The Act of Misdirection

by Callico Harrison

Fantasy/Historical/Horror
2004

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Number of Reviews: 8
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Trigger story, May 19, 2015
by jessewhite (Northern canada)

This game is the first 'modern' text adventure I have ever played. I have been a fan of text adventures since '82, and I have played through many of them, well into the 90s when I stopped. Having recently watched the "Get Lamp" documentary, i thought of trying the genre again on iPad.
I tried Art of Misdirection because it was the first interesting title I found on the alphabetical list, unfortunately i didn't like it.
The reasons that I will share need a caveat preceding them. When i played through Art of Misdirection, I didn't know of this review web page and a few of my criticisms are listed elsewhere on this forum. Had I known the scope of Art of Misdirection, I likely would have picked a different game. Since I made the error, I am adding my review to help inform would-be players of Art of Misdirection.

First, I noticed the moniker 'interactive fiction' is how these types of games are called now. I call them as they were originally dubbed 'text adventure'. This is a major point. This game is not an adventure, and I am hard pressed to even call it a game. It is what is called a 'trigger story' in Dungeons and Dragons. This means that there are no puzzles, no quest, no purpose other than finding the 'trigger' to activate the next part of the narrative. This is postmodern text gaming, where the player (should I say experiencer??) is meant to be fulfilled by experiencing the story, characters and the world it is set in. If I recall correctly, the Infocom game " A Mind Forever Voyaging" was leaning toward this ideology. I think it is boring.
Second, it is overwritten with cluttery verbiage, and confusing , non-sequitorial insertions. The game Trinity used insertions, but these were clues, drawn from literature and history. The insertions in Art of Misdirection are self referencing, and intended as moody, but ultimately hobble the story.
Third, being a trigger story, Art of Misdirection puts the player (experiencer) in a passive position, as most of the scenes depend on dialogue. The dialogue is the story here, thus the dialogue needs to be rolled out. This choice as a game element is a bad one, as the trigger can be passed thru by repeatedly typing "look". The game responds by giving you the next bit of dialogue automatically along with the room description.
Last, i hated that there was a preset gender to the game. I played thru the opening, picturing myself as a man, kinda like Hugh Jackman in the Prestige... And then as the 2nd part unravels I am being referred to as "girl". It actually took me a while to realize that I hadn't jumped into the body of another character ( I was hoping this was the body which matched the girl's head in the opening, but no). Regardless, it was a jarring switch, which is lousy writing. Good games make your gender/appearance irrelevant, so that you as a player can imagine yourself in any way.
In the end, this game ( it is not really a game) does not create the illusion that you as a player are in control. Your gender is preset, the story is train-tracked and there is very little incentive for you to keep going beyond interest in the story's ending. I'll take the old 'find treasure game' every time.


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Harry Coburn, May 19, 2015 - Reply
The text adventure genre has moved in a lot of different directions, but there are still games of that sort being made. Here are some others to try that may be more to your liking, some older, some newer:

The Unnkulia series (esp if you liked Zork and that zany humor, search for Unnkulia)
Theater (horror/treasure hunt)
Anchorhead (More narrative, but one of the best examples of Lovecraftian horror in the IF genre)
The Edifice (Better played than explained)

Also search for the XYZZY awards and find the games that won "best puzzle".

Welcome back to text adventures!
jessewhite, May 19, 2015 - Reply
Thanks for the tips. I was actually looking at Anchorhead just before I noticed your response to my review. Thanks very much. I will try it. Look for my review!
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