I Am Prey

by Joey Tanden profile

Science Fiction

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Number of Ratings: 11
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Original, Exciting, and Eminently Replayable, November 12, 2023

This game’s concept feels like it shouldn’t work as interactive fiction. A core mechanic of running, hiding, and escaping from an enemy? Can a turn-based text medium build enough tension to make that work?

In this case, absolutely. You spend most of your time exploring a futuristic facility, trying to escape it while avoiding (or sometimes provoking) the “Predator” who is hunting for you. Getting around the facility is an adventure on its own. The size of the map is daunting at first, but a “map mode” makes it easier to get your bearings while learning the layout, and ultimately the large map makes the experience much more enjoyable: the movement and exploration mechanics are perhaps the strongest feature of this game. You can scramble through secret passages, leap across furniture, and duck into hiding spots. There are automatic doors which can clue you in on the location of your opponent (or alert him to yours, if you’re not careful). You can peek through doors and around corners to check for danger. You could spend a long time searching out all the secret accesses and rooms, of which there are a surprising number. It’s just plain fun.

The Predator himself is menacing - the writing is quite effective in building a character who is both frightening and fascinating. After a couple of playthroughs, I found myself trying to interact with the Predator more, and was occasionally rewarded with new dialogue or character tidbits. In that vein, I highly recommend playing at least once in “cat mode”, where you can wander freely as the Predator’s pet cat. You learn more about the history of the facility and its inhabitants, and get a very funny narrative perspective.

I’m not generally an action or survival horror fan, but I’ve spent multiple hours playing this game and had an absolute blast throughout. The replay value is through the roof. My only criticism would be that some of the mechanics could be fleshed out more, particularly the “tricks” one can use to manipulate or deter the Predator. However, judging from the source code, the author is still adding to the game; I’m very much looking forward to future updates. In the meantime, there is plenty to explore here.

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- Sophia de Augustine, July 19, 2023

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mr. Mouse, meet Mz. Cat, July 12, 2023
by JJ McC
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2023

Adapted from a SpringThing23 Review

Played: 4/6/23
Playtime: 1hr, in tutorial mode with Sneak off, escaped!

Ok just up front, let me say I’m going to do my best to stay neutral on this but you should know my biases:

1. I’m a TADStan. Full bore. While clearly pushing me one way, there is also some back pressure in that I can’t help but constantly think ‘ooh, nice use of OutOfReach Container object…’ ‘aah, they maybe implemented it this way…’ ‘ehh that prepositional variable is off…’ which fights engagement.
2. Triggered is too strong a word. Maybe Tweaked. I get tweaked by ‘things stalking you’ games. It gives me anxiety way out of proportion for a guy typing on a keyboard.
3. The TADS author group is populated by a wonderful cast of Mensch and SuperMensch. Even among that Menschy population, Joey stands out among the Menschiest.

What I’m saying is you will have to judge how successfully I put all that aside. Anyway, this is surely the best game of the Thing, probably the year, maybe all time.

No, let me try to run at that again.

The setup is, you are a new life form in a sci-fi closed base setting, pushed into a life and death game of cat and mouse by a chatty but mostly unseen Adversary. WHY ARE WE ALWAYS THE MOUSE IN THESE THINGS??? There are two supporting docs you should absolutely secure before playing. A map and a rule book. I was a bit put off by the rule book. It is certainly complete. It also throws a LOT of information, gameplay reveals, and commands at you, before you have any game context. I definitely felt information overload reading it, the anxiety of needing to remember lots piling on my ‘I don’t like being prey!’ anxiety. Which is weird, because I am also a board game guy, and it certainly is not excessive in those terms.

On the other hand, the map is both cool and vital. Don’t try to play without it.

