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About the Story
Sometimes we all dream about old places we visited or places we lived. While dreams can take from the calmest to most hapazhard scenarios, sometimes they help us gather our thoughts that the conscious mind is just not trained enough to think of. Perhaps you can even have some fun when on this subconscious journey.
62nd place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I'm not sure if I've ever seen such a conflict between an author's name and a title. Here, we have someone allegedly happy claiming they are left with almost nothing. Yet there's also confusion in the game itself, and it's not clear which inconsistencies are intentionally there and which got slipped in there. After a while it gets too muddy. But there are some lines I really enjoyed. Which is not bad for such a short game.
Technically, it's impressive, and it suggests somebody did a lot of work to make the interface, even with an assist from the TIC-80 framework found on tic80.com. All the verbs you can use are on the screen. You can click on them or an arrow, and the game has, well, interesting responses to ones that don't work. That the game anticipated some of my weirder tries, borne slightly out of desperation at first, suggests the programmer has a sense of humor. My favorite was when you USEd the atlas by your friend, prompting my favorite line in the whole game: "I dont read books you nerd!" shouts your best friend. Other dialogue and descriptions are similarly simple yet wild. Someone describes themselves as "old school" for no particular reason, and that's all they have to say. A man showers in public as if this is perfectly normal. These all work together in the same way Mad Libs do, but then, they also have the long-term reach of Mad Libs.
All this is part of an adventure to do something with your life after having watched TV for eleven hours. And you get to do something! Reductively, this involves figuring the least senseless item to use on each NPC that pops up. The game often lampshades that the choice doesn't make perfect sense, but only after you get it right. Everything's a bit crooked, and I think that's intentional. If you do things right, you get money from an unexpected source, which lets you buy a train ticket and leaves you with a final message that's life-affirming as long as you don't think too deep.
Playing this I'm reminded of the super-brief Scott Adams parser games and even someone who entered such a game back in 2010, which happens to be when this story took place. The Scott Adams-ish game was a deliberate homage to the fun we got from such limited text. It was great fun to know this sort of thing existed. And here, the TIC computer at tic80.com is neat to know about. It's fun to see the other games, the versatility, and what looks like a nice community based on a retro-styled engine. And of course someone had to write a text adventure, and it's technically solid--you don't ever break the game! I even like the orange text on black background. However, it does run into basic problems such as how DESCRIBE (the game's version of LOOK) tells you certain items you already took are, in fact, in the room.
This one fizzles out after a few quick laughs, though. Taken straight-up and ignoring the special effects, it isn't a great work. I'm not sure how many of the typos are intentional. Some jokes are quite good. But I think even allowing for this, it doesn't have any of the sort of thing that make, say, Molesworth so great. For those who don't know Molesworth, he's the main character of a set of books written circa 1950, a wonderfully cynical student at a perfectly horrible English public school called St. Custard's. Everything is bad there, including his spelling and grammar, but he's observant enough that you want to follow his adventures, and you come to realize things like how he is friends with Basil Fotherington-Thomas, who says “Hello clouds hello sky” a lot. WRoM has the silliness without anything lasting, so it's an amusing curiosity. But when I replayed it, without the wonder of the new interface, I didn't see a lot of substance. It was fun and easy enough. It was a bit like watching a cartoon or sitcom you loved as a kid, and maybe you can see the holes in it.
So it didn't push me forward in any real way, but it also won't make you want to throw stuff. It may inspire you to write some semi-nonsense you always meant to, because the semi-nonsense here, down to the final "profound" message, made me smile. The scattershot jokes are never going to offend anyone, but they never quite cohere, either. However, the ending promises "an expansion of this world with more interactions is available," and I think one day I will give in to my curiosity. It will probably be far more fun and less draining than following social media and, despite being surreal, less confusing too.
(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)
As I was writing my entry in this year’s comp, which is a memoir, I did a quick survey of IFDB to look for similar autobiographical parser games. They were very thin on the ground, so I was pleasantly surprised to find another entry that seemed to be doing something similar. Despite the initial premise, however, What remains of me very quickly enters an allegorical mode – there’s a giant talking frog, for starters, and specific details are eschewed in favor of stark archetypes like running into an NPC named “My Friends”. And the action is all about simple item-trading puzzles that aren’t inherently that interesting to solve.
So I wound up feeling disappointed, partially because of mismatched expectations, but also because autobiography stripped of its specificity is honestly kind of boring? Most peoples’ struggles to find meaning in their life sound pretty trite when reduced to their barest outlines; it’s the lived experience of those struggles that’s compelling. From the blurb, it sounds like there might have been a bigger, weirder version of this game in the author’s head, but it was narrowed in scope in presumed deference to the IF Comp audience and a desire to reduce the amount of bugs and typos. Often that’s a good approach, but in this case I wished we’d gotten the wilder and woolier game instead.
Highlight: As many jokes whiff as land, but there were a couple that made me laugh, including “Give a man a ticket and he will travel for a day, teach a man to tick it and he will randomly answer his SAT questions."
Lowlight: The room descriptions often don’t seem to update based on your actions, meaning that objects you’ve removed are still mentioned as being present, which made it hard for me to feel like my actions were having an impact!
How I have failed the author: I played during two of Henry’s late-night feeding sessions, and was honestly pretty out of it – so the non-updating descriptions really threw me for a loop since I could barely remember what I’d already done or what was left to do when I picked up the game in the second session, and going back around the large map an extra time meant I messed up the pacing.
This game defied many of the categories I tried to put it in. It looked like a parser game, Adventuron specifically, but appears to be custom written.
You walk around with on-screen arrow keys and a menu of verbs you can apply to your inventory or things around you, kind of like old Lucasarts games.
There are a variety of items, and a variety of people you can help.
On one hand, the programming is very impressive and the game looks well-done. On the other hand, it often contradicts itself. It will say 'there is a flier here you can take' but if you click TAKE nothing happens. It will say 'the frog leaves' but then the frog is still there. I was able to complete the game, and found it humorous, but I think that this could have received even more testing. For me, I like to spend 50% or more of my development time for parser games in testing alone, and for choice maybe 10-20% at least.
This game had heart to me, and it was polished and I might play again, so I'm giving it 3 stars. If the bugs were fixed I'd make it 4.