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About the Story
Tuesday morning. London Underground. Hangover. Journey begins.
15th Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Moquette is an interesting title that is best described as a sparse simulation with a rather confusingly written narrative slapped onto it.
Your protagonist has a hangover on a Tuesday morning and ostensibly you're supposed to go to work or check out a park, but the entire game is about the player guiding the protagonist through the labyrinth of the London Underground. Indeed, the entire game has lovingly created this network so well that one could play this with the Underground map on another page in the browser.
I've actually ridden this subway many times, so I've found myself figuring out which station to go next. It's fun to read descriptions of the passengers, the station history, and the "tips" for quicker and safer transits because I found it to be more or less accurate. And there's a few bits of trivia that I learned along the way. I imagine Londoners would've had more a kick out of this experience too.
But while I find this simulation aspect to be fun, it's definitely no Fire Tower or a city sim. What I mean is that the game lacks interactivity and simulation aspects. You're not interacting with the scenery except the passengers who would come in and out of the train. In parser games, you'd be typing "smell" or "listen". In Twine games, you'd click on hyperlinks that let you focus onto objects like the seats. This game forgoes this interactivity for a certain atmosphere to help aid the narrative (more on that later), but I find this to be detrimental. The dearth of sensuous experiences is simply jarring for a simulation that does go out its way in recreating the train networks. The game needs far more text to accomplish its simulation goals because, as it stands, the entire game is just about riding the train and switching lanes. None of that vicariously experiencing of the train through the text, only the chores of switching lines. You're aimlessly wandering through different station lines and it's pretty easy to feel like you're doing nothing without much stimuli.
Which is why there's a narrative added into the mix, I suppose. I'm not sure how to feel about it because it dabbles in some psychiatry cliches and has a muddled message about agency. While I've mentioned that the descriptions are clearly sparse in order to supplement the narrative, the narrative ironically doesn't feel connected to the simulated experience of riding the train. It may seek the chance encounters we may have on the train, but it is more interested in (briefly) exploring the psychology of the protagonist. And I found that to be weak too since it's so quick that the explanation feels ambiguous. This narrative is only tolerable with the help of some admittedly impressive text visual effects, but I wasn't too won over by them either. The story just loses itself in these effects. And while there is a line or two about being part of the London masses, that feels more like a reach than anything.
It also seems that the web app for Quest is very buggy on Firefox. I've had the game crash on me multiple times and was surprised that the game could time out if you leave it for too long. This was my first Quest game, so I'm not deducting points for that -- this is mostly a warning to anyone who wants to play the game.
Regardless, I find this game interesting, which is why I'm overrating it a bit. If I wasn't so interested in the London Underground, I'd imagine I'd not even finish the game. But I was pretty happy going around the Underground and wished there was more to the simulation. The narrative, I'm not too fond of and wish it was either more relevant or just gone; it's divorced enough that it doesn't affect the experience but is still jarring enough when it does emerge. Moquette is short enough to give it a whirl, but I definitely feel like I wanted more from this experience and players with sympathies like mine would probably agree.
I understand that opinions will differ on MOQUETTE.
The prose is exellent. I enjoyed reading it, despite some vulgar elements (I usually reject verbal abuse). As some critics already pointed out, I can just say the same: The beginning was a bit aimless, I did not understand what to do, and when the main encounter finally happened, I had the feeling that my choices actually had not made any difference. The author gets an extra praise for implementing each of the mentioned passengers in detail and rendering thoughts about them. The text effects were interesting.
All in all this is a well-crafted piece of interactive fiction, which put a focus on fiction rather than interactivity. Nevertheless I must say that the first part was somehow tedious and I wondered "when is something gonna happen?" too many times.
Note: I posted a similar review on the webpage of the game.
I wasn't sure what I was doing or why. Ostensibly, I'm on my way to work, but my limited understanding of where I need to go and what train routes get me where left me feeling mostly frustrated.
Perhaps this game would work better with a map as a companion piece--perhaps not, because there doesn't seem to be any reason to go to any specific place. Essentially you wander the subway in a fashion similar to the classic Zork maze--there are areas and people to look at, but none of them advance you or get you anywhere.
I can't tell you why I switched lines, or why I swapped trains--as my protagonist said sometimes, "Or I could change to the Charing Cross branch. I could do that. There is nothing stopping me."
I found reading my protagonists stream-of-consciousness to be infectious. His sense of ennui and boredom made me wonder what I was doing and why I was bothering. I suspect this was the intention--but I found it frustrating. I prefer it when the emotions aren't told to me, but rather things I experience through good writing and plotting.
Finally, a twist occurs, but it is quite late in the narrative, and I had a hard time understanding what it was trying to tell me. It seems to be a meta-commentary, but I'm not sure on what--the nature of games, or a psychological statement? Ultimately, I was left wondering why my protagonist didn't just go into work, or get on a different train and go home to sleep off his hangover.
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