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Texting adventure, December 2, 2021
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)
Iíve seen a number of games that ape the text-message format, but Closure manages something novel and very impressive by doing so in parser, rather than choice based, format. Itís a brilliant move, since text-adventure shorthand makes more sense if youíre texting someone in a time-sensitive situation, and Closure goes the extra mile by recasting all the parser error messages in the voice of your friend. Oh, and through some interpreter wizardry, the game actually looks like itís playing out via text bubbles, complete with short but not irritating delays between messages.
As impressive as the first impression is, Closure isnít all style and no substance because the gameplay itself is satisfying too. Itís a short, one-room game, as you guide your friend Kira through an ill-advised break-in so she can search her exís dorm room for clues to what drove them apart. It does the usual one-room game trick of providing telescoping detail Ė thereís a closet, which when opened has another half-dozen objects, and so on Ė and since this is a character-focused piece, most of what youíre doing is just examining, with only one real puzzle (itís a pretty clever one, though Ė it uses a trick that often seems a little unfair in a regular parser game, but makes total sense here). The voice is dead on, and itís satisfying to peel back the layers of the exís plausibly-realized college life.
If I have a quibble, itís that Kiraís moment of revelation felt a bit on-on-the-nose, and her sense of what counts as someoneís identity is pretty juvenile. Plus Iím pretty sure she could have read between the lines and figured out what was going on earlier than she did. But hey, these are teenaged characters, so maybe thatís fitting.
Highlight: there are a lot of neat touches here, but one of my favorites was the elegant way the game responds if you take the high road and refuse to read the exís personal notes.
Lowlight: Thereís a mad-libs style opening where you can type in some things you do to relax, with the responses getting braided into the game later on. This works as well as mad-libs stuff usually does in IF, which is to say, awkwardly (both narratively and on a technical level, as I capitalized my entries, and the capitalization was retained even when the responses came in the middle of sentences).
How I failed the author: with Henry mid-nap I was able to play through in one sitting, and even took notes and everything! I did forget to save a transcript though, so my new-father brain did still manage to mess something up.