This is the first game I’m judging in the competition.

Blurb: There is a house.
There is a room in the house.
There is a door in the room. The door is locked.
Some people are in the room.
Some people are transparent.

Well, the blurb leads me to expect something metatextual, since that is a chunk of Inform 7 code right there. But the initial impressions of the game proper are much more ambiguous, seeming a more traditional and polished (if a trifle over-written) a work. The encouragement to photograph everything makes me move very slowly towards the actual plot. The game goes out of its way to make actually progressing difficult: lights that turn off automatically, a photo flash that needs constant recharging, a tiny inventory limit: even when you’ve figured out how to do things, these obstructions make things rather tedious. And then both my batteries are stolen. My impetus to continue has been annoyed into oblivion.

There are bizarre effects which seem to be bugs: the rooms upstairs aren’t referencable with cardinal directions, and don’t seem to quite link up properly; sometimes when I try to pick something up, I’m told “that seems to belong to Someone”. I sense a game whose ambition outstrips its ability. And there is a fair bit of realized ambition here: a large amount of locations, a high implementation depth, some autonomous actors and tracking of the battery statuses. Unfortunately, many of these technical achievements are dubious in terms of craft, because they’re more irritating than immersive.

And then there’s the “your beta-testers totally should have caught this” list: I get the line “bulbs or [sic] burnt out” when flipping a switch; “paintings” isn’t recognized as a synonym for the portraits. I photographed “a the air”, and I’m told on departure that I ‘lost my camera’, even if I didn’t. Trying to use “light” as a noun seems to always think it should be plural.

There’s enough clunkiness that I really can’t recommend this work. The author has some pretty good craft, but needs to temper the ambitiousness and distinguish between ideas that are interesting to code and those that are fun to play.

Rating: 5


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

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