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14th Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
You're a djinn, or rather a series of them, trying both to serve your various masters' commands and to achieve your own purposes. Well implemented and richly imagined--the game devises a djinni cosmology that's extremely involved and makes sense of your motivations and the limitations on your movement. You need to tune into a sort of djinni ethics to figure out why things work as they do. Not very long, with just a few puzzles, but the thoroughness of the worldbuilding makes up for the brevity.
-- Duncan Stevens
>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
When you're reading a book, you may read third-, first-, or even second-person accounts of a particular entity's exploits, and with sufficiently effective writing and characterization, you may even identify with that entity quite strongly despite its non-human traits, but no matter what you are still watching that entity from a distance. IF, however, literalizes the process of identification one step further. Not only does the prose put you in someone else's head, you actually have to guide the choices of that someone.
I'd submit that when a reader is compelled to guide a character's actions, especially if there are puzzles involved, that reader will try to think like that character would think. When this happens, the identification process has reached a place where static fiction can rarely take it. It is exactly this place that The Djinni Chronicles limns with skill and imagination.
The game is quite linear, true, but to some extent that's inevitable if the author wants to tell a particular story about the spirit world and human nature: if the player has the power to put a different spin on the relationship between the PC and its masters, the result is no longer what the author set out to tell.
-- Duncan Stevens
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The past-tense takes some getting used to and picking up on the rules takes a while. The limitations of the character are a little frustrating, hence it took me some time to work out what to do.
-- Dorothy Millard
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Number of Reviews: 6
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The Djinni Chronicles creates an other-worldly atmosphere in which you must think and act like a djinni. The plot is original and implemented very well. The game makes you feel as if you’re playing out a small episode in a large world filled with magical djinni lore.
The puzzles are logical and well-clued. After completing certain puzzles I felt a pang of satisfaction that encouraged me to continue with the game. The puzzles serve to immerse the player deeper in the djinni’s world. Most, if not all puzzles, use certain concepts that are unique to this game. For example: common actions like “take an apple” are replaced with channeling the apple’s essence into your own. That essence is known as Purpose throughout the game. Purpose is an interesting concept that you will have to grasp in order to fully immerse yourself in the djinni’s world. Fortunately, the concept is well introduced and indirectly explained (as are other new concepts in the game).
The game is very well written, with the descriptions being neither too long nor too short. The characters of the three djinni are painted well with just a few sentences.
The author did a superb job with this game. It’s unique, well written, player-friendly, and contains puzzles that are just the right level of difficulty. I will definitely be replaying this game in the future.
The Djinni chronicles is a story, or rather a series of linked stories, about humans summoning djinni in order to gain their heart's desires -- beauty, happiness for a loved one, victory over one's enemies, that kind of thing. The player is not put in charge of the humans, but in charge of the djinni.
This premise carries with it all the risk of being used simply to string a couple of not too logical puzzles together without having to worry about narrative continuity, but let there be rejoicing, for J. D. Berry has given us a far more interesting design. First, there is narrative continuity: the different fragments are sometimes strongly connected (when you play with the same character), and sometimes a bit more loosely, but they're all evidently part of the same narrative. Second, being a djinn comes with an interesting set of limitations and powers, the most important of which is the fact that you are confined to a rather small action radius, the size of which is based on the strength of your bond with the human you serve. And third, far from being will-less slaves to their summoners, the djinni actually have agendas of their own, which they must attempt to realise within the limitations set by their respective masters.
All this adds up to an odd and fascinating little game that is definitely worth playing.
One can always complain: once you have solved the puzzle of finding out what on earth is going on, the other puzzles aren't very good; the one long passage of poetry contained in the game is quite bad; and in the end, the larger narrative fell short of my expectations, or indeed any real memorability. That's a shame, because with a better narrative, this game could have been a small jewel. As it is, it's still a very fine imitation.
I am a big fan of Non-Human PCs (going so far as to include the baby in child's play in this) because it forces you to think in a different way. This game takes it one step further- not only do you think differently, your non-human form gives you further advantages: you can walk through walls, you channel things rather than picking them up, everything- even the error messages- are written in a separate text than you're used to. None of this "as good-looking as ever" or "you see nothing special ahout the [noun]".
The game is difficult to figure out at first. For one thing, you aren't bound in your movement in any realistic way- you can go down thruogh the earth or up through the sky- but the further you move from your summoner, the more purpose you consume per turn, and if you run out of purpose, you lose your existance- so the purpose is your only "timer". Kind of an interesting twist on the hunger puzzle. Purpose can be increased by doing certain actions in line with your nature, being near your summoner, or returning to your djinni container.
Some minor complaints: Sometimes what you need to do is confusing, and sometimes your choices don't matter. You are given a choice early in the game amongst 3 options and it has no real relevance what one you choose. (Minor conversation changes later). You play as different djinnis throughout the game, each with different powers, which is hard to find out, also. Presumably the game had some kind of feelie associated with it that I never got when I played, which may have made the game easier.
If you're looking for your standard cave crawl, forget it. If you're looking for deep conversations, forget that too. This is a unique game with some really well thought out conventions. Definately worth trying out for something different.
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