The Northnorth Passage.

by Caleb Wilson (as Snowball Ice) profile

2014

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Number of Reviews: 5
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Go North, young man, May 28, 2015
by CMG (NYC)

I first played this game months ago and rated it three stars. But sometime later I started thinking about it again, and then I came back and replayed it. And still later, when I was still thinking about it, I came back and replayed it again.

Obviously this game is working for me on levels I didn't initially understand.

You play as a character under a curse who can only walk north (well, almost only walk north). As a result, you have next to zero agency, and playing the game consists mainly of reading about scenes that you're traveling through. Scenes that you cannot participate in.

A huge component in the game is seeing, at every step, exciting new events and locations, and knowing that they are untouchable. This is a clever subversion of parser gameplay, but it's also the reason for my original three-star rating. I felt as though there was nothing to do, that the game could've been a short story instead.

I was wrong.

This game has a single puzzle. On my first playthrough I didn't solve it. I didn't even realize it existed. A short story could not have this puzzle. A hypertext game couldn't have it either, because a hyperlink would announce the solution, and solving the puzzle requires mentally adjusting your approach to the game after it has drilled its "go north" command into your head. It has to be presented in the parser format to work.

Another reason it couldn't be static fiction is because, in that case, you wouldn't feel the tension of wanting to interact with anything. The potential, even if not the implementation, of interactivity must exist in order for the player to feel thwarted.

Now I'm giving this game five stars because I've come to the realization that it succeeds exactly in what it wants to do, and furthermore, its content is fused to its medium. It's a game that does still seem like a short story in the sense that it invites the occasional replaying/rereading, but it's also 100% a game.

And the writing is great too.