It Is Pitch Black

by Caelyn Sandel profile


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
I Can't Believe It's Speed-IF, January 13, 2016

To start with: I am not going to review this as an Ectocomp game, because it is so well-constructed, in terms of both writing and gameplay, that there is no way I could have guessed that it was made in three hours. I am going to review it as if it were any other interactive fiction game.

Caelyn Sandel has a history of making Twine games with strong world modelling and well implemented puzzles, more like point-and-click adventures than CYOA stories. It Is Pitch Black falls into this category. The plot is simple, but engaging: you are a kid going into an abandoned hardware store for a bet, one of your friends accidentally locks you in, and you have to find a way to make the light last until help arrives. Because you're not alone.

The writing is excellent: clear, not fancy, transmitting both the setting and the PC's sensations perfectly and without melodramatic effects. The use of graphics (and lack thereof) adds to the ambience. The puzzles are solid; again, exactly what I expect from Sandel's work. It is not extremely difficult, but it took me a couple of tries to beat.

I have very little negative criticism. The world-building feels sketchy, including magic and monsters as well as a vague (but evocative) apocalypse some time before the start of the game, but as the outro text explains that the game is part of a larger setting created by the author, I presume that other works fill in the details. I could also quibble with the use of the Zorkian staple, the grue, in an otherwise serious and non-derivative story. Obviously, there is a reason for the monster being called a grue (and not, say, a gazzok): the game's main puzzle is finding light sources, the average IF player knows that grues are afraid of light, no further set-up is needed. It still brought me out of the game a little bit.

As horror games go, this isn't particularly horrific, but it is tense and atmospheric. Recommended if you want a decently challenging Twine game with a world model and puzzles.

(And no, I still don't know how Ms. Sandel makes games like this in three hours.)

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Danielle, September 10, 2016 - Reply
As someone who didn't grow up in the heyday of Zork and the other original text adventure games, the use of a grue doesn't goof-ify the tone at all for me. Having never played Zork (but having seen grues used in a couple other games), I come to the game with a general sense that "grue + dark = dangerous", without any additional baggage, so to speak.

I really enjoyed your review, it gave me some extra background; I never would've known this was Speed-IF otherwise!
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