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A lopsided puzzle-box, July 10, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)Related reviews: adam cadre
Play it if: you have a thing for mindscrew tales and want a short, essentially puzzleless story.
Don't play it if: you're looking for a story that's truly elegant and powerful, because the cool ideas here are not delivered in a very consistent way.
I think I'm noticing a trend with my reaction to Adam Cadre's work. I'm impressed by the technical stuff, the subversive elements blow my mind, and the actual stories leave me cold. The exception is Varicella, whose story I do find quite engaging. But other than that my favorite of his would still have to be 9:05, which numbers among the least technically skilled of his works but is also perhaps the most elegant, with the entire story structure focused on the singular aim of delivering the punchline.
Shrapnel fits fairly neatly into how I think I perceive his work. The ideas are interesting, the subversion of traditional IF devices such as ressurection is excellent, and the story leaves me a bit too confused to describe.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I understand what happened/happens/willen haven been able to have be happening...but it's not really delivered correctly. It's reminiscent of that much-awaited blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises. To spare (admittedly unlikely) spoiler pain, I'll just say that a certain amount of backstory is revealed at precisely the wrong time for it to have any emotional impact, and it undermines much of the third act as a result.
The thing is, the last-minute reveal works well when it's a simple thing that crystallizes everything that came before. But there's nothing simple about the explanation for Shrapnel, and the player doesn't even find out through piecemeal investigation. It's just a fairly long-winded, multi-turn exposition-fest...admittedly something to which science fiction can fall prey, but even mediocre science fiction tends to know how to get the tiresome recitation of knowledge out of the way at the beginning of the story.
I don't want to give the impression that I hated Shrapnel; I quite liked it, really, not least for its initial setup and the execution of that core idea (not to mention the very end, which is quite memorable). But it is a bit of a jumble, really, and could have benefited from a bit more tinkering with the structure.