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About the Story
A slight revision of the author's first foray into interactive fiction, "The Dog/House" is a dream-like exploration game on a very small scale. Discover the goal for yourself.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The Dog/House is a very short, simple game, driven by dream logic. It opens with the player character in a doghouse, next to a sleeping dog. The dog is guarding a bone; if you try to take it, the dog snaps at you. This set-up is left unexplained. Are you another dog, or are you human? If human, why are you in a doghouse? The game doesn't say, although (Spoiler - click to show)later descriptions imply that you're human.
Outside the doghouse, a small but charming landscape opens up. Falling leaves, a forest path. The descriptions are terse but evocative. Even though the game funnels you down a linear path, it feels like exploration.
And then you solve the final puzzle, and wonder: why did I just do that? The winning action is somewhat obscure, although because of the small scale of the game it can eventually be discovered by brute force, and the game never gives you a better reason to solve the puzzle than "because it's there". The player character even comments on the pointlessness of doing such a thing. The absurdist beginning and end of The Dog/House feel like they belong to an entirely different game from the dream-like charm of the middle section.
The author says this was his first attempt at writing interactive fiction, and it shows, but The Dog/House also shows a lot of promise. Time to play his other games, I think...
The title of this review is the default response to >WAKE UP. It's also the response this game gives. Okay, okay, the description of the game was dream-like, so that doesn't mean it's a dream.
Real adventurers don't use such language.
Am I an adventurer, or was this response never updated?
The reason I question this, is because you start in a dog house (with a dog in it). This gave me the impression that I was a dog. (Especially since I seem to want to get at that bone behind the sleeping mastiff).
Am I a dog? The game does not say so. (>X ME... As good-looking as ever!) The default responses imply no. I found one response that mentions fingers, so maybe I'm not a dog. However, leaving the doghouse is futile- I can see a swirl of leaves and eventually I am forced back into the doghouse.
One one hand, the writing is provocative, the leaves in particular. (They swirl around, getting me lost when I try going somewhere which is not north. However, perhaps UP and DOWN should have gotten different responses, as I suppose trying to enter the solid floor would not have failed only because of a swirl of leaves around me).
The game includes no hint/help/about file, which makes it difficult to see what to do. The only objects to be interacted with are the sleeping dog and the bone behind it. The bone you can't get, and the game warns about waking the dog (and ">LET SLEEPING DOG LIE" does nothing either!). Certainly "Violence isn't the answer to this one.". The tagline of exploration seems misleading, as there isn't much area to explore here. If I'm a human, why do I want a bone or to be in a doghouse? I'm pretty sure I'm not a dog too.
The game tells you that there is unfinished buisness in the dog house, though most interactions with the dog yield the same (or a default) response, there is no inventory, and many verbs you might think exist do not. (Don't expect to whistle or call to the dog).
With very little implementation here, I got frustrated after a while, and gave up. The writing here implies that the author put some effort into this, and it might be a simple guess-the-verb issue: including hints or a walkthrough could clear that up. Maybe it is supposed to be a dream. Maybe there's nothing to do here after all.
I don't care much for games conducted in limited spaces; they almost always make me feel claustrophobic. There are exceptions to the rule -- Marika the Offering, for example, was masterful; Pick up the Phone Booth and Die was humorous; and there are others, but Dog/House is not one of them.
Here, there are two rooms, and only two rooms. That's limiting enough, but the sense of claustrophobia increases with the rejection messages that meet nearly every action. You can't go anywhere except outside, and you can't do anything with the principal items in the rooms. There is a help command, but it doesn't help much.
What you're supposed to do is left unclear; it seems that the game changed quite a bit from version 1 to 2. However, Dog/House does feature some interesting items (the autumn leaves) and some sharp writing that gives you a taste of atmosphere. If the author had developed the game more, it would have been truly engrossing.