Number of Reviews: 5
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An Evocative, Real World Journey, September 26, 2009
Knowing that The Fire Tower was an entry in the IF Art Show, and was praised for its environment, I was kind of expecting a game with a huge number of meticulously described scenery objects - something that I'd find a chore to get through. With this unfortunate expectation set in my mind, my first experiences with this game were a little confusing. There weren't that many things to examine - although they were very nicely described - and when I typed LOOK to remind myself of what there was I found the locations' descriptions to be abbreviated to a brief summary that focused on the exits.
That's when I realised that I needed to take The Fire Tower on its own terms. This is a game about hiking a route that the author is familiar with through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While it is possible to stop and smell the flowers and run your hands through the waters of Tom's Creek, the most significant interaction in this game is simply moving and reading the description for the next location.
I'm sure that for many players this is too little interaction and too linear a journey, but if you're not looking to solve puzzles or map rooms, if you're quite happy to just read succinct and evocative descriptions of a real world place and your movement through it, then I think this game is in fact very substantial, in its own way.
One thing that makes The Fire Tower stand out to me, from a lot of other IF games, is not just that it's firmly grounded in everyday life, but that it feels like a very personal story. I'm sure that in reality this is a careful fictionalisation of the author's real journeys, but it's full of great little details - stopping to adjust your socks, for example - that very much convey a lived experience.
Depending on what you look for in IF, you may find The Fire Tower to be a very flimsy game. But if you're looking for ambience and a sense of place, you'll find them here in rich abundance.