Spider and Web

by Andrew Plotkin profile

Science Fiction/Espionage
1998

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5 star:
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Number of Reviews: 27
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing game, what most IF can only hope to achieve, December 6, 2010

This game is so good it hurts.

Really really good use of the medium. I have attempted to tell so many people about this game that my friends are bored. This is the memory of playing that I pull out when I am trying to explain to a non-IF player what the genre is all about and how exciting and mind-bending it can be.

Not really a spoiler, but marked for the especially sensitive:
(Spoiler - click to show)There is a part in the game in which I realized that what I was doing as the PC (in a flashback) was not what I had really done.

It created this weird moment when I realized that the author and I had entered into a strange conspiracy to tell the computer lies. In other words, the game state was not merely contained within some data structure in software, but existed in the mind of the player and the author. Weird.


2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
What else is there to tell?, November 27, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)

Spider and Web is all about trial and error. Yet it somehow manages to make those trials and errors fun, intriguing, and occasionally illuminating. A too heavy-handed description of the story, or even the gameplay, would ruin the several "a-ha!" moments that Plotkin has set up for you. Play for a few minutes and you'll see the first. The second is nested much deeper.... While the game provides enough hints to keep things moving along, I was occasionally overwhelmed by the multitude of items in my possession, and the occasionally maze-like layout of the setting. However, there's a cognitively dissonant moment near the end - you'll know it when you see it - that could only be pulled off in IF, and only by somebody like Plotkin. It's when - no, I'll never tell.


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
A clever take on Rashomon, May 14, 2010
by TempestDash (Cincinnati, Ohio)

This was my third Plotkin-written game (discounting the Plotkin-starring game I played first, ‘Being Andrew Plotkin’) and I think it’s my favorite thus far. “So Far” was somewhat standard adventure hunt and puzzle faire (at least from a modern perspective, maybe in 1996 it was evolutionary), which was well written but wasn’t very fun for me. Then “Shade” was surreal and technically accomplished but left me feeling very unsatisfying because, ultimately, dream logic is really the absence of logic and Interactive Fiction games suffer horribly if you can’t figure out what the author was thinking.

Finally, “Spider and Web” has helped me understand why zarf is such a popular figure in IFdom. Spider and Web starts with a somewhat conservative opening, a man standing in an alley in front of a door he can’t open. But just as you are about to get bored (which the game figures out by you either standing around doing nothing or simply walking away from the door) you are suddenly blinded by light and find the curtain of the world torn away.

It turns out you have been captured by an organization and have been strapped to a chair to be interrogated. The interrogation is taking place in a unique manner, however. You’ve been connected to a computer which is allowing you to step into places you know from your memory and re-enact the events that led to your capture while your interrogator watches the play from his console. Ostensibly, the ‘game’ is about trying to figure out what you had done the first time around so you can show your interrogator and prevent him from killing you in frustration. The simulation you’re placed in allows you some freedom in that goal, but any time you do something that contradicts the evidence your interrogator has gathered, you are stopped and forced to restart the simulation after being told why what you did doesn’t match the evidence gathered.

Even if that was the entirety of the game, it would be fun and certainly out of the ordinary for the IF games I’ve played. But, naturally, that’s not all that’s going on. (Spoiler - click to show)And about three quarters of the way through the game something happens that changes your perspective on what you’ve been experiencing, bringing some doubt to whether you've been fully honest in your telling of events. Of course, the truth has been cleverly hinted at all the way through the game as well, with clever parser responses to actions that should be standard. For instance, very early in the game you obtain a ‘wrapped package’, but all attempts to open or unwrap the package receive the cryptic response “Not yet.” This does an excellent job of adding mystery to what is going on and make the reveal towards the end so much more satisfying.

The writing in this game is excellent, as is to be expected from Plotkin, so there is little more to say.

The gameplay, while ingenious at times, is a little cumbersome at times too. Much of the game involves meandering around doing things until something triggers your interrogator to intervene and reset the simulation because it didn’t match the facts. Then your challenge is to figure out how what the interrogator said you didn’t do alludes to what you DID do, and then do that.

