Shade

by Andrew Plotkin profile

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A hard one to review, February 19, 2022

It's clear from looking through these reviews that this is a rather divisive game. Praised greatly by most - including the "editorial reviews" (which always seem especially weighty from their prominence in games' entry pages) - there's a significant minority of reviewers who don't like it, including one or two who really hate it. A smaller minority sit somewhere in the middle, liking it well enough, but not greatly so.

I find myself in that last group. I certainly don't dislike the game. But if it hadn't appeared on almost every "must-play" list, and if it weren't by a renowned author of IF, and if it didn't have all those glowing testimonials, and if it were just an obscure game I'd happened upon by chance, I wouldn't think it anything exceptional. Of course it's hard to say - perhaps under those circumstances I'd be more impressed by it. After all, when something is praised this much, it has a high expectation to live up to. And besides, when you're told repeatedly that something is deeply creepy and you can expect an experience of terrifying psychological horror, little short of being trapped in a vault with Edgar Allan Poe is going to impress.

So all that said, I thought it was a good game. It's a good idea well implemented. The writing is excellent. I liked "A broad mirror tries to make the place seem twice its size; it halfway works" - very droll. The implementation is mostly good - as others have noted, the idea of having sub-locations within the single location is effective. There were some oversights though - "go to kitchen", for example, doesn't work (you need to "go into kitchen" or "enter kitchen"). (Spoiler - click to show)Also, there's no "shower drain" object at all to interact with, even though it's specifically mentioned in the to-do list. I don't have a problem with the fact that the game railroads you through its narrative - that's not the kind of game I mostly enjoy, but it can still be effective, and once I'd worked out how to progress, I rather liked almost sitting back and allowing the narrative to take its course.

I don't think I experienced the creepy psychological horror that others report. Either I'm deficient in something or being so prepared for it immunised me. So the actual activity of playing it, while fine, wasn't the deep emotional experience that others clearly find it to be. But at the same time, I suspect that the imagery of this game will prove memorable. And even in a game where the player has very little choice, making these happen *to the player* rather than to a character in a conventional story over whom one has no control at all does add to their power.

So that's my small contribution to the mountain of commentary on this game. It's very short, it's straightforward to play, it's memorable. I wouldn't call it greater than plenty of less celebrated works that I've played. But perhaps to some extent it's a victim of its own success.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
One room, almost perfectly realized, February 2, 2022
by tobiasvl (Norway)

This is a very short and enclosed game, without a clear goal at first. After a bit of milling around, you'll realize how to progress through the game as you start receiving tasks to do; this worked very well, even with the later complications that crop up.

After a while, the tasks get stranger and more specific, and as this happened, I ended up progressing by trial and error. For such a compact and otherwise well-realized game, it's strange that it doesn't respond to the specific items/tasks on your list, and so it veers a bit much into "guess the verb around the general vicinity of items referred to in the tasks" territory for me. (For example, when I was asked to (Spoiler - click to show)"unclog the shower drain", the way I eventually managed to trigger that step was with "take shower", and I also had major problems with removing the package from the kitchen storage.)

I realize this review is mostly criticism, but despite that, the game works almost all of the time. The story is interesting and vague, and although I felt it became a bit too silly by the end, it's a very good example of a creeping feeling of dread that really only IF can give you.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A good but potentially frustrating short story, January 28, 2022
by Cody Gaisser (Florence, Alabama, United States of America, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Known Universe, ???)

I don't know that I have much to add that hasn't been said before about Shade:

*It's more of an interactive short story than an adventure game.
*It's reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.
*It's generally well written.
*Your mileage may vary with the ending.
*It's sometimes hard to tell what you're expected to do next, even when you're holding a checklist.
*(Spoiler - click to show)SAND!!!