After the preliminaries, you wake up from your sci-fi cocoon and must parser your way to freedom! Despite the nervous wreck it made me, the stalking aspect is absolutely crucial to this game. Between that and the Turn Counter (or, as I though of it, the Stalker Progress Tracker) you are immediately focused on optimizing everything you do. Given I was playing in baby mode, maybe I didn’t need to be so nervous but whatever. The environs are economically described, in the sweet spot of having personality but not weighing down with repetition. There are some ‘gamey’ aspects (like letter coding segments of corridor) that at first feel weird to read, but quickly settle into transparent map orientation shorthand. Though god forbid you don’t have a map. (To be fair, there are accessibility hooks I did not test drive that may alleviate this.)

I really dug the parkour element of the game, though I chafed at calling it ‘parkour.’ Practically speaking, what it amounts to is finding hidden areas and exits in rooms by scrambling over stuff. That’s cool! As a word though, ‘parkour’ evokes a kinetic, acrobatic dance of sorts, and this is not that. This is finding hidden areas and exits. What it does do is make even the most spartan of rooms intriguing with possibility, and often rewarded! There seemed to be a few glitches once you parkoured (yes, I will be making up verbs in this series of reviews too), specifically around what was visible/reachable from different perches, but rarely and nothing fatal. At least on baby mode.

Two more quick quibbles. One, I think the Adversary needs just a little more spice. The impulse to let the reader’s imagination do the work is good, as I think we are meant to be unclear whether they are human or not. (Sidebar, there are some enigmatic things you can find that beg all kinds of intriguing questions.) It would be even better with just a few unexplained and disconcerting details. “The voice somehow catches when making glottal sounds, in a way human tongues never do.” “Every now and then, a dragging sound accompanies the footsteps.” “I catch a glimpse of cold, unblinking eyes. I’m not sure if it’s a trick of the light or if they glowed with a frigid inner light.”

Second, I think the search puzzle could be a little harder. Thanks to a quirk of the randomizer, (Spoiler - click to show)I found over half my escape items in one place! Though maybe I shouldn't complain about being Too Easy on Baby Mode.

Yeah, I’m overcompensating on the negative. I really had a blast playing this, and in particular liked the additional nuance of the parkour mechanism. Notwithstanding the mechanic’s name, it made what could have felt limiting and sterile breathe a bit with its own vibe. And I didn’t mention the stealth capabilities which were also crucial to this! You can manage or be tripped up by slamming doors. You can peek into and around areas before bumbling into your pursuer. There are atmospheric cues that help you gauge how close your pursuer is. All of these really push you into the role in an effective way and make the game feel more fair. While I didn’t include my IFCOMP metric of 'Would play after comp?' I definitely will.

Prolly also devour the source code like a novel.

Spice Girl: Scary Spice
Vibe: Controlled Panic
Polish: Smooth
Is this TADS? YES, oh gods of my fathers! Lo’ the clouds didst part and the skies were rent with sweet music… sigh

Feels like I took the long way around on this gag.

Gimme the Wheel! While spicing the villain seems an obvious next step, if it were me I think I would instead focus on internalizing the rule book into the game. Not just cut and pasting it into HINTS/HELP, ( I mean definitely do that, but the author seems to already have that planned) but introducing mechanisms through early gameplay. “He’s almost caught me! As I duck into the Lab, I reflexively SLAM the door behind me. I hear his satisfying cry of pain and the sound of feet staggering. That gave him pause, I reflect with momentary satisfaction. What do I do with the bought time?” If narrative alone can’t get the job done, “(I have unlocked SLAM DOOR!)”

Spice Girl Ratings: Scary(Horror), Sporty (Gamey), Baby (Light-Hearted), Ginger (non-CWM/political), Posh (Meaningful)
Polish scale: Gleaming, Smooth, Textured, Rough, Distressed
Gimme the Wheel: What I would do next, if it were my project.

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- pieartsy (New York), July 9, 2023

- EJ, May 17, 2023

- Pinkunz (USA), May 16, 2023

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cat and mouse with varying level of difficulties, May 14, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game has a lot more in common with roguelikes than standard IF gameplay (unless I've deeply misunderstood roguelikes). There is a fixed map with seven important items randomly generated in it, and an enemy that moves around the map and reacts to you; additionally, there are several difficulty levels that basically give you 'extra lives' or make the enemy a bit slower.