Okay, that was a confusing way of putting it. Ultimately, it’s trial and error. You do something, like open a door, and then the interrogator yanks you out of the simulation and says something like “No, that door wasn’t opened until after you cut power to the security systems, otherwise the alarms would have gone off.” Then you are thrust back into the game and need to figure out where the security systems are to shut them off. This isn’t an actual scenario from the game, but it gives you an idea of what’s expected of you.

Unfortunately, what the interrogator implies is not always straightforward and I spent quite a bit of time fumbling around trying to figure out what was next. This is exacerbated near the end of the game when the guiding words of the interrogator are absent for a plot-related reason. Also, the end goal of the game, which is to obtain a MacGuffin of some sort, requires a bit of reading between the lines to figure out what exactly it is and what you should do with it when you get it. Unfortunately, I needed a walkthrough in the end to fully figure out what to do in the final few minutes of the game.

Overall, this game is excellent, and does a great job of allowing you to play a very, very intelligent protagonist without feeling as though you’re breaking his character. The story twist is superb, and launches an otherwise average spy story into new heights. Fully recommended.


2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A tangle of deception, a web of fear, October 25, 2008
by James Jolley (Peterborough, United Kingdom)
Related reviews: IF Comp Reviews

This game takes place in an unusual setting. Your at the mercy of an interrogator, replaying events that have already taken place. Your aim is to please him in the early going, to defeat him later on. This game uses some of the most interesting gadgets. Bond fans will love them. Learning how they interact with each other is the premise of the game.

How does it compare to more modern efforts? It stands alone I think, given the time at witch it was written.

Highly recommended.


19 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
A New Implementor is Born, March 24, 2008

When I first discovered that interactive fiction had started a renaissance of sorts, I was mostly excited about the possibility of playing the old Infocom titles again. I had tried several games before Spider and Web, and, like so many of those before it, this game started out bland and uninteresting. Like the others, it seemed to be the product of someone with far more enthusiasm than skill as either a programmer or storyteller; its most interesting feature seemed to be the title.

Three minutes later, I was surprised to find that this game had a point and was interesting. Ten minutes later, I was awestruck.

I still hold the Infocom games up as the gold standard, but this game was the first I encountered that rated a "platinum" label. Daring in its conception and almost always brilliant in its execution of both programming and prose, Spider and Web shows the true power of the medium. This story simply couldn't be told in any other format in such an effective way.

I reserve five stars for works that are not just good, but that reach the epitome of a particular genre or otherwise earn a "landmark" status. Such works are the yardsticks by which all others are measured. I'm happy to bestow my first five star rating here on Spider and Web for its sheer genius in terms of premise and construction.

Kudos to Mr. Plotkin, who well deserves his reputation as a star in the IF community.


1 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Best IF game I've ever played, November 22, 2007
by puzzler (Everett, Washington)

This is the best IF game I've ever played. The story, puzzles, all work together perfectly.


0 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
No clue., October 18, 2007
by isd (Tokyo)
Related reviews: dictatorial

Had no clue from the start, tried to read the beginning of the walkthrough 5 minutes later(the existence of the walkthrough itself shows a fatal weekness in the design)... didn't manage to find some interesting pattern to play with.
This could have been interesting, if it was playable, or at least not frustrating right from the start.
I think there is something to learn here.
I wouldn't like a book with "Let's have fun! Guess the number of the second page." as the first paragraph.


13 of 31 people found the following review helpful:
Frustrating and Dull, October 18, 2007
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Games like Spider and Web are why I've never understood the wide appeal that the author commands. At the beginning, the mechanism that drives the game lures you in. "This is different," you think. But then you realize that the entire game works that way, and the spartan storytelling style provides neither clues nor room for exploration. If you don't get every single detail right (and you have no way of determining the details ahead of time), you're sent back to start over. So you start over, and over, and over again.

I'd rather spend my free time any other way than being told, "You're wrong. Try again" repeatedly. That's just not my idea of fun.



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