Reviews by Victor Gijsbers


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The City, by Sam Barlow

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Bleak Fragment, February 12, 2008
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Related reviews: bleak, short

The City by Sam Barlow is a short, bleak game. You start out in a bland room, with only a video recorder, a tape, and a remote control. So what do you do? You watch the tape. On it, you see a person just like you, in a bland room.

It won't take you long to realise that this person is you. And then the very boredom of your situation (which is equal for the character and the player) will make you want to break out of the situation that has been set up for you.

The first time I played it, I concluded that this was impossible. It is not--or at least not as impossible as it may seem at first glance. You should persevere: there is more to the story than just the first two location.

But even if you manage to reach the rest of the game and play it through completely, it will not leave you satisfied. There are a number of problems with The City, some of which could have been easily solved, and some of which couldn't. Solving the easy problems would push the game to a 3-star rating, but getting a 4-star rating would involve major extensions.

The easy problems all have to do with guess-the-verb situations, unimplemented objects, and stuff like that. The game was not beta-tested, and it shows. I didn't find any outright bugs, but lack of synonyms and guidance makes the game feel a little rough, and makes some of the puzzles far too difficult. I needed a walkthrough, and I won't be the only one.

The hard problem is that as it is, The City is only a fragment of a successful story. It could be the beginning, it could be the middle, it could even be the end, but we need more background, more action, more identification with the main character, before the situation presented gets the emotional power that Barlow is presumably striving for.

As it is, the game is too inconsequential. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and it could be used to great effect within a more substantial piece.

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