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37th Place - 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2001)
-- Duncan Stevens
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
There was very little interactivity, but that's hardly the point in a piece like this. Ultimately, I think it was apple's lack of cohesion that failed me. When I reached the end of this game, I blinked, and then I shrugged. Some people can look at a Pollock and see emotion made visible. Other people just see chaos. This game may be similar, and while I enjoy surreality and even randomness, I don't think there's much here that will be sticking with me.
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The author was in his teens when he wrote this, and there's a definite adolescent feel to the whole thing: Tarantino-slickness, transgressive (though not porny) sex everywhere, the cool-meta vibe that Hollywood went frantic over in the late 90s and early aughts. It's very much a beast of that era, back when school shootings evoked controversy rather than resignation.
It's not much of a game; the interactivity is slight, more about engagement and focus-changing than about altering the course of events. There are one or two cool use-of-medium tricks in here -- as when the narrative turns into a TV script -- but they come across as throwaway and irrelevant. There are great big textdumps. At the time, to a sceptic, it would have looked like the logical extension of the malign influence of Photopia: short stories trivially dressed up as IF, cheap pressing of the audience's buttons. Formal purists, people who see the game/puzzle aspect of IF as essential, are basically going to hate this.
What's striking about apple is that it does a pretty decent job of representing a sense of the dreamlike: fractured hints of narrative, a looming feeling of inevitability, a lurching unease. It's not perfect at this, it's not even great; but it's good.
The scenes generally center around the phrase "you know what?" along with sexual encounters with an elderly woman, an eighth grader, and a computer-woman hybrid.
I didn't enjoy the tone of the game, and I don't plan to play again. However, it is polished and descriptive, and the interactivity works.
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This is version 2 of this page, edited by Paul O'Brian on 23 April 2008 at 5:44pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item