The Wheels Must Turn

by Heal Butcher

Surreal/Horror
2001

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Number of Reviews: 2
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Darkly fatalistic, tinged with absurdity, ultimately pointless., August 13, 2011
by DB (Columbus, OH)

Densely overwritten, yes, but nobody could charge Heal Butcher with unoriginality-- characters, setting, and diction all are out of the ordinary and strongly support the story's mood of mystery, horror, and the uncontrollable. There is even a shade of absurdist humor amidst its toil and suffering. At the very least, the quasi-flabbergasting verbosity of "The Wheels Must Turn" offers a refreshing break from the fairly rote descriptions one sometimes finds in interactive fiction. On these strengths, it warrants a play or even just a gawk.

On the other hand, the interactive element feels pointless to the extent that I cannot offer it more than 3 stars. Aside from conversation subjects, second-level descriptions only offer repetitions of what has already been said, and the plot structure, short as it is, is strictly linear-on-rails. The winning action seems overtly symbolic, but since what exactly it represents in the world is never clear it just feels empty. Perhaps these detractions were due to competition restrictions (I haven't been able to find the constraints of the ADRIFT Spring MiniComp 2001 anywhere), but player action holds so little meaning in this text that I have to wonder if it could have been better presented as static fiction.

Overall: strongly atmospheric, but left me scratching my head.