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Who knew white text on a blue screen could be so nerve-wracking? , November 16, 2010
LEADLIGHT is the most gory, horiffic, survival-horror, text-based entertainment you'll have on an Apple II in 2010 during the Halloween season!
YES you will be annoyed that you have to type "ex mirror" instead of "x mirror" in order to look at things.
MAYBE you will, like me, wish the plot made a little more sense (I only missed a handfull of secrets, but I still have questions: (Spoiler - click to show)So why is Great-Great-Grandmother out to kill me? Did she cause the massacre, or am I responsible? The girls seem to blame me, but obviously the Founder thinks I'm a horrible person who needs to be destroyed. But the Founder's doing the black magic...right? I'm so confused.).
But if atmosphere is your thing, you're gonna love LEADLIGHT because it is chock full of it.
You wake up in your all-girl Australian boarding school, and everything is wrong. Terrible, uneasy things await you in nearly every scene. But this isn't a slideshow of an empty, spooky school. Oh no. LEADLIGHT is crawling with your former classmates, all gone mad...(Spoiler - click to show)and most trying kill you.
Here, LEADLIGHT introduces an RPG flavor into the mix; you obtain items and clothing which affect your abilities in the game. These elements helped immerse me inside the world; when you don't know what you're going to face when you go into a room, you're a little more cautious about entering it.
But despite all your caution, you are going to die in this game. There are gruesome death traps everywhere, and not all of them are spelled out for you. In a world where we praise games for being "forgiving" some might shout, "That's not fair! There was no warning you were going to kill me!"
However, in this setting, the sudden deaths adds to the sense of peril you feel. (It helps that after you die, there is an option to Undo to the moment before you hit the trap.)
And for all our boasting about modern IF parsers and their ability to understand complex commands, Mr. Clarke makes the 2-word parser your ally, helping simplify puzzles that might have become unwieldy if given more options.
There were a couple places I got stuck on (and were not referenced to in the hint guide--in particular, (Spoiler - click to show)I feel bad that I had to kill a traumatized girl to get her ribbon; if there was an alternative solution, I didn't see it). But these spots were later in the game. With judicious use of the three save spots, I never found myself locked into a situation I couldn't escape.
LEADLIGHT walks a fine line. On the one hand, there's not a lot of deep characterization or background going on. It's gory in the way I imagine slasher films are. And the "survival" aspect has you dealing out mindless death at the pace you might associate with an FPS.
On the other hand, there are a smattering of interesting choices you can make within the game, such as (Spoiler - click to show)killing the Dancer, which seem to demand a second play if only to see how those choices change the outcome.
It's the perfect Halloween treat--perfect for a night when you want some creepy thrills. I encourage any fan of ANCHORHEAD or THEATRE to try this one.
(PS -- If you download the full package that comes with the IFComp 2010 collection, you'll be treated to a handsomely-illustrated manual and spiffy hint sheet that took me back to the days of Sierra Online adventure games.)