Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kane County (a review)

"Kane County" is a choice-based text game for the web, written by Michael Sterling and Tia Orisney for the 2015 interactive fiction competition.  I chose to play this next because I was drawn in by the blurb, which suggests I'm in for a nail-biting survivalist adventure yarn.

The blurb provides all the backstory there is.  You've crashed your jeep in the desert during a rainstorm.  Now you'll need to use all your wits and strength to escape.  The first choice you're given allows you to decide whether you are the type of person who will rely primarily on your "wits" or on your "strength".  I played both ways, and saw some of the differences this made on the outcome of my later choices... whether or not I could successfully build a fire without matches, whether or not I could safely scale down a sheer rock face.

The game design felt like a cross between one of those old RA Montgomery CYOA paperbacks, and a role playing game featuring "saving throws" and such.  The game has a high degree of genuine interactivity.  Each choice you make has a consequence:  moving you closer to the goal of civilization or slowing you down.  Discovering new material resources, or using them as tools. Increasing or decreasing your stamina and hydration level.  Sometimes the results of a particular choice were predictable, such as expecting that I would not be able to successfully scale a cliff without a rope.  In other cases, the results of my choice seemed somewhat random: whether to go left or right along a path.  As a player and reader, I preferred making choices which seemed less random.

The game is effective at creating a nail biting adventure in which the player has some genuine agency over their own survival.  However I would have liked more back-story.  Why was I driving across the desert in the first place?  What was I running away from?  Who (or what) do I miss the most back home?  In other words, what is my motivation for survival, and what are the inner demons which might be holding me back?

No comments:

Post a Comment