Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ether (review)

"Ether" is an interactive fiction by Brian Rushton (Mathbrush) entered in the 2015 interactive fiction competition.  I chose this game because it was served to me near the top of a randomized list.  No spoilers in this review.

Before playing, I'd been a little concerned by this line in the blurb:

uses a 9x9x9 cubical grid. Navigate the world in 26 directions

In the wrong authorial hands, that navigation system might be used to design torturous mazes and other onerously mapped environments.  But Brian does it right.  This environment requires no mapping at all, which leads to a genuine sense of freedom in navigation.  That, together with Brian's effectively poetic writing help simulate the feeling of flight in a text game.  Assuming that was his goal, he achieved it.

Although the parser is written in Glulx, the game design is simple enough that it can be enjoyed by novice players or others who would normally feel frustrated by parsers.  I became so immersed in the world that I didn't even think to test the limits of the parser until late in the game.  When I did, I was delighted to see the author had written customized responses to most of the standard library of actions.

Before playing this, I had just finished playing and reviewing a series of short comic IF puzzlers.  "Ether" was a pleasant diversion from those, falling more squarely in the category of "Interactive Art."

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