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13th Place - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)
Conventional fantasy, mostly--you're imprisoned in a cell by an evil wizard, and you hack and slash your way out--but with a twist about which I'll say no more. Even (or perhaps especially) if you dislike ho-hum fantasy games, this one's worth playing to the end.
-- Duncan Stevens
At this stage Bliss is almost a text version of a slash 'em up, dealing as it does with a fairly standard plot while containing some nice action involving the sort of physical puzzles that tend to be cumbersome in IF, but handled here in a simple and effective fashion. Sounds a little cheesy I know, but don't let appearances grind you down before they're hatched. Bliss may appear to be a conventional D and D style adventure but it soon begins to hint at much more.
-- Nick Edmunds
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
Overall, Bliss is definitely worth playing. Even as I write this review, I'm still having realizations about various elements of the game that continue to revise my perspective, which is a distinct pleasure. Also, its writing is almost completely free of grammar or spelling errors, which is something I've recently stopped taking for granted. I very much hope that the author takes into account the feedback he receives from competition authors and possibly a second round of beta testers, and releases a revised version of the game which stomps the bugs, enriches the puzzles, and cleans up the formatting errors (there are a few, though not many.) Once the polish is on, Bliss will be a very strong piece of short IF.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This short piece received fairly positive reviews upon its release in 1999, and, when judged in the context of what was available then, I can see that it must have compared much more favorably against the field than it does today. By today's standards, it is poorly implemented, weakly written, and lacking enough positive qualities to outweigh its negatives.
My introduction to this work was via an IFDB poll, the very title of which serves as something of a spoiler for Bliss. As a result, after making my way through the implementation problems plaguing the opening scene, there was little surprise in the revelation that (Spoiler - click to show)All Is Not What It Seems.
Ultimately, this twist is all that Bliss has going for it, and a twist by itself can't provide meaning to this story any more than it does in a typical M. Night Shayamalan film.
The lack of greater meaning is what dooms this piece. The activities you (as the PC) engage in are revealed to have quite horrific consequences, so horrific that they demand more than just simple derangement of the protagonist to justify their commission. If I'm going to find out that "I've" done something as awful as (Spoiler - click to show)committing infanticide, the author better have prepared that ground pretty carefully to leave me with anything more than a sense of revilement and disgust.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wilkin does not. (Spoiler - click to show)The protagonist's home life is shown to be plagued by a drunken, abusive father, but, without minimizing the tragedy of such a situation, it must be pointed out that countless people have lived through similar unpleasantness without being driven to a sudden killing spree.
To make this piece work would have required a) much deeper characterization and backstory for the PC, so that the reader is left at minimum with a sense of pity for him, and b) a substantially more well-thought-out mapping of things happening in the PC's fantasy world to reality. The insult of the baby's death is further compounded by the fact that, apparently, it was unrealistically posed by the author as inexplicably unattended on a city sidewalk in the real world.
In my view, everything past the reading room calls for some well-developed conceptual framework to support the PC's delusion as he flees the asylum. I don't care what that framework is, it just has to attempt to make internal sense of the PC's actions. Does the PC know the shopkeeper beforehand? Does he have some unreasoning fear of babies? Is the victim who takes the form of the dragon someone significant to him?
None of that supporting framework is present. It seems that, akin to the "lazy fantasy" setting that frames the game's opening, it concludes on a "lazy psychothriller" note.
I initially gave this piece two stars, but, upon further reflection, discounting the problematic story leaves only the multiple programming errors, guess-the-verb challenges, and weak puzzles to define it. As such, I find myself left with only a lingering sense of distaste that marks this work as belonging to the "better off avoided" category.
Bliss plays like the first draft of something really special. A great idea sleeps in the heart of it, but the outside is a coarse, unattractive thing. The plot is necessarily simple: pseudo-medieval D&D-style hero must break out of his cell in the evil wizard's Orc-staffed dungeon to slay the dragon terrorizing the yada yada...
Needless to say, that's not the great idea. I love stories, in any medium, that play around with one's expectations of classic tropes, and Bliss plays enthusiastically. To say more would spoil the fun, of course.
The game has its problems, however. I'm glad that a walkthrough is provided (at Baf's, at least), because without it, I might have gotten frustrated and quit before leaving the first room. The puzzles are unintuitive, and the writing, while technically proficient for the most part, could use a coat or two of polish.
The bottom line: Bliss shows a lot of promise, and with a bit more love, would be an easy 4 or 5 star entry. Give it a go, just keep that walkthrough handy.
In this shortish game, you have to escape a dungeon, slay some monsters, and find the dragon terrorizing the neighborhood.
The puzzles are a bit hard; I stuck to the walkthrough. The game has a hidden subtext that makes you question what you want to do.
I found the game to be effective. Even once I though I knew what was going on, it pulled out another surprise on me.
Recommended for the twist; however, aside from the twist, the game lacks polish or direction.
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