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Too allegorical to land, December 13, 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)
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.