Essentially it's good and worth the short time it takes to play, but also potentially frustrating depending on what you expect from interactive fiction/text adventures.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
mesmerising, surreal horror that doesn't overstay its welcome, March 13, 2021

one of my favourite short IF pieces. despite (or perhaps because of) its relatively short length, plotkin manages to create a vividly realised setting that absorbs the player and doesn't let go.

the game's central plot mechanic makes it very hard to discuss what makes it so effective, but here's some of my spoilery thoughts for those who've already played it:

(Spoiler - click to show)i found myself reaching a point where i knew exactly what was going to happen whenever i interacted with another object. knowing that any actions i took would just make it worse, but also knowing that i had to take actions to advance the plot, created a beautiful tension that toys with the idea of agency in IF. it's a simple choice, but within IF, (a medium entirely based on player input) it's pretty genius to tie the worsening of the fear in a horror game directly to the player's own actions like that.

also, it helps that the pacing is just slow enough for the player to wallow in that dread, but never quick enough to diminish its impact.


the prose is evocative but suitably sparse given the game's subtle, psychological approach to horror. and the decision not to flesh out the protagonist's character really helps to place yourself into the setting.

overall, this game is a wonderful way to spend an evening if you enjoy a slow-burn linear experience that holds your attention plot-wise but doesn't demand too much of anything puzzle-wise. perhaps it wears its heart too much on its sleeve to merit replays, but i'd argue a game like this sticks with you enough that replays aren't strictly necessary.


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Good Story, Eh Execution, March 1, 2020

It's a unique experience, but the game is not very friendly. Help and Menu available on most IF's don't exist here (well, it does, but it's not helpful). Players are left to fend for themselves when verbs don't work. With the constant changing scenes, it isn't always completely intuitive what needs to happen next. Sometimes a player knows what to do, but doesn't hit the right word to make it happen, which leads to more frustration than anything. Great concept overshadowed by a frustrating lack of attention to the gameplay itself.


1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Innovative creative writing experiment. Boring interactive fiction., August 23, 2019

This isn't anything you haven't read in a college student's creative writing workshop. Or a no budget student film. The game itself is considered innovative. But there really isn't much to talk about. In general I'm not a fan of this kind of game. It leaves me going, "Huh. Okay." The author himself admits that he rushed to get it to a competition.

Often showing up in top 20 game lists. Frankly, I believe this is due to accessibility, and little to do with the quality of the title. Yes, you don't have to bang your head against this one for long to beat it, but are you left feeling fulfilled? I wasn't. Still, there isn't anything objectively bad about the title. Even if I consider it overrated. It's just not to my taste.


2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A one room vignette, September 2, 2018
by f-a

As other reviewers stated, very difficult to talk about this game without spoiling anything. I will say it is an interesting experiment, puzzles were mostly boring/uninteresting and drags a bit too long for my taste.

Play it with ~1h to kill and an open mind. If you get stuck, just read a transcript.


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very good game. Clever!, March 15, 2018

Don't want to spoil anything, but don't let the "one room" keep you from playing this charming game. Puzzles were great, imagery was spot on.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Unusual with a compelling, well-paced narrative, March 15, 2018

When it said one room, my expectations weren't high; they were surpassed in spades. I loved almost everything about this. The descriptions were great with some subtle humour thrown in, without being tiringly verbose. Most things gave a response, and generally a very good one, (though there were a few situations where half a dozen things are mentioned and weren't understood - could easily be tightened up, but didn't detract).
The problems aren't challenging and normally that would put me off but the unusual nature of this game and the beautiful, well paced unfolding of the narrative was compelling so that, as with all well-crafted fiction, I couldn't put it down.
I would reccommend spending a pleasant hour or two with an ice-cold beer/water, feet up on the sofa, music/radio playing gently in the background and lose yourself in this great little adventure!
I certainly did.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The logic of Death, September 28, 2016
by Form 27b-6 (Southern California)

The true merit of Shade is that it poses the question of free will and fate through interactive fiction. The game (experience?) gives a semblance of freedom to the player. However, as the character explores his room and his grasp on reality weakens, and as he ultimately fails to escape his ordeal (or is the tragedy already behind us?), the player can't quite derail the scripted structure of the game. And thus Andrew Plotkin bonds the player and the character through constraint rather than freedom, which in itself is a bold and original proposition.

The result can be somewhat frustrating, but also conveys the stressful and helpless nature of the situation. However, Andrew Plotkin was clever enough to alleviate the tedious trial and error pattern common to these types of games, by offering some tools to the player. I particularly liked his use of the (Spoiler - click to show)To-do List, to guide the reader through the sequence of events.

