Sunset Over Savannah

by Ivan Cockrum

Fantasy
1997

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- Kinetic Mouse Car, August 5, 2022

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Immensely Overrated, May 6, 2022

This game has some of the most annoying puzzles I've seen. Ones where the logic required to solve them just barely holds up. At every step, you're required to make some massive leaps of intuition, performing ridiculous actions that have little cluing. Even when I had the general idea, the actual steps involved were bizarre. (Spoiler - click to show)Getting the crab, for instance. Tie a strap from some goggles to a shingle (huh?), then tie that strap to a shrimp (huh???), then put the whole assembly into the crab's home, and it'll float to the surface carrying the crab (WHAT). How the hell is a goggle strap big enough to tie around a shingle - a shingle big enough that we also use it to dig six feet into the ground? How does the shrimp not slide out? This is so convoluted and stupid. Or how about those benches? I typed "push benches south", which worked just fine, but then I'm expected to key in "put benches against wall". Why not be consistent, and just let me type "push benches southwest"? Obviously, I can't get specific without spoilers, but know that if you want to solve this without hints, you'll need to be prepared to try a lot of things that don't really make sense, and learn not to be surprised when they end up being correct. Also, there's several times where you have to perform the same action multiple times, in one case with no clue that you need to do so. (Spoiler - click to show)(Searching the trash barrel.)

It gets off to a bad start by taking place in a boring location - a mostly empty beach. Your character gripes about their job - you see, they've got a lot of money in the bank, and this vacation in paradise has them thinking that they could stand to do a lot less working. And there is your plot. Seeing enough exciting sights to convince an independently wealthy person to quit their job and live off their savings. This isn't especially relatable. Sure, most of us would love to explore the world instead of toiling away in drudgery, but having the money to do so just sitting around: that's less common.

I think the main obstacle sitting in my way was the fact that most of the puzzle solutions involve magic, which I wasn't expecting. It's out of place. The other story elements are so grounded that it just seems silly. The overblown writing when your character is being "emotionally moved" just felt forced, and hearing them go, "Hmm, maybe I SHOULD quit my job???" after each one was insufferable. People don't act like this.

The whole game is just obnoxiously twee in tone, and seems to think that having emotional fulfillment rather than treasure as a goal is "deep". It's not. They've just replaced Zork's treasures with adjective-heavy descriptions of nature. Your character has no depth; they just go from wanting to quit to quitting. And again, the puzzles suck.

Two stars for being well-programmed, but otherwise I think this game is overrated fluff that is mostly unsolvable without the hints or a walkthrough.

The worst puzzle in the game:
(Spoiler - click to show)Jumping into the ocean with a brick. Idiotic. There's not the slightest clue that you need to do this. Maybe if your character said he wanted to kill himself - why else would you thrust yourself to the bottom of the fucking ocean? But no, it's so he can appreciate the beauty of the coral reef. Well, of course.


SPAG

Mr. Cockrum integrates the ordinary and fantasy elements skillfully: those parts of the story that go beyond ordinary experience are few, carefully chosen, and clearly surprise the player-character as much as the player. Just as importantly, those elements are out of your control and mostly independent of your actions, so the feeling of ordinariness juxtaposed with the fantastic is enhanced.

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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

Sunset Over Savannah (hereafter called Sunset) is one of the most impressive, enjoyable, and successful games of the 1997 competition. Interestingly, it shares a strategy with another very successful game, She's Got a Thing for a Spring: both games present a natural world where fantasy-style magic is subtle to the point of nonexistence, but which nonetheless is suffused with wonder, divulging incredible sights which move the spirit as strongly as ever did any of Gandalf's fireworks. The game takes place on a beach whose implementation is exquisitely complete, a small space which allows a great number of options within it... narrow but very deep. In itself, implementation of this depth carries a kind of magic, the kind of delirious sense of possibility inherent in all the best interactive fiction. The magic goes beyond this, though. The puzzles in the game (at least, the ones I had time to solve) are focused on a single theme: finding magic and wonder in a seemingly mundane world. As you wander the game's beach and find ways to ferret out its secrets, those secrets display themselves in fiery sequences of enchantment and glamour. It's an effect whose emotional impact could not be duplicated in a graphical game, only imitated. The arresting visuals would be there, but they would only carry a pale shadow of the reverential awe conveyed by the author's excellent prose.

