Shade

by Andrew Plotkin profile

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Number of Reviews: 40
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
a defining title in the genre, November 6, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)

The "first" IF I played, aside from some Zork as a child, and therefore my first experience of interactive fiction that went beyond mere "text adventure," blurring the lines between literature and game. To this day, the experience hasn't been surpassed. There isn't much challenge here: let the story unfold, and just try not to get drawn in by the bleak, arid atmosphere.


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
Ultimately unfulfilled, October 20, 2010
by Venya (Olalla, WA, US)
Related reviews: newbie

...though perhaps that was part of the point.

Initially, I felt like I was humoring the game, waiting for it to give me some reason to do something. Then I was weirded out. Then I was very weirded out. (Spoiler - click to show)Having spent some time in Afghanistan, I am more familiar than I care to be with sand that gets in everything--I had a rather strong emotional reaction as things started getting, er, shifty.

Unfortunately, after a while, I just started getting annoyed. Part of that is simply from inexperience with the medium--I have not done many of these, and I have a better sense now of what is needed to progress than I did starting out. But after a while it became clear that everything was heading in a certain direction, and it was only left to me to figure out the right keywords to make it go that way in a timely fashion; this is where the annoyance really came in.

The ending was odd. It's hard to strike just the right note of ambiguity without leaving most people scratching their heads wondering what just happened. For me, it wasn't quite right, but other people apparently were enthralled with it, so I'm not willing to criticize too much.

Enjoyable. Creepy, particularly if you have spent much time in deserts. The more I think about it, the more I like it. Even if you end up hating it, you'll probably think about it a bit, and it only took this tyro about 50 minutes--surely you can spare an hour.


6 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful but sometimes tedius. , May 18, 2010
by tggdan3 (Michigan)

Shade is one of those games that is hard to discuss without spoilers. It's a one room game. The game includes your bathroom, kitchen, and apartment proper.

Now at first I thought it was going to be pretty boring, with the sparsely decorated apartment being done a million times before, but the writing is so great it really put me back in my days after college. The little details make the game come alive- the old 386 computer, the pile of papers that represent your life's work of writing that you don't even thing are worth looking through, the shower that isn't working...

Then we come to the game itself, which really rewards you for sticking with it. Your key to the game comes in the form of your to-do list, which changes as you accomplish things on it. (It might not change- just your focus seems to change). As you start mucking about your apartment, little subtle clues are given, though it might not seem relavent at the time- the game deserves a second playthrough.

Finally, the issue becomes distorted, as you realize (Spoiler - click to show) you are in a dream , as things start going awry in your apartment (Spoiler - click to show) as everything starts turning into sand . The writing gets excellent at this point, as you try to figure out what's going on, and finally the realization hits you.

It's definately a mind game, much like the movie Identity or Fight Club.

But the gameplay- it's not really puzzle based, it's go no NPCs to speak of. It's exploratory if anything. You're basically moving through the plot, which makes the game linear, and sometimes difficult, since you aren't always sure what you need to do next. There is no onboard hint system, except checking your to-do list, and that can be very vague at times. Still, you can't get permanently stuck, just frustrated as your key actions seem to be looking at and messing with the mundane issues in your apartment, such as the sink or shower.

This is the game's big shortfall, as the actions are arbitarty. Sometimes sitting on the futon triggers something, sometimes it doesn't. That can get pretty frustrating, but the positives of the game outweigh the negatives, if you're in to the mindscrew type games.

There is one part of the game (Spoiler - click to show) where the helicopter flies by that I wish was more interactive. Once you find out what's going on, it implies that (Spoiler - click to show) the helicoptor may represent your rescuers and it would be nice if you could signal the helicoptor for a different ending. That might wreck the appeal of the game, especially if you accidentially do it on the first playthrough, but it would be nice.


5 of 32 people found the following review helpful:
The only way to win is not to play this!, April 20, 2010
by Andreas Teufel (Poland)

(Warning: This review might contain spoilers. Click to show the full review.)While not even close to being the worst game of all time (All roads is cemented in this honorable position for all eternity), Shade will for me always be a beacon of hatred for all that is so wrong with the Interactive Fiction scene, what is so obviously stinking to high heaven but accepted and hailed by the majority.

Short description of the "plot" (it's offensive to the English language itself to use this word in relation to this "game"!): Man (devoid of character, naturally) needs to sort through the bedlam of his apartment in order to find his plane tickets and other junk needed for a vacation trip to the desert.

So far, so good. 5 minutes of "fun" with the room description.

Everything literally falls apart once you have found the (then completely unimportant) tickets. Literally.

Everything turns to, of all things, SAND. Because there is sand in the desert! And that's where nameless nobody #1 wanted to go!

Smart thinking on Plotkin's side, ain't it? Surely needed a lot of research... I mean it's so CLEVER it hurts my brain...

Even though there is no variation in the ever-annoying sand transformation NO JUTSU, it's yet extremely hard to advance at some points. Which includes bugs and unlogical syntax, needless to say. Just look at things often enough and the game will advance eventually... if you're lucky.

So what is the main flaw of this shaggy dog joke that is a complete and utter waste of time: It means NOTHING.

Sand! goddamn it, it could be cotton candy and nothing would be different in any way!

In fact the whole purpose of this game is stated by the author in the sarcastic and pretentious as hell "The only way to win is not to play!" quote. I will draw a lesson from this, and never play another Andrew Plotkin game again.

I encourage everybody with half a brain in his head to do the same.

