Reviews by Sam Kabo Ashwell
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Related reviews: paranormal, conspiracy, large, romance, dating sim, gender
I first played this in IF Comp 2002, and didn't get very far; I was running on an unsupported Mac interpreter. It placed sixth of thirty-eight -- which, looking back, seems to be roughly the line between the games of some enduring quality and the those that were unremarkable or deeply flawed. And it remains one of the more popular ADRIFT games, so I thought it might be worth revisiting.
The basic premise is that a shadowy agency is trying to kidnap or control a number of psychokinetic girls; more or less at random, they ask the PC for help and proceed to become entirely reliant on him. The main aim is to pick a girl, then develop your relationship score to a high enough level to get a special ending.
As everybody else has stated, it's conspicuously sexist, in a genre-derived, uninteresting way. Further, it's in denial about it: the hero is portrayed as chastely chivalrous and pointedly contrasted against "real" sexists and perverts, while rhapsodising over the sweet submissive innocence of childlike girls. This worldview is not an unfortunate flaw: it's foundational. Inhabiting a particular representation of gender is the central purpose of the game, and considerably less attention is paid to the evil-institutional-conspiracy / paranormal-powers plot.
Romance is portrayed in a decidedly unromantic way, as a matter of dispensing gifts, assistance and compliments while not hitting on other girls (if it might be noticed). It's romance stripped of the complicated social intangibles; though never turning into porn, it's definitely running on porn-logic. If it actually acknowledged that it was D/s lifestyle fetish, it'd be rather less unnerving.
The writing is going for a sort of charmingly-awkward effect, the sort of not-quite-fluent style you often get with second-language writers or patchy translations. It doesn't always sustain this, frequently dropping into Generic IF Bland. Other anime-derived stuff -- overuse of ellipsis in dialogue, busy upbeat music, template characters and settings -- is likely to annoy anybody not already enamoured with the form.
Gameplay wobbles between linearity and go-everywhere-to-see-if-anything's-changed, although this is largely a conscious design decision; the plot's streamlining is sacrificed at various points to allow for lots of optional content. On the other hand, the map tends to be designed with an eye to its effect on pacing the first time you run through, to the detriment of re-exploration, and there's a narrow inventory limit. Conversation is rather stunted; when it breaks into multiple-choice menus, it's often a matter of one Good Choice and several bad ones that end the conversation.
If you can get past all this, it has a number of things to offer: it's quite long and has considerable replay value. It may appeal if you like games which involve hunting out optional content, of which there is a great deal. Its use of multimedia is genre-appropriate and executed with skill, and for a game of its size, particularly in ADRIFT, it has a more than respectable level of polish. But this is like saying that GTA has really immersive world design, if you can just get past the violence and reckless driving. Slow pacing and lots of optional content is fine if you enjoy the basic texture of the world; if the world makes your skin crawl, it becomes a liability.
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