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- penguincascadia (Puget Sound), March 24, 2022

- Edo, February 8, 2021

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A shining pearl., October 21, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Playing Sunset over Savannah is a marvelous experience.

It is a story about personal growth and difficult emotional decisions in a magic-realist setting. The protagonist goes through a sequence of changing emotions about his life and himself that reverberated strongly with me. The setting reflects that. It is an everyday beach location, a pavilion by the seashore, that is suffused with wonderment about small beauties. At defining points in the story, the magic breaks through in illusions or visions whose reality is up to the reader to interpret.

Hard as it may be, the writing succeeds flawlessly in capturing that feeling of wonder in the real. There are carefully crafted short descriptions of the beauty of beach, sun, sea... Responses to actions are clear and to the point.
Following important emotional breakthroughs the author goes all out in dreamlike prose, that fits with the moment in the story.
All through the game there is a fun, friendly humor, making the player feel at home in this world.

Of course, a bug at the wrong moment would kill the fragile atmosphere of a game like this quite swiftly. Fortunately, Sunset over Savannah is very much up to the challenge of sustaining this wondrous experience. I found one tiny bug and less than a handfull of typos. Things like sand, water and ropetying are well handled, as are swimming and diving. The little details like a small crab scuttling around in the sand or the pressure of a wave crashing above while diving add immensely to the immersion. There are also tons of meaningful responses to completely unnecessary commands, which makes it a joy to just play in the sand.

The puzzles our protagonist has to solve to get a grip on his own emotions and resolve are hard. Really hard. (To me, that is. I'm not that proficient in that department.) It was particularly difficult to find that first loose thread to get the ball rolling, and even then, the ball got stuck more than a few times. This is no punishment however, having such a beautiful place to wander around in. It pays to think about all the properties of the inventory-objects, all the possible functions they could have.
There is a good help system with vague-to-explicit hints per puzzle, but once you've explored all locations thoroughly, all you should maybe need are one or two nudges.

A lesser game would have a serious problem with integrating so many hard puzzles into a story that depends on depth of emotion and fragile wonderment. It would be hard to maintain the willing suspension of disbelief on the player's part.
Not Sunset over Savannah. The characterization of the protagonist and his mental state are strong enough to maintain the illusion and the immersion.

A beautiful, beautiful game.


- kierlani, June 25, 2020

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Buggy but playable and enjoyable, December 18, 2019

Played this game in its original form (back in the day) and in the non-competition form (today). The story is good, and I always found it cathartic to play not for points but instead to increase satisfaction in lifeís joys with the ultimate goal of quitting an unliked job. However, typos (a shrimp in a boiler being described as a shrimp in a bottle) and programming bugs (in relation to a mite, and Iíll say no further) do not lend to a fully rounded 5 star review.


- Jan Strach, April 19, 2018

- Guenni (At home), February 1, 2018

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful but confounding, July 11, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

This is one of those games that makes you feel great after finishing it... with the help of a walkthrough. Unfortunately, no amount of verbose prose and wonderful descriptions of a setting that I can immediately transport myself to can make up for a lack of purpose.

When the game begins, you are contemplating quitting your job. Here's where the first branch of the storyline could begin, depending on your own perspective. Is the game about convincing yourself to remain employed, or to realize that you should quit? You don't really know enough about the character to make a well-informed decision, and so instead... you follow your hunger to a snack bar and buy some boiled peanuts.

From that point on, the game expects you to know what to do next. Stumbling around the beach, you can find a lot of shells (Spoiler - click to show)that are never important, really and a few nice sand sculptures. You're introduced to a species of glass mite that, to my knowledge, don't exist in reality, so I suppose the player could start to infer that they're living in an alternate/fantasy world.

But again, you're just making assumptions. After a few more laps around the beach without making any kind of progress, I decided to check out the in-game hints. From there, I read the answer to the question 'What are my goals?'. Four or five hints later, I realized that there were a series of random astonishing events that you needed to experience. Since the most interesting thing I had discovered up to that point was a meticulously crafted castle of glass, I decided to find a walkthrough. When I witnessed the first event, it became clear that the character needed to be convinced to quit their job, but I had already stopped caring about the character's intentions and decided to just see how the puzzles played out.

