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(based on 29 ratings)
About the Story
"Dancing with Fear" (1958, directed by Víctor Ojuel). In this forgotten classic of Golden Age Hollywood, a vedette fallen on hard times (Salomé Vélez) finds herself enmeshed in a tangle of political intrigue, romance and betrayal in a Caribbean republic. Torn between her love for a smuggler, the lust of a corrupt policeman and the machinations of a Soviet intelligence operative, the protagonist navigates the dangers of a high-society party on the eve of revolution. As she tries to survive through that fateful night, the memories of her past will come to haunt her. Controversial at the time for its depiction of Cold War politics and morally ambiguous protagonist. (120 minutes, Technicolor, in-game hint system).
Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting; Nominee - Salomé Vélez, Best Individual PC - 2017 XYZZY Awards
8th Place - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)
IFComp 2017 Review: 1958: Dancing With Fear by Victor Ojuel
This is a high-quality effort, with great production values, excellent performances, beautiful cinematography, and a leading actress to die for.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Ojuel is a master of setting, and this is a great game. You play as an former dancer in 1958 in a communist Carribean country. You have to extricate something from a house party, but you don't know what it is.
The game has great storytelling, using flashbacks and conversation to good effect. I see it getting nominated for several XYZZYs.
There were several implementation difficulties, though, because it was sometimes hard to know what verbs to use. A post-comp release that implemented every command response contained in judges' reviews would not take much time, and would add the finishing touches to this already great game.
I liked the setting and the tone of this game a lot. It's nice how the main character is build throughout the story and how you can still discover something about her in the very final scene. Unfortunately, the version I've been playing (original IFComp, first-day release) suffers from a series of drawbacks that spoiled some of the fun.
First of all, the mechanics. Having every single sequence as a puzzle which you have to solve to advance reminded me too much of those old-time games in the style of Robin of Sherwood by Brian Howarth. A little more space to maneuver wouldn't have harmed.
Second: large part of the game is solved by mechanically TALKing TO someone pretty obvious. The parser is reduced enough so that a handful of verbs are needed in total. Maybe, given how the story is nice and appealing, a choice-based text would have been more suited for the occasion. (ETA: this may sound arbitrary and a little bit too far, and it probably is: it was indeed more of a provocation than a real suggestion. We know how branching is/should be one of the main points in choice-based mechanics, and this was obviously not the intent of the author.)
Last: there's a lot of polish to undergo to make this title perfect. Objects that don't disappear in descriptions, others that stick in your inventory after jumps of years; typos (to whom I don't care much, but still there they are...); the lack of interaction with some of the descriptions and a couple of sudden deaths that can be solved only after one died, via UNDO.
This said: there's 6 different endings (which I wasn't able to find), and a lot of story to read and live. If this was given some more time to test it would have been 4 stars at least.
(ETA: I ended up giving 4 stars to this game anyway, as i understood, in comparison with other projects, that I was being too critical. The story is really cool and the games embraces you a lot, in a trip that I would do again, now that some weeks have passed.)
1958 Dancing with Fear is a very cinematic IF experience.
We are dropped in medias res in the head of Palomé, a woman we know next to nothing about at the beginning, but who clearly has an intruiging history.
As play begins, she is persuaded by an accomplice to accompany him into the Grand Mansion they are conveniently standing right in front of. He wants Palomé to strengthen his disguise (infiltrating a ballroom party is less conspicuous with a beautiful woman on your arm...), and he also needs her to be ready to create a distraction should that be necessary.
This wasn't part of the plan, but reluctantly (and slightly excited by the prospect) Palomé agrees. Within minutes after entering the mansion, the plan goes south, the accomplice is discovered and the success of the mission falls upon Palomé's shoulders.
You (the player) help Palomé by investigating the surroundings and talking to the guests at the party, some of whom are familiar from her past. This brings memories to Palomé's mind, gradually uncovering her eventful backstory while at the same time providing clues for handling obstacles.
While the main story and the mansion it takes place in are small, the use of flashbacks adds a lot of content and substance to the game. You get to know your main character better and better, causing you to align your game-objectives with her in-story motivations.
The flashbacks and the various obstacles in the mansion play out as short scenes in a movie. This gives the game a strong forward drive, pulling the player along with Palomé's discoveries and her memories.
It also means the game is very much on rails.
The author gives the player some leeway. Examining everything closely is encouraged. Even unimportant details will give a small insight into the personages' lives and the social/political climate of the time period.
However, any actions other than X run the danger of going "off script", leading to a swift discovery and a failed mission. These losing endings are just as engagingly written as the main line of the story.
To strengthen the immersion in the time-period, it's very much worth the time to just LISTEN (or WAIT) multiple times in the ballroom. The author has gone through the effort of providing a very large variety of background murmuring and gossiping for the guests. An effort that adds immensely to the atmosphere.
When you pay attention to the clues in Palomé's backstory, the puzzles shouldn't be too difficult. Sometimes the order in which to tackle one or the other obstacle is a bit unclear, as some of the clues seem to be applicable to more than one situation. This shouldn't pose too much of a problem though, and if you should go too far off script, there's always RESTORE (or multiple UNDOs) to get you back on cue.
Dancing with Fear is engagingly and enthusiastically written. The subject matter is quite a bit heavier than magical kleptomania, but it is handled in a balanced manner. Heartwarming notes, action sequences, and personal revelations are spread throughout the game which, mingled with the socio-political background motivations, make for an equally entertaining as though-provoking IF-piece.
Unfortunately, there is a noticeable amount of typos and language errors in the text. Not enough to ruin the pleasure, but they are distracting and immersion-breaking.
At the end of the game, the player has several choices (six, to be exact, of which I found three). They make it possible to insert your own views on the matter at hand (which I've kept deliberately vague in this review...), and choose an ending according to your personal preferences.
A great spy-infiltration thriller with deep background. Heartily recommended.
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