Overall, I think Shade is a truly accomplished work, both from literary and technical standpoints. It's definitely morbid, but also very atmospheric and poignant, and the author doesn't lose focus on his main themes throughout the entire game. Players hoping for rewarding puzzles should look elsewhere though, as Shade doesn't offer any meaningful challenge. I was able to complete my first play through without hints within an hour or so. It makes Shade a really good introduction to IF, especially for people interested in the less "gamey" fringe of the medium. This was my first contact with the work of Andrew Plotkin, and it made me crave for more.


0 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Who reads reviews of Andrew Plotkin games?, July 17, 2016

Seriously, who does that? Of course the game is going to be freaking amazing, it is Andrew Plotkin. Just download it and play it already.


2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Eerie and Powerful, May 2, 2016
by Rollersnake (Rogers, AR)

"It's like an interactive episode of The Twilight Zone" is a line that probably doesn't do Shade justice, but it's something I always say when I'm recommending it to anyone—it's about TV episode-length, really grippingly weird as you're playing it, and something you'll still be thinking about years later. Shade is always the first game I bring up whenever I'm introducing someone to IF, and it's one of my favorite pieces of weird fiction—in any medium.


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
very cool, April 7, 2016

nothing like simulated mental deterioration...once everything clicked into place (Spoiler - click to show) the radio! it kinda blew my mind. moral of the story: (Spoiler - click to show) don't do drugs in the desert.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
One of the few games to truly frighten me (because I thought it wouldn't), February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

Shade is a surreal game. It is an almost one-room game, where you are trying to leave your apartment, but encounter more and more difficulties.

Shade is one of the most well-written short horror games available on IFDB, and has been sold as an iOS game.

There were two points in the game that I wasn't expecting and deeply unsettled me. I won't list them here. Unfortunately, this whole review is a bit pointless, as nothing is scary if you are told it is scary. The scariest story I ever read was NES Godzilla, and it was only scary because it was such a ridiculously stupid story that when it actually got scary, it surprised me. On the other hand, I was told The Lurking Horror was one of the scariest games of all time, so when I actually played it, I was pretty disappointed.

So your best bet is to forget this and the other few reviews, wait a few months, think, "Oh, what game is this?" and then play it.

Most of the game, including the ending, was not that scary. Just a few moments stuck out for me, but they were big moments.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Uniquely Casual, August 26, 2015
by RusticSage (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
Related reviews: Surreal, fantasy, psychological

To qualify my review, I'd like to first say that this is the first IA/text adventure game I've played in a number of years, so my experience is not necessarily indicative of regular readers. That being said, I think it may provide its own insights into the title.

This game was very surreal, and without going into too much detail, the conclusions you draw from the game, once finished, are ultimately quite abstract in character. What I particularly enjoyed about this game, despite not necessarily being all that blood-pumping of a title, is the deeply tactile and atmospheric quality of the story. Along with it's atmospheric quality, the nature of the environment you are put in is quite small, albeit requiring lots of searching to make sense of.

For these reasons and more, I think it is an ideal title for a new beginner to interactive fiction, but also well-suited as a palette cleanser or reprieve from more complex adventures. Though I would have wished for a more concrete narrative, and ambiguity of the story, when coupled with its aesthetic, is by no means a thematic platitude.

I will definitely recommend this to friends who might enjoy IF/TA, and I look forward to reading more of Andrew Plotkin's work.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You have no desire to look night in the face., May 11, 2015
by scottmbruner (alameda, california)

It's a testament to Andrew Plotkin's skill as an IF writer that this is my least favorite of his works that I've played so far, and yet I would still highly recommend people experience its tight, disturbing narrative. (and plan to do so, soon).

It's a "one-room" game with no real puzzles nor ability to affect or shape the main narrative, but that's probably the point. The "reality" of your situation and this inevitable illumination of your predicament is superbly crafted.

My gripe is that it didn't impact me as much as others, and I can't explain why. I was more frustrated with trying to understand what was going on and the psychological horror elements never entirely took hold, and the final denouement also added to cognitive confusion (at the expense of an emotional gut punch). That being said, it's such a perfect example of what IF can do when it colors outside the lines, and it's such a short game, I can't imagine there being any reason not to experience it and see how your mileage varies.

Plotkin has created, through details such as the songs that play on your apartment radio to the transfiguring plant in the corner, a very believable world which then compels you to stop believing in it.


0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Good, but getting stuck is a pain., December 31, 2014
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)

This was a good game, by all means. I enjoyed it, the mechanics of delirium were done well. My main complaint is the claustrophobic setting of the game, especially in earlier parts where you can easily become put off by the lack of action. I know that was intentional and is part of its "charm", but I almost gave up early on with the vacuum.

