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Lacuna, a Blind Man's Textual Paradice, June 1, 2011
I'll get the verdict out of the way first: Blue Lacuna is a wonderful, evocative piece of work, and you should go play it right now. I know I have to justify that statement, so here goes…
Interactive fiction games are wonderful for blind computer users, as they allow us to experience settings and scenes we might not otherwise, perhaps more so than for the sighted people in this world. That was a large attraction of Lacuna for me, the richness and vibrancy of its island setting are unparalleled in the annals of interactive fiction. Other games may have similar esthetics or similar talent for description, but none I know of simulate day and night and tide with such loving detail. The world and how the player perceives it changes radically with each passing hour, and it was a joy just to wander around the island, soaking in the ambiance of a place too beautiful to be real as it changed over the course of my playthrough. I was beyond pleased to look up at the night sky and notice that the moon was implemented, and that it had phases which changed from day to day, as irrelevant as that might be to the actual plot.
What, I'm two paragraphs in and just starting to talk about plot? Yes, the game has a plot, and it is a big, sprawling thing just like the setting I raved about so much. Sprawl here is used in a loving sense--the length is not too long in my opinion, though I may quibble, just a bit, about the pacing here and there. Being IF, naturally there's potential for choice, and while the broad strokes of the plot remain the same throughout every game, there is much potential for interpretation and outright variation. A lot of that last comes from interaction with the single main NPC, who deserves a place all his own.
The single main NPC--you'll know him when you see him--is very well done. He has his own backstory which is central to the overarching narrative, and does his own thing in a manor to make you forget for a moment that he's a mass of programmed instructions. Conversation is topic-based, and sensitive to the mood of the characters--there's some Galatea-esque tracking going on in there, certainly. All told, he's a wonderful companion throughout, or was in my playthrough.
Bugs? I feel ashamed to mention them, but there were a couple minor ones. Most significantly, the NPC will occasionally go invisible--you can still talk to him, but finding him is difficult when he doesn't appear in room descriptions. I've reported this one to the author, and hopefully a fix is forthcoming. Tiny typos were perhaps a bit more noticeable thanks to my screen reader, but none jarring, and honestly they pale in comparison to the constant mispronunciation of a character's name, but that's my reader's fault and probably fixable on my end, anyway.
So, once again, play this game. Explore its setting, indulge in the plot at your own pace and according to your own whims, be swept away by the many good qualities here and enjoy a modern masterpiece of IF. I can say no more.