IFComp 2014: Enigma, by Simon Deimel

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition is on! Get your judge on for yourself over at ifcomp.org. This is the second game I’m judging in the competition. Why, yes, I am way behind.

Blurb: Eyes can see, and a mind can think. Insanity is just one step away. You are in a room. That’s where you are, and you know exactly what is going on. But the truth is hard to take.

This game is an interesting experiment, but somehow it fell flat for me. Some of it might be pacing, with the elements coming out in what feels like the wrong order. I mean, fine, I figure out early that I’m pointing a gun at my best friend. That’s pretty obviously a bad situation. And I’m only about 4 steps down the daisy-chain before I (as the reader) have figured out that he did something horrible to my sister. Smart money on rape, decent odds on murder. It would be interesting if it weren’t any sort of violation at all and that I was actually the bad guy but I’m not really counting on that. By the time I actually examine and think about exactly the right objects to notice her dead body, it kind of feels anticlimactic. And if discoveriing your sister’s corpse is anticlimactic, then you may be doing tension wrong.

Besides pacing issues, there’s a level-of-abstraction problem. I got hung up on “think about doubts”, because those weren’t exactly obvious the way physical objects and the more concrete ideas (like the relationship and the phone call) were. The writing is awfully affectless, and I can’t tell if that’s intentional. The PC comes across as stiff and mechanical, but it’s not clear whether that’s his character, a moment of shock, or just poor writing. Certainly the other two figures in the story don’t come out any less mechanical: Tim’s only utterances are glazed-eyes happy craziness, and Gina seems to have absolutely no character other than being angelic. We don’t even know what they like/don’t like about each other, or why Tim is sounding like a suicide-cult member.

So, while there are some interesting ways of conveying a state of mind in this story, they ultimately needed to be in service of something less generic and better paced.

Rating: 6

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

One Response to IFComp 2014: Enigma, by Simon Deimel

  1. gsanders says:

    “And if discoveriing your sister’s corpse is anticlimactic, then you may be doing tension wrong.” Dark humor, but that made the review for me.

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