The ending was also a letdown, being ambiguous about what actually happened. Tell us one way or the other, not some weird could be whatever ending. All in all, good game.


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Hmmm... huh?... ho hum., December 31, 2014

Very well written -- moody, evocative, and not too heavy-handed -- but I found steadily declining pleasure in it, especially once I got to the (Spoiler - click to show)fiddle-with-every-damn-object-until-something-happens section. Eventually the puzzle-solving part of my brain checked out and went on vacation somewhere, leaving me to go look for a walkthrough.

It didn't help that I saw the plot twist coming from the minute I saw (Spoiler - click to show)sand.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A reference, December 2, 2013
by Simon Deimel (Germany)

SHADE is not a long game. It is not an extensive game in the sense of locations. It has a quite linear course. It is not very difficult, once you get the hang of it. SHADE is simply awesome, just because of the story that is tells.
After a long time, remembering the old text adventures that I played on my old Amstrad machine, I decided to look for something similar nowadays, and I started with SHADE. Now the game is surely much shorter than commercial games were 20 years ago, but the atmosphere was overwhelming. After a while it was easy to find out what to do next, and each action is rewarded with another disturbing reaction of the environment. I felt drawn into the story and could hardly stop until the end, which can be interpreted in various ways. The game takes place in a single location, but the many implementations create a true-to-life experience, even as things start to change.
All in all SHADE is a reference how interactive fiction has to be composed. It is a delightful treat for both beginners and veterans of text-based games.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Elusive symbolism, but well-written, December 24, 2012
by Andromache (Hawaii)

I've never been very good at working out symbolic meanings. I think I'm supposed to take something away from this, but it eludes me. (Spoiler - click to show)I have impressions of someone going mad from dehydration and possibly drug use, but the ending feels like I'm supposed to be grasping something that I'm not.

There were some parts of the game where I struggled with what to do. (Spoiler - click to show)The only thing that gave me any clue was that if something was intact, it must be destroyed. However, I had tremendous fun wrecking everything, and the writing during that part of the game had me laughing out loud. The to-do list, changes in room description, and the plant showing the state of dehydration were nice touches and enhanced the bleakness of the atmosphere.

This is a fun diversion and mostly intuitive. Not difficult at all for anyone familiar with IF conventions. It's worth playing just for the amusing and ironic writing.


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Thought-provoking but somewhat blah, August 20, 2012
by glassmice (Equatorial)

Maybe I'm dead inside, but somehow I couldn't get drawn into the plot, despite the excellent attention to detail, (Spoiler - click to show)e.g. the subtle changes to the game environment as the story progressed, and very competent writing. Perhaps what detracted from the story-telling was the predictability of the plot twist, which was not so subtly hinted at (too?) early in the beginning (Spoiler - click to show)(namely the news report on the stereo), and the linear manner in which the subsequent actions unfold. For most of the game I could see where the character was going, and it was just a matter of figuring out how to lead him there; the little details in the story, which on hindsight provide so much to the narrative process, just got lost in the rather tedious gameplay.

That said, Shade provides lots of material for literary analysis, and the ending is tantalizingly opaque. So if you don't mind gameplay (no puzzles!) taking a backseat to a good - if slightly hackneyed - storyline, this IF is for you. If you're unsure if you'd like, its short length (approximately 1 hour) means you could give it a shot anyway. Who knows, you might end up liking it.


3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing and Creepy One Room Short IF, April 8, 2012
by octofuzz (Trondheim, Norway)

Played it over an Easter vacation in a hotel lobby and was absolutely captivated.

Easily solved in under two hours but I think it will take several runs through for me to appreciate all of its subtle messages and meaning.

Great for beginners as well (it was the second ever game I completed).

Download, absorb, enjoy.


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A Solid Four-Star Game, March 20, 2012
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: andrew plotkin, one-room, short

Play the game if: you simply want to enjoy a competent and in some places innovative work of interactive fiction without getting bogged down in complex intellectual challenges.

Don't play the game if: you want to be dazzled with narrative brilliance, or if you want more out of IF than good prose and atmosphere.

