Posts Tagged ‘feature’

IF Only: What Will You, The Detective, Do Next?

Cropped box cover image for Deadline

The first piece of interactive fiction I ever played was Infocom’s locked-room murder mystery Deadline. With a plot that turned on embezzlement and unfaithfulness, not to mention a fiendishly unforgiving set of scheduling puzzles, this is not the game I myself would recommend for a six-year-old. But I suppose my parents figured it wouldn’t do me any harm, and it left me with a long-term affection for interactive mysteries.

The mystery is a natural fit for interactive fiction. The player has a clear goal. The focus of the story is usually firmly on past rather than present events. Locks, ciphers, and other standard puzzles feel at home in the genre. So many classic mysteries are essentially logic problems in fancy dress, so it’s not a great stretch to do the same thing in game form. (In fact, here’s Mattie Brice on why murder mystery writing can teach us about narrative game design in general.)

So if you have a taste for classic whodunnit genres rendered interactive, here are some highlights dating from 1995 to 2016.

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Wot I Think: Quadrilateral Cowboy

I’ve lined up my suitcase rifle, sawed open my escape route, and written two lines of code to control a small robot when I blink. Blink once and a set of lasers turn off allowing me to enter through a space station maintenance tunnel without triggering any alarms; blink twice and a second set turn off, allowing me to exit cleanly. It’s only a few moments later, as I stand in the vacuum of space, that I realise I left my deck – the computer by which I write scripts to control suitcase rifles, small robots, lasers and more – back in the maintenance corridor.

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a game about breaking into buildings to raid vaults, steal safes and hack coma patients. It’s a stylish, retro-futurist love letter to computing, engineering and ’90s videogame level design. It also feels like the prelude to a better game.

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Have You Played Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Oddly, Tiberian Sun was the first C&C I ever played. I spent at least a year of my life obsessed with Dune 2, but Command and Conquer itself and Red Alert arrived during my dark ages – the period where I didn’t have a PC capable of running contemporary games. By 1999, I was back in the game, having built a new system to find out about this Half-Life thing everyone was talking about. When I clapped eyes on screenshots of Tiberian Sun, I was in love – how far it seemed to have come since Dune 2.

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Cardboard Children – City Of Iron

CoIbanner

Hello youse.

City of Iron, a game by Ryan Laukat, impresses not only with its gameplay – which is deep and intriguing – but with its sense of aesthetic cohesiveness. This is a game designed from the ground-up, brick by brick, until it hangs together as a statement of the designer’s artistic intent. The art, by the designer, tells a story of a steampunk world populated by varied strange factions. The game itself tells a story of struggle and greed, and the allure of evil. I like it very much.

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Wot I Think: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

Flip a coin. If it’s heads, carry on. If it’s tails, embark upon a 20-hour adventure in which you might be cut in half with a chainsaw, dissolved in acid, or turned into nuclear goop in a big uranium-fuelled explosion.

This is the first and most central decision of visual novel/room escape game Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma. Nine people are trapped in a facility, and six people must die in order to reveal the six passwords for the exit. What’s more, every 90 minutes, everyone is put to sleep and their memories are wiped, which – as you might imagine – makes everything terribly confusing to piece together, for both them and you.

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Jalopy: Trapped In The Sausage Shop

Jalopy

Something that happens every now and again is I try to play Jalopy [official site]. It’s the driving game where you’re tasked with keeping a dilapidated old car roadworthy as you go on trips across the former Eastern bloc.

I really like Jalopy, but I don’t think the game and I are a natural fit because terrible – or at least non-great – things seem to happen a lot each time I play.

Last time I ran out of momentum to go up a hill but an angry AI driver behind me meant I couldn’t go backwards. In the end I parked on top of that AI driver, abandoned my uncle in the passenger seat and walked off down the dual carriageway.

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