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Freeware Garden: Hill 160

Horror.

Very few games attempt to convey the complete and utter terror of war, to avoid any sort of jingoism, and to still create a sense of desperate excitement. Even fewer succeed. Hill 160, rather impressively, is one of the latter. What’s more, as one 2014’s more traditional IFComp entries, it accomplishes that using nothing more than text.

Glorious, evocative text that paints an atmosphere of complete dread.

I cannot know if Hill 160 is realistic and definitely wouldn’t want to find out, but its trenches stand out as the hellish places you’d imagine them to be. Pointless, brutal death is only a random shell shard away, while starvation is treated casually and the war feels eternal. The danger of being buried alive or gassed to death is constant. As an added bonus – and I do know this to be quite realistic – you’ll also get to experience the inane way things work in the army. The horrible food, the despicable latrines, the lack of both hygiene and sanity.

And then, as if merely surviving weren’t taxing enough, you’ll have to prepare yourself and assemble a team to venture out into no man’s land where things get even scarier. Heard of nerve gas? It’s a nasty way to die. As is scattering oneself over a wide area. If you’re lucky and crouch among bodies, you might make it to the meat of the game: the missions, the bloody battles and that German castle you’ll need to infiltrate.

Hill 160 is a masterfully written, full-blown, and bleak text adventure. It’s also parser driven, which feels more immersive than the average choose-your-own-adventure. The game provides a sense of freedom which, though it requires you to invest several hours of time, is truly satisfying. Oh, and this classic postcard might even come in handy, too.

[Hill 160 can be played online, though I’d suggest you properly download it and use an interpreter like Gargoyle to thoroughly appreciate it.]

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Konstantinos Dimopoulos

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