I beta tested an early version of this game.

Here are my overall thoughts:

+Polish: The game claims to be a beta, but I found the version I played (near the end of Spring Thing) to be fairly complete; I didn't find any bugs, and objects had a lot of detail.

+Descriptiveness: The map is both overflowing and sparse. Each room is detailed, but many of them overlap in the items they have (filing cabinets, screens, etc.). Items are utilitarian but hint at a greater cause. It's an interesting mix, and I found it fairly evocative. The map is very helpful.

+Interactivity: The frantic scrambling around to find the seven items isn't something I've seen a lot before, and it was a fun change from the usual staid, considered type of IF game I tend to play. There is a parkour element, but it never came into play for me, playing on the easiest non-tutorial setting. Its main effect seems to be to help with escaping, but I only ran into the Predator once, near the very end. Perhaps in harder difficulties it is more useful.

-Emotional impact: I think the writing overall is strong, but a lot of the pieces just didn't fall into place for me. The story has so many intro declarations and warnings and prefacing and guides that it almost felt bubblewrapped, designed to protect me from the game but simultaneously blunting its experience. The warnings on themselves are useful, as the game has frequent strong profanity, which isn't always in service to some overarching narrative goal. In the game itself, there are a couple of strong threads: (Spoiler - click to show)a capitalist society trying to make brainwashed slaves, (Spoiler - click to show)a fellow clone, or some other experiment, hunting you down, perhaps as a test to make you stronger?, (Spoiler - click to show)a siege wearing you down. They all tie together in game, but they feel disparate. Is your pursuer your comrade or your foe? Both are okay individually, but with both as possibilities there was less tension for me.

+Would I play again? The core gameplay loop isn't bad, and the overall polish makes for solid gameplay. I could see myself revisiting it.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A door slams shut..., May 4, 2023
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

(This review is based on the Spring Thing 2023 version.)

Well this is something else!

I Am Prey is a tense pursuit thriller where the PC is free to parkour around the map. If you can find the routes in time…

What the player would normally think of as scenery is transformed into accessible passages and back-ways in this game. Furniture, pipings, machinery,… They’re all available for climbing, jumping, crawling to find alternate routes and handy shortcuts around the map. Good thing too, the normal hallways are patrolled by a monstrous unseen entity looking to find you. (The fact that the kitchen pantry has been empty for some time does hint at the reason why…)

I tested this game in its bare-bones parkour proof-of-concept incarnation. It felt like spotting some rare and beautiful lizard in the branches of a vine-overgrown tree. A flicker of colour and movement that I could not quite make out yet.
What a treat to see it now in its glorious splendour!

The commands will take getting used to, as will orienting yourself in relation to the passages between locations. Read the manual and take your time to learn the game. You will be rewarded.

There is an anxiousness-inducing stealth element to the game, where the PC needs to locate certain items before being able to escape. All the while the presence of the Predator is felt and heard, every corner might be lethal.
Sounds play an important role. First of all the voice of your pursuer taunting you through the intercom. I found this actively stressful, distracting from the task at hand and paralysing me with indecisiveness.
Second, sound betrays where you and the pursuer are. Used with care, sound can be your ally…

Along with being a stealth game, I Am Prey also rang a lot of platformer-bells in my head. Jumping, climbing on surrounding objects to find hidden routes? My days playing SuperMarioLand on the SNES revolved around all that.

A parser-based text-game is turn-based, almost by definition. (Real time parsers will exist, no doubt. I shudder at the heartattack-inducing experience playing them would be for typing-challenged me.) Movement between locations is not the point, the game’s about what you do once you are in the next location. Contrary to that habitual room-based gameplay, I Am Prey succeeds in drawing the player into the movement-system as the key-feature of the game.

Remember the resting points on the platforms Mario could stand on relatively safely? You had just completed a precise jump onto a reassuringly broad platform and now you can breathe and plan the next move. Maybe there’s even a questionmark-block to investigate or some coins to pick up. But the focus is on the next jump, the next climb.