Shade is a work of interactive fiction that could easily have doubled as a script for The Twilight Zone. In fact, certain very apt comparisons could be made to (Spoiler - click to show)Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", a film adaptation of which was shown on The Twilight Zone.

The bare mechanics of Shade work rather well. In fact, the very question of "difficulty" doesn't even seem to exist in this game. Plotkin's writing is sharp enough that when the rules begin to change, the differences will leap out at you even though they're rather subtle - details such as (Spoiler - click to show)The protagonist's vacuum suddenly being full of sand, or the apartment's plant changing species.

The apartment setting is implemented with convenience in mind, the game allowing for multiple locations in a single-room setting without forcing the player to resort to constant commands of "enter" and "exit". My favorite games in IF focus on synchronizing the kind of decision-making underlying in-game actions with the player's own mind. Such games, and in this case Shade, impart a sense of intuitive control and completeness that can help the game transcend itself in the Turing-esque sense that IF has always striven to accomplish.

There is only so much one can discuss in the story itself without referring to heavy spoilers. The fact that there even exist heavy spoilers is in and of itself something of a spoiler, which poses something of a problem. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, the attempt must be made.

An undeniable strength of the story is the atmosphere. The one-room setting achieved the right balance of comprehensibility and potential to explore; the pacing of your introductory searches around the room is good enough to introduce all the important elements at play and keep them in your mind at all times.

Perhaps because I've seen this particular brand of story before, Shade's actual narrative doesn't come across as particularly fresh or new for me. This is likely more a subjective nitpick than an objective criticism, but there you go. What might be called the second act (Spoiler - click to show)(specifically, the process of turning all of your apartment to sand) was for me a rather laborious process of carrying out the obvious, even though I understood more or less where this story was going to end. Even before getting to this stage I'd more or less guessed the ending - showing that while subtle details will leap out at you, there's an added risk of too much foreshadowing.

The result was that I wasn't as gripped by Shade as I might have been - the two moments of genuine excitement being the realization of what was actually going on (turning out to be something I'd seen before), and the epilogue of sorts, which is written rather well.

Still, this is, if not a great work, at least a very good one; the implementation of the setting, the comfortable command system, and the prose are by themselves enough to make this game worth your time.


2 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
No second chances, September 22, 2011
by Deboriole (San Diego, CA)

I enjoyed this game to a point. That point came when I became completely stuck and had to look at a walkthrough. Turns out I missed one opportunity and therefore could never solve the game. There was no indication that I was hopelessly stuck, so I rambled about for an hour until finally throwing in the towel. That did not make me very happy! There could be a simple solution to this...

(Spoiler - click to show)I really wish the helicopter would have come around again... I failed to look out the window in the two turns I had, and was not able to finish the game as a result.


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The "Jacob's Ladder" of Interactive Fiction, August 4, 2011
by John Daily (New York)

There is a reason why, eleven years after its release, people are still playing (and discussing) Shade: It's a benchmark game. Beautiful in its elegance and completely immersive, its seemingly simplistic gameplay belies a sophisticated core.

The player begins in his (or her) apartment, several hours before embarking on a Burning Man-styled trip to the desert. The game starts off walking the player through mundane tasks, which serves two purposes: First, it eases the player into the game's vernacular; second, it puts him on comfortable footing, which is an important detail, as it makes the slow descent into its surreal Hell even more stark by contrast.

Designer/Writer Andrew Plotkin ensured that Shade can be enjoyed by players of all levels. A creatively implemented help system, woven into the story, walks the main character through tasks that need completion without being intrusive. For those who don't need such hand-holding, opting out is as simple a matter as not looking. For all its newbie-friendliness however, Shade features writing that works on several levels; statements that might initially elicit a chuckle become downright sinister as the game progresses.

I hesitate to call Shade a game, because the writing and pacing is so dead on (if you'll pardon the expression); although you will be ahead of things during the game's middle section, it's a necessary evil dictated by the plot, and it's safe to say this will not be the case as you progress toward the finale. Be forewarned however: if surrealism and ambiguity aren't your thing, then you may want to bypass this one. Shade is the Jacob's Ladder of the medium: not very scary while you're experiencing it, but it gets under your skin and stays there long after the word "END" appears on-screen.


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Surrealist IF at its best, July 6, 2011
by katz (Altadena, California)

Surrealist interactive fiction is largely an untapped resource, and this well-written and well-crafted little game shows what the genre is capable of. It's atmospheric, creepy, and suffused with a sense of inexorability that builds as the player finds him- or herself moving things along towards a foreboding conclusion.

