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An evocative landscape bookended by absurdity, December 24, 2010
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...