The rooms in I Am Prey felt like this to me. Places of temporary relative safety, for catching your breath and quickly searching. But you gotta move, man… You always gotta move…

Very exciting, very inviting to replay. I’ve never seen anything remotely like it.

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- Max Fog, May 3, 2023

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), April 16, 2023

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
So am I, April 10, 2023

I had a lot of things to do recently and figured that I could get around to some of them now that the stream of new entries on IFDB died down a bit. But then Spring Thing 2023 was like, “actually…”

But nonetheless I was thrilled to see what people have submitted to this lovely event.

I was immediately drawn to this game. The cover art embodies the weirdness I absolutely live for. It reminds me of my favorite playlist of poorly and/or strangely animated YouTube videos that spew absolute nonsense, although I Am Prey is more refined than that in terms of content.

Just a heads up, the author has made it clear that the game’s entry to Spring Thing is experimental and in Beta phase. Consider my rating as a tentative three stars that merely reflect the state of this current version. I hope the author continues to develop the game into its intended final product. Cool stuff.

I Am Prey follows a clone protagonist in an abandoned cloning facility located in who-knows-where. You are a sickly-looking thing reminiscent of an albino lab rat. But you are anything but a lab rat. You are a durable and annoyed clone eager to survive past your first birthday. And you will prove it by escaping this mess of a facility.

By the way, Prey, you are being hunted by the Predator.

The gameplay begins with you catching your balance in a mesh net after being born as a fully grown clone. Happy birthday! Naked, you grab a uniform and marvel at your new existence. It does not take long for reality to kick in. The Predator makes an announcement over the intercom: He is coming for you! Yes, you must run or be killed.

Your only hope is to retrieve seven pieces of a spacesuit-like garment that will allow you to survive in the wasteland outside of the facility which can only be accessed via the emergency airlock.

The key component for strategizing in the gameplay is the sound of the doors while you explore each room. When door slams shut, it alerts the Predator who takes opportunity to announce your mistake over the intercom.

The Predator's voice can be heard over the intercom:

“Sloppy, Prey! You let the door to Lab B slam shut! That means you’re near Lab B, yeah...?”

Of course, you can use this condition to throw him for a loop by slamming a door and then scurrying off to a hallway on the opposite side of the facility like the clever clone you are.

There is high replay value in the sense that you have six modes you can play in. One is a tutorial for players new to interactive fiction, another is for those new to the game, and the remaining four are different difficulty levels depending on the Predator’s mood. This ranges from Easy Mode to Nightmare Mode.

The Predator has had a string of victories, and will go easy on you, mostly for his own entertainment.

The IF beginner tutorial is where you play as the Predator’s cat which on one hand, yay, but on the other, I am not entirely sure of the point. The Predator wants to give you a bath and you want to avoid that outcome by hiding. It is useful for simply scoping at the map, but it did not give me much more insight that I would otherwise have as a fugitive clone running for their life.

My black coat is speckled with streaks of silvery tips. White highlights my chest and paws, like a tuxedo.

Nor was it much of a tutorial for IF. Still, I appreciate the option. The cat’s personality shines through which makes it a humorous diversion. Even if the cat (Spoiler - click to show) only eats human clone flesh as of late.

Do not be afraid to test out the more difficult modes since there were times in the easier ones where it seemed like that the Predator simply forgot about me. He would do the creepy monolog over the intercom to reassure me that I was dead to him, but then this trickled away. I actually went looking for him with little success.

However, there are a several gameplay mechanics that are showcased in the helpful survival guide (provided separately) but never fully used or as dynamic as they sound (so far).

For example, there is the usage of “tricks” to throw off the Predator. These tactics include turning on sinks to distract him with irritating noises or slamming the door in his face to slow him down. Rarely did I ever get the chance to use them. It is easy to forget that they are available. Of course, availability depends on which mode you select at the start of the game.

Slam the exit door?
You have two tricks remaining, which you can spend on slamming the door in his face! This will delay his chase, but will cost one of your tricks!
Y = Slam the door!
L = Leave door open

Unless the game flat out presented me with a trick opportunity (see above), I never used them or even needed them.

