Written as a series of interlinked point of view stories, We Are the Firewall (WatF) presents a near-future dystopia of cultural wars, ubiquitous information systems, corrupt organisations, and educational first person shooters. Through this complex maze the protagonists attempt to navigate, each with their own story. Each almost but not quite interacting.
The text is dense and, at times, difficult - the narrative isn't straightforward or linear. It certainly doesn't pander to the reader. Untangling the strands and creating sense and meaning is, intentionally it seems, an act which impatient readers might tire of and be unwilling to engage with. This seems to be, at least in part, directly related to some of the underlying themes: a relationship with information, text, narratives, people is complex in a world in which information is constant and transitory. Complex and difficult to navigate.
The story uses multiple text effects in service of its narrative, some of which I have not seen before. Text appears and disappears. Changes. Often with little to no interaction by the player. At first this is disconcerting, but it rapidly becomes an accepted and integral part of the experience. Most interaction with text based games is static. The self-evolving/mutating text in WatF gives the piece a feeling of life and action and dynamism. And also instability and uncertainty. Which serves the story.
It's exciting how Twine authors are exploring their medium to produce novel ways for a reader to interact with their text. Anya DeNiro's 'We are the Firewall' as well as 'Solarium' I think rightfully belong in that top tier of longer experimental fiction/games alongside Porpentine, Phantom Williams and Jebediah Berry. The fact that it is also a beautifully written and affecting narrative is the cherry on the cake. It is a good day when you come across a work like this.
I have interacted with 4 of the protagonists so far, and, unlike many other branching texts, I am not ready to move on so quickly. I still want to interact with the others.
This is beautiful. A short, but affecting, unusual and imaginative think piece. As a coffin maker, you have the choice of which coffin to make for those that die. Your choices seem to matter. Yes. I like this very much.
Keith Campbell was a hero of mine. He wrote a monthly Adventure Games column in 'Computer and Video Games' - probably the most successful gaming publication in the UK for a while. In it, he would review a handful of games each month, and there would be a small set of hints for various games. I met him once - each year he would have a small stall at the large games fair held in the Olympia in London. I asked him a question about a game. He answered it. I can't even remember what it was, now. Unfortunately, Keith passed away quite recently. This, The Pen and the Dark, based on the Unorthodox Engineers stories by Colin Kapp was his only work of Interactive Fiction. Keith Campbell is the reason I began to play IF.
An indestructible column of darkness, and its penumbra have appeared on the planet. You are tasked with discovering the what's, the why's and how to get rid of it.
Keith liked Scott Adams adventures. And you can tell.
It is a two word, very basic, parser and suffers from all the frustrations of such. There is a door here. West? No. In? No. Go in? No. Enter? No. Open door? No. Go Door? Yes. It is also fairly unfair, much in keeping with the time. Some puzzles are un-clued. Some are clued fairly badly. Some are entirely of the mind-reading variety.
On the face of it, this game doesn't hold up to modern scrutiny.
But. But. There is something here. A kernel perhaps of something more. This is a game of big ideas. Some of the mechanisms, world modelling, and puzzle types here are relatively unique to a game of its time.
I am glad I re-played it. I remember, when it first came out in 1984 I failed entirely to get anywhere. Now, with the aid of a walkthrough, it is fascinating to see just how ambitious this game was. It was reaching for something new and clever, but just didn't have the toolkit to get there.
Here is a link to the manual.
Here's a link to a walkthrough (without which I doubt it could possibly be solved).
I played it on a BBC emulator. Here's a link to a disc image.
For me, Chandler Groover might be one of the best prose stylists in IF today. And Fuwa Bansaku is no exception, illustrating another tool in the author's already formidable toolbag.
Fuwa Bansaku, a telling of how the titular samurai undertakes a quest from his emperor to investigate a haunted temple, and paying homage to traditional Japanese poetic form and structure, is a lovely piece of work. Mechanically, it is simple. Advance, return and examine provide all the entry commands needed to advance the story and uncover additional player commands that deliver the back story. And this works extremely well. It is an entirely accessible piece of parser IF.
In what it aspires to, it achieves. It is an elegant, clever and innovative work of literary fiction. I urge everyone to spend the time to engage with it.
(Spoiler - click to show)If I have a criticism, it is that I would have liked the second half of the story to have bifurcated. Could I have made a choice that would have altered the ending?
Unlike a previous reviewer, I believe that the parser format, and the requirement to actually type a command, interacting with the text physically gives weight, and forces the player to focus on the prose. In a link format, where the eye is draw to the options before the prose is fully internalised, this story would have suffered. This prose needs to be savoured.
Much kudos to Sub-Q also for bringing works like this to a wider audience. More, please.
Far too many reviews have compared Summit to Porpentine's work. I don't see it. I see the intertextuality - the progression of the art form via Porpentine's experimentation - but there is where it ends for me. Summit stands on its own elegant and wistful feet as a considerable work of art.
Summit is a meditative, beautiful and extraordinarily imaginative text. The player is journeying toward an elusive mountain that seems ever unattainable - passing through cities and villages and crumbling ancient libraries. I played it to many endings, and I still don't think I have seen everything there is to see.
It was one of my favorite games of IF comp 2015.
Of all the astonishing imagery Summit has to offer, it is the concept of the fish-stomach that is most compelling. The people in the world of Summit have a stomach in which swim fish that must be eaten from time to time. If the fish are not eaten, it causes death, if they are, they nibble away at internal organs and will cause death. At the Summit is the myth of freedom from the tyranny of the fish-stomachs.
As an extended metaphor, I struggled with this. It is hard to assign a concrete meaning. As in any quest, it is the journey that matters. The fish-stomach, a crushing addiction/obligation - can you live with it even if the life you have isn't everything you had hoped? Or do you journey ever on, knowing that just around the corner might be your cure.
This beautifully presented multi-media dreamscape. Very very highly recommended.
Laid off from the Synesthesia Factory (LoftSF) does a clever and strange and beautiful thing. The player plays - types in commands - but suddenly their in-world actions aren't necessarily in total control of the narrative. Its trajectory and momentum continue with or without them. They guide the narrative maybe, rather than control it. At first, this is disconcerting, and for players used to the traditional parser model of action/triggered response, it could result in an extreme negative reaction.
And that would be a shame, because LoftSF shows me something I haven't seen before. As a player I am part of the narrative, I can suggest direction it might go. I can influence it at certain points, but I am also being guided by the hands of a master storyteller - taking me through a compelling beautifully written story that doesn't lose momentum or get bogged down by traditional parser mechanics.
Going forward, I want this idea to be explored more. If I have a criticism of LoftSF, it's that sometime I am unsure whether my actions are guiding the text, or the text would happen anyway and is just coincidentally reflecting my wishes. But, then again, maybe that's the point.
This is a game to be read without pre-conceived notions of IF.