And they were wonderful - not too challenging, not too simple. There were a few leaps of logic to be made, and again, some "magic" is involved. Even though I didn't believe in the goal of the game, I still found some delight in seeing it play out. There are very few mechanical flaws, if any, and aside from not being able to interact with any of the NPCs you find on the beach, the game responded to a lot of poking and prodding around.

In the end, the only reason I awarded it 4 stars instead of 5 is that the journey was delightful, but I didn't know how or why to start it.


- E. W. B., February 23, 2016

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mid-length vacation game with great text and game world interrupted by puzzles, February 3, 2016

Sunset over Savannah is a relaxing, enjoyable read. You are a vacationer contemplating quitting their job, and looking for a sign or signs that there is more to life.

The writing is sweet and touching. As someone contemplating a career change, this

The game world is small but packed with interactivity. You can do so many things in every area that it is very surprising. It was fun to just play around.

However, this world's interactivity means that it is hard to know what to do with some puzzles. It can be figured out with persistence and logic, but the game is so fun to explore and the text is so fun to read that it felt like a shame to turn off my "reading" brain and turn on my "puzzle" brain. I ended up using a walkthrough, and loved what I found. Will probably play again to read it all again.

The author of "Worlds Apart" cites this as one of her favorite games, which led me to it.


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Magical realism, October 6, 2015
by Hysteria (California)

A short & charming game that I really enjoyed. Thanks!


- Mike Root, April 24, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- Sobol (Russia), December 28, 2014

- lynd, February 2, 2014

- kala (Finland), September 30, 2013

- Adam Myers, September 19, 2013

- Egas, August 15, 2013

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Look through rose-colored glasses, April 14, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)

"Sunset" was a breathtaking journey of beautiful imagery, some humorous game responses to wrong solutions, and a wonderful blend of realism and fantasy that somehow worked.

I wish I could give this five stars, but there were some puzzles that weren't well-clued and there were a few sections where I spent time wandering around and around trying to figure out what I hadn't done. The frustrating thing was that I had to look up hints for puzzles which I should have been able to accomplish on my own but for precise actions that had me needing to read the author's mind. The puzzles were clued, but the problem was that it's only in hindsight that you see that. If just playing the game, the clues feel like a part of the scenery description and don't necessarily prompt you to act on them.

On the upside, some puzzles had alternate solutions, which I ended up finding, so it wasn't necessary to find all the possible items. And there are a lot of items that are just red herrings, so don't expect to need all of them.

Oh, another thing I found frustrating was that you can only carry limited amounts of items, which means a lot of picking up and dropping and walking back and forth if you happened to be missing something you needed for a puzzle.

I also found some minor bugs. (Spoiler - click to show)I was digging with a sieve, but the text said I was using a shingle. When I tried to tie something to myself, it said I couldn't, and if I tied the object to my arm, it said I'd attached it to my wrist. There is a point where you can't take any more glass bottles from the pile. If underwater in the diving bell, if you type "exit bell," you leave the bell but don't lose any oxygen. Because of these text errors, some solutions were kind of spoiled.

Beware the hint system. It can be spoilery. And I don't mean in the sense that it gives away solutions. The various objectives are listed specifically and not really context-sensitive, so if you call them up, you'll get glimpses into puzzles you may not have figured out exist yet.

Still, the writing is excellent and the emotional impact of the various discoveries the player character makes is lasting and memorable. (Spoiler - click to show)Two of my favorites are the sleeping dragon and the crystal castle. And I got a perverse satisfaction out of killing and eating the crab. The setting and immersion are well done, with nice touches of color and detail that made the game world come alive. Emphasis on how the player character feels both physically and emotionally was a fun twist, and helped in identification and understanding. Also liked the option to list exits all the time. I hate the, "You can't go that way."

The strength of the literary aspect of the game is what makes this game recommended. If not for that, the game would have been three stars because of the puzzle frustration.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dont miss the Sunset, March 23, 2013

Really enjoyed this short story game. Only a few small problems with "guess the verb" and wouldntcha know, "examine" is different than "read". Still, I enjoyed the game. It was quite the charming day at the beach.


- Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania), March 24, 2012


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