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Gonzo interactive fiction, October 29, 2022
I published this review on another website in 2015. This is a game that deserves to be brought back to public attention.
"SPY INTRIGUE" (all caps) is a web based interactive fiction by furkle (no caps) entered in the 2015 annual interactive fiction competition. I chose this game because it was served near the top of randomized list of games and because it appeared to be less of a malware threat than the two games listed above it.
This game, for a while, felt like it was channeling Phillip K. Dick.
The writing straddles between corny mock-bravado and hallucinogenic meanderings. The player is rewarded for assuming their own cocky attitude, even if you're faking it most of the time. The main character is the only human in a world populated by robots (though I began to wonder if my character was really human). Just out of spy school, your job is to complete sabotage missions against rival corporations. Story is advanced by clicking on highlighted text, sometimes branching options, sometimes returning to earlier nodes, and sometimes boring down through a long series of single-choice choke-points. The graphics across the bottom were cryptic to me as a new player. They were explained in the intro-text, which didn't make a hell of a lot of sense either.
Eventually I figured them out on my own. The graphics can be used in place of hyper-links, to advance the story. Once I realized the "time backward" arrows could undo death, I was less irritated by how much this game likes to kill you. In fact, I later came to appreciate that the easy deaths in the first scene helped establish a greater sense of tension and urgency in the second scene, where the player is infiltrating a heavily armed compound. The second scene was my favorite, beginning with a series of tense encounters with armed guards, punctuated by moments of absurd comedy, and ending with a long philosophical encounter with the man-bot I've been sent to assassinate. The themes of mortality and human emotion examined from the perspective of a machine is what made me think of Phillip K. Dick. That and the raging drug abuse we're invited to role play in later chapters.
This is a fairly long game, and I would have been happier if the overall narrative arc had been as tightly designed as that second scene. The third scene was a visit to a drug den, and the fourth scene a trip to the moon to commit more corporate sabotage. These scenes seemed a little disjointed, and I wished that there was more holding it all together. Since I did not play through to the ultimate ending, some of my questions were unanswered. Am I really human? (By the end of the second mission, I'm pretty sure I'm not. Which might improve my chances scoring with the sexually objectified Secretary-bot back at the office). Is there an unseen plot-twist that I missed by not continuing on to the third mission? Will the author ever turn off his CAPS LOCK?
I recommend playing this if you enjoy macho drug-fueled science fiction, and perhaps even if you don't. It kept me entertained for two hours, and that's saying a lot during this busy competition.