Shadow Operative

by Michael Lauenstein

CyberPunk
2020

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Moody and streamlined cyberpunk, December 1, 2020
by Stian
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020

When given the choice, I strongly prefer to play IF in a local interpreter rather than a web browser. Itís faster, uses less memory, and I can adjust the fonts to my liking. In the case of Shadow Operative, the author was quite insistent that I play the web version. So I tried it, and Iím glad I did.

Visually, the interface of the web version is really nice. The colours and fonts are somewhat similar to the Alien Night theme at intfiction.org, which, combined with the good looking cover art in the top right corner, sets the mood nicely. For further mood enhancement, there is also music, though it was impractical for me to listen to it while playing. The window is divided into three columns: the leftmost lists accepted verbs and available exits, the right column shows the inventory beneath the cover art, and in the middle we find the command window which works exactly as Iím used to from Lectrote.

Of particular note is that relevant nouns in the output are links. This makes it possible to play the game using only the mouse; I tried it a bit, but for me, typing was faster. The downside to this is that playing it in an interpreter would have been quite a frustrating experience, as most nouns are not links, and therefore not implemented at all. Iím not entirely sure this is the case; I tried a few non-link nouns and they were not recognised. Another consequence of this is that the play experience becomes extremely streamlined, the exploration limited, and the puzzles really easy with such a small noun space. As such, the challenge was next to none and I was able to finish it in less than an hour.

Still, the writing is decent enough to make Shadow Operative engaging for that time. The cyberpunk elements are stereotypical Ė including VR cyberspace, biohacking, and touches of Japanese culture Ė as is your eventual mission, but in a rather cute, nostalgic way. There is also a brilliant twist in the story that took me by surprise.