The parkour idea is cool but nowhere near as cool it sounds since it consists of jumping onto tables or lockers to reach something on the top shelf. Right now, it is more of a hindrance. The vent shortcuts to other rooms were nice, though.


The following surfaces are either in easy reach, or rest on the same surface that I do:
the exit door
the desk

First you must find a parkour route in the room for it to be used. Discovering it was a byproduct of the game telling me that [room object name] was too high for me to jump on but [room object name] was, although it often took another [room object name] to reach the unusually tall table. While part of the whole point of parkour is to reach areas by jumping or climbing around, it needs more refinement for it to have the same thrilling effect in the gameplay.

One feature that I did use was the “look [compass direction]” command. It was genuinely helpful in deciding on where to go based on the contents of nearby rooms.

>look north
I carefully peek north...

(looking into The Assembly Shop...)

He paces around on the floor, as he watches me!

(returning my attention to The Common Room...)

I better get going, then.

Also, how do you reach the reservoir? The map (separate) shows several locations that seem to be off-limits in the gameplay. These locations are (Spoiler - click to show) Waste Processing, Reservoir Corridor, Reactor Pump Room, Reservoir Control Room, Reservoir, and Utility Access Corridor. A total of five locked doors are also shown on the map. None of these have cat doors.

I am not sure if the game will let you go swimming/exploring in reactor related areas, but the survival guide did say that you could dive into the reservoir to escape. The closest I got to this was a location called (Spoiler - click to show) “The Strainer Stage” where water is separated from kelp with a grate. You cannot enter the grate or swim in the water, leaving you with no choice but to return the way you came.

While flawed and undeveloped in some cases, I still had fun. I’ve already played this game several times.

Story + Characters
So, who is this guy? The Predator, that is.

What we know about the Predator is that (Spoiler - click to show) he’s a mutated clone gone wrong who is now aware of your presence and wants to hunt you down, perhaps as a potential snack. The facility ran out of snacks long ago. The cloning facility was run by non-clone humans and designed to generate a labor source of clones for industrial applications, but some catastrophe happened. This is the Predator’s turf now.

The game ends when you reach the emergency airlock after collecting all seven pieces of your environmental suit. This leads to a scene that seemed like it was supposed to be an emotional moment, but ultimately it did not impact me the way I thought it intended.

(Spoiler - click to show) Both Predator and Prey meet face to face on opposite sides of the airlock where it is obvious that the Prey has won. There is this fellow clone bonding moment where they realize that they are not that different from each other after all. The Prey, knowing that they could never be accepted by humans in the outside world, leaves with the intent of never letting humans get their grubby paws on the facility again.

This is a neat idea in terms of character development, but the writing is lackluster. It also lacks the exposition to make it unfold with any depth. While it could be a meaningful exchange, currently it is not. My response was huh, that’s… nice. I have a feeling that is not the response the author was going for.

Also, I do not mind profanity if it is wielded strategically, which is up to interpretation, but the swearing in this game leaves a weak impression on the player. It does not enhance anything. We know that the Predator is angry that this Prey is running around his abandoned cloning facility. How dare you. How dare you try to escape.

It’s just that the swearing in the dialog in these scenes seemed unoriginal and bland.

Final thoughts
The author seems to have a strong grasp of their own boundaries and abilities when making a game under strict time restraints, in this case being submitted to Spring Thing 2023. It seems clear to me that the author focused their efforts on a consistent structural framework so that the game was playable and could be completed from start to finish. Gather seven pieces of a survival suit and escape.

Was it sparse in some areas? Yes. But I would rather have a sparse game with a strong foundational structure than a game with all the fun details that is a nightmare to finish.

Still, details can make or break a game as well. The author has stated that they plan to release a post-comp version, and I look forward to seeing I Am Prey in its full glory. Already it is a fun and unusual game. Three stars for a Beta version is not too bad. And for crying out loud, let me swim in the reservoir.

Truth is, exploring (sorry, being chased around) an abandoned cloning facility is kind of fun.

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