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4th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 10th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2004)
Winner, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual PC - 2004 XYZZY Awards
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Assuming that "Jason Devlin" isn't a pseudonym for an experienced author, we have a very satisfactory debut on our hands. Sting Of The Wasp brings one of the year's nastier PCs in the person of wealthy socialite Julia Hawthorne. In the grand tradition of Primo Varicella, Julia is a vain, preening snob who looks with utter disdain at almost everything around her, including the country club in which the game is set... SOTW is one of those games that let you gleefully and maliciously wreak havoc on a wide variety of places and characters, all in the service of advancing a thoroughly rotten character. As I said, the most prominent example of this sort of game is Varicella, but this game is Varicella played purely for laughs -- very few darker undertones burden the spree of unrestrained villainy.
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It is not too often that one encounters IF with cultivated social criticism. Sting of the Wasp can be considered such case, wrapped in a ludic shell of surprising success.
The author's writing deserves a special mention. It is well sophisticated, somewhat close to Emily Short's historical style samples. Responses are always enhanced with a touch of witty satire, yet never falling into descriptive excess.
The puzzles are fair. An advanced reader might consider them simple, excluding the final. Overall, most of the problems are integrated with delightful thematic functions -- a feature not too common in fiction puzzle design in general. Taking a couple of hours to finish, Sting of the Wasp becomes a short novel with a steadily paced challenging narrative.
When reading aspiring IF, it is important not to compare them to canonized literary texts like those of Thackeray's as such. IF is a distinct cultural form with its own aesthetics. How works of IF engage in satirical expression is an art that has no points of comparison outside the history of the form, and in this context, Sting of the Wasp can be seen as one of the postmodern pioneers.
The puzzles in Sting of the Wasp vary in fairness, and none of the major characters are really sympathetic: this is dark comedy, with a scheming, cheating social climber as its protagonist. For general awfulness she falls somewhere between Varicella and the Bastard Operator from Hell.
The modern country-club setting is a refreshing change from the usual, the writing has some high points, and the game plays with a certain self-assurance.
This game has some strong sexual content early on, which forms the theme of the rest of the game. You are a WASP (a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who is cheating on their husband in the country club closet, and someone photographs you. You need to keep it secret to save your marriage.
There is a cast of characters you have to deal with. After playing similar games like Varicella and Broken Legs, I decided to go with the walkthrough first, then play through a bit again afterwards to see what is going on.
Unlike those first two games, where you have a collection of rivals that must be eliminated in parallel, there is really only one or two people you are out to get here: those behind the picture. Everyone else who falls by your hand is just a pawn you move, usually to obtain access to new areas or information.
The game roots for the protagonist, but they are rather despicable. Like Varicella, Broken Legs, and the author's Vespers, the only reason anyone roots for you is that everyone else is horrible too.
I don't plan on playing again. It is well-crafted, and polished.
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