The ambiguous ending frustrates a lot of players, but I appreciated it. It seems clear enough to me--the game isn't excessively complex--Plotkin just never states it overtly. Surely there's room in the canon for a few intentionally unresolved endings, and if they belong anywhere, it's in a surrealist game.


1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal, February 2, 2011

Odd, eerie, surrealistic, and foreboding, "Shade's" mood is its real attraction. The game's only "puzzle" is actually a very clever meta-puzzle; once you've noticed what all the significant commands in the game have in common, you'll get the gimmick and soon find yourself at the game's notorious ending.


4 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Shades of black and white?, January 28, 2011
by Aintelligence (Canada)

This is such a controversial game in so many different ways that I felt the need to weigh in my thoughts. I'll get this straight from the beginning so there's no confusion later. This game was in my mind an incredibly put together game. Arguably the best of Andrew Plotkin (although several others come to mind as well).

It is hard to write a review on this game without giving the whole story up, but I'll do my best.
I think that the two main strengths of the game are all related to character, and the links which are created throughout the game. Yes it's confusing and I played it twice to see all that I could learn (although I'm sure I could get more from it in my fourth or fifth time playing it.), but between these two elements, the game is worth the time.

The character is reLly the part of the plot in which I hate to spoil. I will say that plotkin, has really worked hard on making genuine emotion within the character. Every emotion is set out so well, (Spoiler - click to show) from genuine surprise, to a certain shrouded fear, to crazed terror and the downright craziness. the character not only has rapid changes of emotions, but I similarly was drawn into the story and experienced a wide range of emotions and wierdness. (Spoiler - click to show) of course it is the brain of the character which is in the end the most chilling part...

Secondly, the major strength of this piece is how, like a good puzzle, everything relates to each other in a dim, but in the end understandable, way. I think it is that dim sense that something isn't right even at the beginning of the adventure that was extremely compelling. Even further was how seemingly unexplainable things happened and felt vaguely related all
of the time. It really kept me on the edge of my seat. Many have said that it gets really tedious after a while of playing. Personally (maybe i'm just weird) I liked the timing of it very well. Nothing was forced, and it gave me a time to build up the suspense. (Spoiler - click to show) which for me started at the 'strange' vacuum scene.

I didn't really find too many weaknesses with this game, except maybe for the Different parts of the room which I wasn't very fond of. I will say this, it's very well done. Play it and play it more than once.


7 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
What happened?, December 29, 2010

Some people might think from my breathless review of Spider and Web that I am an Andrew Plotkin groupie. This is not the case. While I have tremendous respect for his fearsome combination of seamless coding and tight story-telling*, he is, in the end, only human. Shade is the reminder.

The start of this work exhibits all of Mr. Plotkin's hallmark qualities: his trick of making the mundane seem interesting with inventive prose, his expert sense of how long to keep the player in suspense before providing the next clue about what's going on, his knack for making the story follow you before you can follow it. The excellence of this work set up some high expectations about what would come next.

To me, everything about the first half of the game seemed to be pointing towards a particular moment of revelation, in which the player would literally "wake up" and begin a new section of gameplay. This never happened. Instead, things take a sharp turn towards the weird and abstract, and the story leaves the player in the lurch, confused and unsatisfied about which, if any, of the tensions introduced in the first half were resolved.

When abstraction is introduced, art is always in danger of sliding down the slippery slope from transcendent to incomprehensible. Shade, unfortunately, goes right over the edge. While it is tempting to think that I just "missed it", it seems more likely that Mr. Plotkin's profound intuition misled him here in deciding how to communicate whatever he was trying for. [edit: Turns out there was quite a bit I just missed. (Spoiler - click to show)The studied opinion of IF master Emily Short shows that a careful reading of the text provides plenty of evidence (subtle though some of it may be) to support a consistent and interesting interpretation of the end. I've upped my rating by a point to reflect this.]

This game is still worth playing at least once just to marvel at the genius of its functioning as the story's central mystery unwinds. I can't even conceive of what the underlying code for this game looks like, but it feels like something deeply elegant and beautifully simple. If the story had the same coherence, this might have been another landmark work in the field.

* Or is it tight coding and seamless story-telling?


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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