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Nominee - Sarah, Best Individual PC - 1999 XYZZY Awards
An odd effort--compelling in spots, but often frustrating as well. You're Sarah Winchester, wife of the gun manufacturer, haunted by the horrors you've loosed on the world, and you bounce between a simpler, less violent past and the future you have helped create. It's a thoughtful and complex work, packed with metaphor and unusual connections. The implementation, however, needs help: the game is written in the third person, and the ">" prompt has been replaced by "Sarah decides to," with most familiar abbreviations disabled. The idea may have been to tell the story without reliance on IF conventions, but requiring that the player type needlessly long-winded commands is likely to yank him or her out of the story. The game also is sufficiently story-oriented that the puzzles, when they do come along, feel out of place; moreover, there are lots of locations that initially help make the landscape feel complete, but which the player ends up having to revisit toward the end in hopes of solving a puzzle, which lessens the overall enjoyment. Plenty of thought went into this, in short, but ultimately it doesn't work as well as it might.
-- Duncan Stevens
There are two main non-traditional techniques Montfort, an alumnus of MIT's Media Lab, uses to enhance his game in this literary fashion. (1) Changing the input prompt and disallowing abbreviations. (2) Including many extras locations and much more information than is needed to solve the puzzles and follow the game's plot. [...] The thing these two techniques have in common is that they aren't unconscious mistakes, they are deliberate choices made by the author for the sake of a certain IF experience. Montfort is to be highly commended for what appears to be a first-time work where I'm reduced to debating his choices, not identifying his obviously unintended errors.
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The game's world is full of locations freighted with symbolic significance--a church, a government complex, an oil field, an armory, a university--but, again, the game doesn't take it upon itself to connect the dots. In that respect, Winchester's Nightmare is almost akin to a painting that incorporates two scenes side by side: there's much to be observed in the contrasts, and hypothesizing about the significance for the central character of each aspect of the paintings. Cut-scenes of sorts, involving characters who appear, say something cryptic to you, and disappear again, heighten the disjointed feel, but the whole thing, given some thought, rewards analysis.
As interactive fiction, however, Winchester's Nightmare isn't quite as successful.
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This game was nominated for an xyzzy award for best individual pc. It is a vast world, a city with 8-10 locations, each with a night or day mode, each with 2-4 sublocations, each with a couple of rooms.
The story and puzzles are hidden away in this vast expanze, with only 4 or 5 things to do in the game.
You are sarah winschester, representing gun manufacturers. You confront and stop the horror of gun violence. I didn't finish the last puzzle because I got frustrated.
The game is all in third person, and abbreviations are disabled.
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"A one-room game set in your apartment." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]
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