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About the Story
Wetlands is an interactive quagmire that leads you from the image of a fantastical city to a choice about the actual city's future, via a collection of mechanical puzzles in a watery setting.
3rd Place - Spring Thing 2011
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 2
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Wetlands is one of the rare games that sticks in your mind after you step away from the computer; the mysterious symbology, the unique atmosphere, the timeless feel -- all of these work together to evince a vivid, wistful, everlasting poignancy also created by the Zork series, The Moonlit Tower, Myst, and very few other games. The writing is simply fantastic (with the exception of an unnecessary profanity). The atmosphere rotates around water and wood -- ponds, beaches, forests, driftwood, dried leaves, rusty pipes, and so forth. The language is evocative but not to Romantic excess; it is quietly balanced and enduring.
The basic plot is that you are seeking the Crystal City -- a perhaps-legendary water-city, possibly magical, possibly quite advanced. You have narrowed its location down to the Waterworks, an water processing facility consisting of a pond, a few buildings, and the surrounding woods. Of course, you will not leave until you have discovered the city.
In contrast to the plot and the atmosphere, the puzzles are for the most part im-poss-ible. They are not clued whatsoever, and the game provides no direction as to what you're supposed to do next. Yes, you could argue that echoes Zork, and while the lack of cluing leads you to explore more, you are hampered by Wetlands' linear plot. Lack of cluing plus a linear plot yields frustration, whereas in more exploration-type games, it does not. I'm also not too impressed by the NPCs. They are well-characterized, but completely unhelpful, and there are no built-in hints.
I didn't make it very far -- only to the status "starting to trickle" -- but I don't think I will be able to proceed any further than that. Given that the game has a few other minor errors, proceeding might not be possible. It probably is, but I don't know for sure. If for no other reason, play this for the atmosphere.
Wetlands is an unusual IF in that it requires you to bring your own motivation.
We begin play with a drawing of the fabled city that captured our character's imagination as a child, and then we're left completely to our own devices. Free to scurry about the swamp solving puzzles, stuffing our raincoat pockets full of pinecones, and perhaps wondering why we're going to all of this trouble to find a place that may not even exist.
The whole thing feels somewhat directionless, which is a shame because this game has a lot of things going for it. The descriptions are ornate without quite stumbling into purple prose. The environment is very lush and a lot of care has been put into making it feel alive. The characters are simple, but they work. They're colourful, and responsive, and a joy to interact with.
But the game doesn't quite deliver on its central premise. (Spoiler - click to show)We're offered a vision of this glittering crystal city but we never get a chance to go there. Not really, not properly. We don't get a chance to wander through the crystal streets and see them described in the same luxurious prose that makes the area at the top of the hill so pretty. We never get to investigate its mysteries for ourselves. Or talk to its inhabitants. And that's a shame, because that's our sole motivation for running around these wetlands in the first place.
The game sets up two civilisations in conflict with one another. But we're on the fringes of both. Stuck in the wetlands between the two. Unable to fully explore either.
They're beautiful wetlands, but unfortunately, they're not where we want to be.
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