---

vote NO, I could honestly not care any less. the fools liking this turd are all brain-dead slaves to meaninglessness anyway


18 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
Lost In The Dark, December 15, 2009
by TempestDash (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Shade is a one-room puzzle game, but what a room it is! Technically, this game is very accomplished. The room feels large and cramped at the same time. While there are no other real locations to go to in the game, the room has distinct areas that you can enter or exit but which don’t really impact the scope of your actions. What I mean by this is that you can enter the ‘kitchen’ area of the room, and the status bar will even reflect that, but if you then type ‘sit at desk’ (which is in the living room) the game will seamlessly make you leave the kitchen area then sit at the desk without complaint.

So it feels like one room but actually has distinct areas that you can look at and interact with, which makes it much easier on the player when he/she is trying to examine everything in the room trying to figure out what to do next, which, unfortunately, is something I was doing quite frequently in this game.

For all its technical achievements (which I admit all Plotkin games excel in – technical fluency), I simply wasn’t interested in much of the game.

The story starts out simple enough: You are going on a trip on an early flight and haven’t been able to get much sleep when suddenly you realize you can’t remember where you put your tickets. We’ve all been there before, and the charming familiarity of the scenario definitely piqued my interest at first. But then, as the game progresses, your room starts to lose a bit of its solidity. The descriptions of objects change almost randomly, and slowly the game descends into dream-logic.

There is a problem with dream logic in games: it changes the rules. While it can be fun to read a book where a character watches his sofa turn into a thousand snakes and then slither off, and halfway fun to watch it unfold in a movie or TV show, in a video game it means every gameplay mechanic up until the leap into dreamtime falls into question and the player is left in a lurch not sure what to do anymore.

I feel Shade fell into this problem and there came to a point in the game where I was doing things simply because the game wanted me to and not because I understood the reasoning behind them. Obviously since it was following dream-logic by that point, there was no reason behind it, but that was not very satisfying.

In the end, I sort of figured out what was going on, and the cause of the delirium the player stumbles into, but it’s never entirely stated that my supposition is correct, only vaguely gestured at. Personally, I like to see closure in a game, even if it is not a victory condition for the PC, and the strange happenings, and unclear ending of Shade didn’t work for me.


0 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful psychological horror, November 30, 2009

I am a great fan of stories intended to make you paranoid. This game acomplished this task rather well. The "ending" could have been better, but it still made me stop and think. Some people may find this repetetive, but I was pushed frorward by the desire to see the ending. This demonstrates how suspenseful the game was. I personally loved this game. Some people, however, may not find it to their liking. Try at least the first fifteen minutes. It'll help you decide if it is a game you would enjoy.


3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
I would give this a 3.5 star rating , October 24, 2009
by maxporter (Philly)

Shade is gripping, creepy, and creative.

However, it gets repetitive after a while. To an extent, this helps build up the suspenseful environment because the actions that you performed a few turns ago don't work anymore. Everything goes more and more wrong... but I feel like the game could have been trimmed down a little in this respect.

I also found that the ending was a little bit anti-climatic. It was almost like the author was trying too hard to be profound and it ultimately became meaningless.


1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Dark and haunting, November 1, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

Shade exemplifies the best aspects of Interactive Fiction. Shade was written in Inform without relying on any graphics or sound effects. Released in 2000, this game demonstrates the true potential of what IF can be. IF is more than tedious mazes and guessing verbs. IF is about exploring ideas and delivering experiences that cannot be presented in any other medium.

Take a look at other media for story telling. Shade could have been written as a traditional short story. However, it would not nearly have the impact that it has when it's an experience you personally participate in. What about a graphical adventure? Hunting around pointing and clicking on items in an attempt to trigger the next stage wouldn't deliver the same understanding. Without the written word, Shade as a graphical adventure would be meaningless. It is the prose and the interaction that makes IF a truly unique form for delivering profound experiences.

Shade delivers. It is the subtle dawning awareness that comes with the unfolding experience that has the biggest impact in this tale.


14 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Competent and innovative, but not great, June 8, 2008
by Beekeeper
Related reviews: technique, plot

This short, stylized and evocative "in your apartment" game is carried by technical merit and an effective surprise turn in the plot(Spoiler - click to show) -- a bizarre and horrifying disintegration of reality which reminded me of Philip K. Dick's oeuvre (e.g. Ubik, Electric Ant).

Shade is, however, marred by a few superficial defects. Being constrained to the apartment and an inexorably linear plot contributes to the game's feeling of airless claustrophobia, making it easy to excuse its minimal setting and choices. Gameplay generally flows well and is polite to the player; I only got stuck a few times, briefly, and never irreparably. But when I did get stuck, advancing the plot was often tedious, requiring systematic sweeps of the apartment to find the next trigger. For me, this compromised the effectiveness of the work by slowing the pace and focusing my attention on the manipulation of the parser.

I also felt that Shade would have been more effective and satisfying if the surreal plot, and particularly the ending, had sustained explanation more clearly than it did. As it stood, the events seemed arbitrary most of the way through, and I came away feeling that a lot of technical ability and conceptual cleverness had been deployed for no very compelling narrative purpose.

For me, the game's principal virtue was to demonstrate innovative tricks in the medium. But I think it is likely that readers' tastes will differ. Fans of mind games and psychological horror will find the game worthwhile for its craftsmanship and verve - and, in any case, Shade is so short and widely admired that most readers will find it worthwhile.


2 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Expanding the definition of a one-room game., November 7, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Andrew Plotkin, ****

I'll say first off that one of the things I liked about this game is that it never puts you in an unwinnable position (there should be a tag for this, but I'm not sure what to call it); and I'm glad that other reviews told me this, because it made it easier to immerse myself into the mindset of the story.

The tension-building is well-timed, as are the hints - I never felt as though I was off the hook for a moment, and I never felt overly frustrated. I did find the ending slightly confusing; I'll give it another go some time to see if I can make it make more sense.



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