More IFComp reviews! This time around, we have “Transit”, “The Sealed Room”, and “Last Minute”, all of which were relatively short. Spoilers, yada yada yada.
“Transit”, by Shaye
You’re at the airport terminal in a country where you don’t speak the language. Your friend, who is more versed in said language than you are, has gone to the food court to presumably get food, but hasn’t been back for ages. Hijinks ensue.
This is a very short, sparsely implemented game. It’s written in Twine, like “howling dogs”, so it’s point-and-click hypertext, but works like Undum (and my own “The Play”) in that new text gets added to the bottom and scrolls down. Despite the simple implementation, there are, unfortunately, a few bugs; when I tried to get “Asian food”,  the game later seemed to imply that I then searched for my friend in the food court, which I didn’t have the option of actually doing. Also, there were problems with some links not greying out when they were supposed to, meaning I could jump around the story in ways that didn’t quite make sense.
Story-wise, I get the feeling of a lot of missed potential. The game goes for really exaggerated slapstick situations, like having someone slip a knife and drugs into your pockets as you go through airport security and then being sent to jail.  Which… well, I understand why someone might be inclined to “spice up” the mundane-seeming experience of being in an airport, but come on, airports are weird enough as it is without far-fetched situations, especially since this last decade. What about satirical commentary on the experience of going through airport security — taking off your shoes and getting rid of your liquids,  not to mention those creepy body scanners? What about being interrogated at customs? What about getting lost in the confusing layout of the airport, as some of them tend to be? Hell, I’d have even loved an option to just keep waiting at the same spot like my friend told me to, just to see what might have happened.
I also wonder about the unfortunate implications about how the police in this unnamed country you’re in seems to throw people in jail in such a haphazard, cartoonish manner. Yes, there are some places in which that does in fact happen, but any writing involving cultural differences needs to be way more sensitive and nuanced than that. Otherwise, you just come across as “ha ha, people from other countries are so weird!” which, as you can imagine, I’m not a huge fan of.
“The Sealed Room”, by Robert DeFord
An old man transports you to, you guessed it, a sealed room, where you are trapped with no obvious way of escaping. A unicorn and a dragon are in here with you, and they hate each other, as evidenced by the different colours of blood on the floor. You must talk to both of them to find a way out.
There could have maybe been an interesting story in here about helping the two creatures resolve their differences, but as it stood, I felt like all I had to do was mow through menu options in order to get them to give me stuff. The characters themselves weren’t terribly interesting either; the unicorn was friendly, helpful, and gendered male, whereas the dragon was mean, stingy, and gendered female. Their conversation topics weren’t in the least bit dynamic, either; the dragon implied she was hungry and would help me if I gave her food after I had already done so. So, yeah, not real characters so much as puzzle boxes… and not terribly fun puzzle boxes, at that.
This is also a game with no “play online” option, being made in Alan, so I had to download it. Fortunately, it worked in the latest version of Gargoyle, but it still felt a bit too much like work for something so short, particularly since it’s 2012 and there are so many short games (and even some long games!) we can play on the web.
“Last Minute”, by Ruderbager Doppelganger
This game reminds me of writing assignments I used to turn in as a kid where I wrote about not knowing what to write for the assignment. Except this one’s quite a bit funnier. It’s yet another web-based hypertext game in Twine, which seems to be a popular platform this year. Not that I’m complaining.
Still, this one was rushed, and it not only shows, but is extremely upfront about it. First part has you frantically searching your room for inspiration for characters — some examples being Pac-Man and Thom Yorke from Radiohead — and conflicts. Second part is a Mad Lib-like piecing together of said inspirations, with results ranging from silly to… sillier, I guess. Nothing was horribly broken per se, and the writing did make me laugh, so it has that going for it. It’s just that there wasn’t really all that much to do, and the stories all kind of ended abruptly, much like this review.