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About the Story
You are a collection of energy loosely held. You are an echo of a person. Something holds you here.
21st Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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The main mechanic of Further is an interesting idea (you go through color-coded rooms, that correspond to various memories, triggered by certain objects). The various settings seem completely disconnected from each other, in a kinda surrealistic way sometimes, which creates something interesting considering who the PC is.
However, this game seems to be interested in telling a story, various moments and memories that are loosely connected to each other. The way it accomplishes this is rather ham-fisted: you can't do anything unless you follow the "internal compass" of the game and go exactly where it wants you to go. Thus I spent the majority of the game following directions the game gave me, and that isn't a very good feeling in a game. Furthermore, there seems to be absolutely no objet implemented except the ones that trigger memories (even when the locations describe objects, they're not implemented), so you really feel like stuck on rails.
The game is really short, very very linear, and has a few typos; it's not a bad idea, but it's way too linear to be really enjoyable.
(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my 2013 IFComp blog.)
Further is a short, parser-driven Z-Code adventure set in the afterlife, or at least after your death.
In my relatively short experience of IFComp prior to playing Further (2010+) I'd observed that afterlife games were a mainstay of the competition. They'd appeared in forms as various as the cerebral puzzlefest, the religious sampler, the existential angst generator and the poser of ethical and moral dilemmas. Further's approach is less complicated. It uses simple puzzles to dramatise the process of remembering your life as you head for the light. The result is a modest game which didn't stir my emotions as much as I think it might have liked to, but whose concept is clear.
In Further you start out as an insubstantial form lost in the haze. Exploration reveals a small map composed of elemental terrain: grass, a sandstorm, snow. Little objects from your life are lying around, and by FOCUSing ON them in the appropriately coloured locations you can revivify your memories, transforming the locations into clearer recollections of your life. The colours are also used to paint the relevant pieces of text and to clue you in to suitable locations.
The delivery of these mechanisms is simple. Only a handful of commands are required across the whole game and not much is implemented beyond the vital objects, but the lack of extra detail happens to suit the overall idea that only really important stuff from your life is of value to your ghostly or insubstantial self now, and that only that stuff can help you move on. The descriptions of the memories themselves may suffer a bit from the game's sparseness, at least in terms of their power, but they're in keeping with the whole. I also like the minimal prose used in the final room and the lack of a game over message – even though I admit I then went and peeked at the solution to make sure I really had reached the end.
I found Further's simplicity satisfying. At the level it pitches at, its idea plays out well.
(A tech anecdote: During IFComp 2013, I played this game online using an iPhone 5. While it responded instantly to most commands, it would typically pause for up to 25 seconds each time a Player Experience Upgrade response was invoked... Ouch! Player Experience Upgrade was Aaron Reed's suite of code for Inform 6G60 games which sought to supply more accessible than average responses when players typed stuff that wasn't understood. Obviously it was a CPU-crippler for some combination of Z-Code games and/or online play and/or the iPhone 5.)
This is a parser game, but it doesn't really need the parser--the concept behind it feels a bit shoehorned into the format.
The writing is typically good, although a few typos and over-written descriptions do appear.
I think this would really fit a twine/web format, with a changing color background corresponding to the different memory states, and other visual touches.
This is a very linear story with only one possible way to progress through--because of the use of a parser, you end up re-typing the same commands over and over, giving it the feel of a puzzle, but you are really just walking through color-coded rooms until you find a memory, which you simply carry with you.
I believe this would have done better in the competition as a twine game. The sense of exploration would be improved by a clickable structure, and the story could have been more in focus.
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