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About the Story
When bedtime comes, you never know what will happen in the course of the next few hours. Dreams can turn into nightmares, you may not distinguish dreams from reality ...Sounds can fool us.
96th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I played this after a Comp entry that leaned almost entirely in the story direction, so it's interesting that At Night takes the opposite tack. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a bit of a plot and some internal conflict – the main character is being plagued by nightmares, you see – but what’s distinctive about it is the combat system, which you need to master in order to reach a successful ending (reaching other endings, where you die horrible, is much simpler!)
The initial impression At Night makes is charming – there’s some cute pixel art, and good use of sound with raindrops outside the main character’s window as they play games late into the night. After finally going to sleep, though, they’re hurled (in their dreams?) into a hellish realm and meet a demon who’ll swallow their soul unless they fight for his amusement against a group of his servitors. This section was really frustrating, I found. When you first confront this head demon, you have a number of choices on how to proceed, including attacking flat-out or deciding what to offer him to get him to release you.
There’s only one correct answer here – the others get you killed – but I think I exhausted every wrong answer on the way to finding it, both because I wanted to run through the full dialogue tree before moving to the next bit, but also because the main character kept attacking the demon-lord when I was trying to agree to fight his minions. Part of the fault here is that I found some of the dialogue and options unclear: the game appears translated from Spanish (in one maze sequence, I saw the word “izquierda” substitute for “left”) and there are some puzzling phrases and awkward grammar at times (I was told that my “bladder has lost its youth”, and that “it is very good playing [video games] when it is a dog day”). Making things worse, there’s no save option, and there’s lots of timed text, making replays fairly excruciating.
Once I did figure out how to agree to the deal, things got better, thankfully. There’s a clever combat system that relies on using positional audio to track down and beat up the minions (who it turns out are ghosts, not demons). I did die once more because I thought you were supposed to elude the monsters – the main character is completely unarmed – but that just gives them a free hit. The combat minigame works well enough, and even got a laugh out of me because of how the interface is set up: you need to click “left” or “right” depending on where you hear the audio cue, except the screen lists “right” on the left, and “left” on the right, which lent my attempts a slapstick air as I tried to get my stupid, stupid brain to click in the correct place despite this confusing layout. After killing enough demons you win the game and wake up from your nightmare – though there’s the inevitable horror movie sting to suggest you haven’t (this is done in an entertainingly cheesy fashion that also got a laugh out of me).
There’s some clever technical design here, and I really did like the art, so this is a good foundation to build on. In a post-Comp release that tightens up the writing, and irons out some of the more frustrating aspects of the design, this would be a fun distraction, though At Night isn’t quite there yet.
"At Night" is a fun game. The audio really puts you in the moment, and that was probably my favourite part of the game. It somewhat reminded me, especially towards the end, of the audio that sounds all around you in Skyrim, like when you're interacting with the Daedric Princes. The graphics were also quite cool.
Really, the only reason I've decided not to go with 4 stars is the ending. In the end, you're given multiple choices, but only one can really be chosen. And, should you attempt to stray from that path, the game doesn't respond in a way that's great. And, to be honest, I don't think the timer was necessary or the best choice either.
In conclusion, I rather enjoyed playing "At Night", but the ending fell short. If the ending was different, then I would be eager to recommend this short game, but as it stands, I think it needs a bit more work to reach it's true potential.
This is a fairly short game, and the author’s first game. Because they mentioned trying to learn things, I’ll keep that in mind.
This is a multimedia-heavy game, and it encourages you to use headphones while you play and uses timed text, sometimes fast and sometimes slow.
The game is translated from Spanish, but I didn’t notice for a while because it’s a fairly good translation. But it needs some more work; when running around the room, for instance, one of the links was ‘pedizquierda’.
The story is about being creeped out and attacked by a demon at night. Interaction-wise, you have a sort of maze (that’s not really a maze), a couple of ‘guess the right option’ things and some battles.
Knowing your audience is important. A couple of things to keep in mind about IFComp are:
1.The winning games are often very polished, having been worked on for dozens or hundreds of hours. Not every game does this, but
2. Having your games tested is a plus. Having it tested by people who’ve done IFComp before is an even bigger plus. Having it tested by a lot of experience people, responding to their feedback, and improving your game over months is best.
3.Making fun of the player isn’t as popular as it once was. For instance, if you choose the wrong thing, the game has the demon say:
I think you’re too stupid for me to feel like playing with you.It was the worst decision you have ever made, but thanks for being so stupid.
As a player, that’s not super fun to read. It’s not horribly bad, and I know it’s about the person in the game, but it was my decision, and saying I’m stupid is kind of frustrating.
4. Multimedia and timed text can make a game look a lot cooler, but if you think about, why are people even interested in a text competition? Some people like it because the games are easy to make. Others are blind and use text to speech readers. Some (like me) like having games you can play as fast or as slow as you want, take breaks, play without sound while taking a break at work or at home. So having a lot of your game dependent on keeping up with the text or having to listen intently to the sounds can be hard. That’s why games like Limerick Quest that have timed text have options to turn it off.
Overall, I think this game shows cool programming and a fun writing voice. It’s okay that it has some faults, because it’s your first game. Nothing would be more depressing than having your first game be your best game, because it’s all downhill from there. I think of Victor Ojuel and Ruber Eaglenest who both entered IFComp for the first time with games that were heavily criticized. They listened to the feedback, tried again and both placed in the top 10 with excellent games (and Victor has a job as a narrative designer now).
+Polish: There are bugs and typos, but the sound effects and art are fancy.
+Descriptiveness: The game makes its world come alive.
-Interactivity: I was frustrated by having to choose exactly the right option.
-Emotional impact: This game didn't really impact me.
-Would I play again? As it currently is no.
This choice IF seems to be unfinished. It has clearly been translated, as there still are words in Spanish throughout the game, and it’s rather riddled with typos. From what I could gather, the battles with demons are the central element here, but those felt like playing Amazing Quest again: it doesn’t really matter what you choose because it’s all random. Perhaps it’s actually not the case here, but I was unable to find any logic in them. Designwise, At Night focusses a lot on using sounds for navigating in the darkness. This is a neat feature, but I’m afraid it didn’t help me much with the demons either. According to the author, it is not random, but I was still unable to make sense of it.