Photopia

by Adam Cadre profile

Slice of life
1998

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5 star:
(274)
4 star:
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3 star:
(69)
2 star:
(21)
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Number of Ratings: 552
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- Cognitive_Prospector, June 6, 2020

- Edo, May 24, 2020

- Virix, May 17, 2020

- kierlani, April 30, 2020

- Elizabeth DeCoste (Canada), April 2, 2020

- RoboDragonn, April 1, 2020

- Sammel, March 21, 2020

- airylef, February 23, 2020

- Zape, February 8, 2020

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Inspirational, January 29, 2020

This is one of the first adventure games I played, and soon I understood the potential of the genre. How he plays with colour, voices, time... it's inspirational.

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- Rovarsson (Belgium), December 3, 2019

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
I guess this was groundbreaking?, December 3, 2019

Photopia is fun to read, but it's not a masterpiece or anything. Apparently in 1998 the idea that we could use a text-based medium to tell a story was a huge deal, and that "wow" moment is what got the game on so many "greatest of all time" lists. Coming into it from my perspective, though, one where IF as ebook with some stray interactive elements is just as common as IF as game or puzzle, this is basically just, yeah, one more IF as ebook. Pretty good. Not amazing.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
I may have played this game too late..., November 14, 2019

Over the next couple of days I intend to write on IFDB reviews of some IF games I have fond memories of. I am hopeful that recentness of play is not mandated on this site, since I will be reviewing from memory games I played years or decades ago.

Photopia, even when I played it back around 2000 or thereabouts, was already incredibly lionized as a masterpiece. Thus even back then I was given reason to be somewhat sceptical of it. I never had the immediacy of response to this game that I did to, say, So Far by Plotkin, or even Cadre's own Varicella. In effect, the ultimate "spoiler" was merely this game's reputation. Besides, by the time I decided to give Photopia a try I was already familiar with the fact that IF could be literary and immersive. I was somewhat beyond being surprised.

Photopia is entirely literary; it is effectively IF as pure literature. Therefore it stands and falls simply on its literary merit. Now, most negative reviewers of Photopia seem to accuse it of being written in the style of a teenage geek of the era. Without knowing anything of Mr Cadre's background, I agree that there is an aspect of immaturity of vision in the writing. This I noticed even though I was a teenager myself when I played it. I am still not sure the extent to which this damages the tale from a literary standpoint. It could be argued that the main character (Spoiler - click to show) is dead throughout the entire game and is merely reflecting back on her short life; since she died as a teenager, some teenage narcissism, immaturity and morbidity is perhaps to be expected.

I never particularly admired that aspect of the game - Ally herself, I mean. However, I was always intrigued by the final scene of the game. Most reviews on this game seem to complain that there is no ending. But there is an ending; and it still intrigues me thinking back on it later; the dreadful and haunting image of the(Spoiler - click to show) infant Ally being introduced to the photopia in the first place. There is something so creepy about this ending that I sometimes reflect on it even now. Clearly the photopia (Spoiler - click to show) has affected the child Ally deeply, to a degree that she presumably has no conscious memory of when she grows up. Yet those coloured lights contaminate every aspect of the story; showing that in some way Ally is changed by something that is beyond her conscious memory. This aspect alone - the idea that our soul may be built on long-forgotten foundations in early childhood, is fascinating enough. But I would go further.

Indeed, similarly to the bizarre ending of Shade by Andrew Plotkin, I always interpreted the ending of Photopia as follows. (Spoiler - click to show)The parents, in providing the photopia to the infant Ally, have unwittingly created a kind of Tibetan Book Of The Dead for the girl. That is, through the entire story Ally is already dead and waiting to be reincarnated. She is reflecting back on her own life through the prism of the photopia as best she can. This requires seeing everything that has happened in the multiple coloured lights of the device.

For example, I interpret the famous "crystal maze" as(Spoiler - click to show) the dead Ally reflecting on the windscreen shattering across her face. Indeed, the infant Ally is a dead soul dreaming of her short life and awaiting rebirth.

This one aspect of the story is enough, in my opinion, to forgive all manner of shortcomings in characterisation and possible immaturity of tone. I think that many people have fundamentally misunderstood the point of the story, to which there are enough clues in the cryptic ending.

Despite the above, I honestly couldn't say that I loved this game as much as other IF. As I say, I was probably less impressed than I might have been had I played this game first.

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Interactive fiction only, lacks replayability, October 27, 2019

When this game first came out, it was the first "html-style" text adventure game I had ever played; with the exception of Eric the Unready's hybrid of graphics and text-input, I had never played a text adventure game which involved anything more than inputting text and certainly had never seen a text-only input game use color changes on screen as in Photopia. I remember being favorably impressed at the time, especially since the colors changes are influenced by the story itself.

However, the novelty fades on replaying - even 20 years later, when some of the details of the story had faded from my memory: I am underwhelmed by a game which requires next to no interaction from me. Personally, I enjoy leisurely text adventures with perhaps several different endings and the opportunity to explore, fail, ferret out solutions, and interact with the fictional world. In other words, I like to partake in a story and have an investment in its outcome.

Photopia affords none of this whatsoever. There is no adventure to this story, and there is nothing the end user can do to alter the outcome. The end user is steadily pushed through from scene to scene, with the only choice being a handful of conversation topics, all of which lead to the same certain conclusion. There are few things to actually 'do.' This is much like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book... but all the pages to which you turn ultimately take you to the same endgame/red light.

Photopia's publication seemed, at least to me, to begin a trend in departure from text adventure to a true "interactive fiction" genre, where the author has a story to tell and is determined to have you read it. In retrospect to my first-time playthrough and in combination with my recent replaying, I am confident in saying that while this worked for a one-time storytelling, Photopia does not hold up to repeated replaying.

Extra star given for its discussion of precious metals.

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- beecadee, September 15, 2019

- Whom (Wisconsin, United States), August 22, 2019

- jjsonick, August 17, 2019

- Kommissar Verboten, July 1, 2019

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Generational, May 27, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

I just finished Photopia for the second time, almost twenty years after my first playthrough. I worried that time or perspective would change my opinion, and while that did indeed happen, it remains a treasure I will still recommend to anyone who delves into the world of interactive fiction.

When I first played I was about 20 years old and was mostly moved by the big dramatic moments. Like others have mentioned, time has led me to find these somewhat manipulative, lacking depth. The character of Alley in particular doesn't move me any longer, though I reject that she is a Mary-Sue. We don't see her flaws, though I believe this is because we only see her through the eyes of others who have no reason to highlight her flaws. On this playthrough then I was moved by the characters around Alley, her parents especially (perhaps being the parent of a daughter now helps that). The best parts of Photopia are the ones that don't move the story, where you learn more about everyone through the conversation system or by examining the world around you. The only part I actively disliked was the scene from Alley's suitor, who is nothing but a trope here.

Beyond the characters, I am still amazed at the technical skills on display. The dynamic maps during the bedtime story sections are amazing. Cadre also does a wonderful job of pushing the player through the game at the perfect pace in order to tell his story. While this could have worked as static fiction, I believe the medium improves immersion.

Even with its now recognizable flaws, I remain very fond of this work and will hopefully play it with my children when they are old enough.

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
This game is like a Russian doll, May 15, 2019
by suchamazingdoge (Austin, Texas)

Basically, this game is a bunch of stories that tie into each other, and work to make one single story. A story within a story, like a Russian doll.

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- UmbrellaPie, May 5, 2019

- Jan Strach, April 11, 2019

- elias67, March 11, 2019

- mkn, March 4, 2019

- Deka, March 1, 2019


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