Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Detectiveland (review)

Detectiveland is an interactive story written by Robin Johnson for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. I chose to play this next because I was drawn to the cover graphic and blurb. Also, because a quick one minute survey of the online version convinced me that this was a professional quality entry. I was not disappointed.

Detectiveland is written on a gaming platform I had not seen before. The screen is split into separate areas for the narrative stream, the exit choices, items in current use, and the full inventory list. This screen presentation allows for a point and click interface with some of the immersive world modeling features of a traditional parser game. The player can drop items in a location and expect to find them there later. Some of the games puzzles even resemble the old parser standards; using the right item in the right place at the right time.

The game is significant length, with close to fifty locations and a series of three largely unrelated cases. There is no way to die (until just before the end, so do save between each vignette).

The narrative voice is a comfortably familiar one. The hardboiled PI yarn has been a source of camp fiction for many decades. I was first introduced to it on Sesame Street. Comic noir was also one of IFs earliest tropes (Infocom's "Deadline" was a remarkable game for its time, 1982). But that familiarity doesn't diminish the fun of "Detectiveland". This is a polished, professional quality work. Definitely recommended.

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