Shade

by Andrew Plotkin profile

Travel
2000

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Number of Reviews: 40
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Tight, well-crafted piece of short IF, November 8, 2021
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

Playing through Shade felt like reading a finely-crafted short story. The game environment is small, though precisely described so that each detail is striking and rich with information -- nothing extraneous. The work is focused in on a particular theme, and develops this theme deliberately and effectively. The imagery is evocative, though narrowly centering on a particular motif (Spoiler - click to show)(sand! and more sand!!). Like the best works of short fiction, Shade can be experienced in a relatively brief session, though it leaves a powerful impression that stays in the reader's head long afterward.

Shade presents a strange, disquieting kernel that the reader can contemplate beyond the bounds of the text itself. I won't delve into the content of that kernel in this review since, as mentioned, the work is easy enough to engage with quickly and a new reader does really benefit from going into the work with minimal foreknowledge.

While I absolutely loved the work, I had some minor issues with the mechanics of how a reader progresses through the narrative. It seems as though there's essentially one narrative trajectory through the game, with the player progressing as they accomplish tasks in preparation for an upcoming trip. None of these tasks are particularly difficult to figure out, and at it's best, the progression of the narrative felt like it was happening all of its own accord (Spoiler - click to show)with more and more sand filling the apartment, and the environment slowly transforming into a desert hell-scape.

However, there were a couple times when I got stuck looking for just the right object in the environment that I needed to interact with in just the right way to keep the narrative moving. These times took me out of the otherwise absolutely engrossing experience of the game.