Monday, October 3, 2016

Black Rock City (review)

"Black Rock City" is a web based game by Jim Munroe, entered in the 2016 interactive fiction competition. I chose this one next because I was drawn to the cover photo, and also because I hoped it would allow me to experience the Burning Man Festival without having to use drugs or suffer a week in the desert. Also, I've been on Jim Munroe's mailing list for years, and bought a copy of a short independent film he produced some time back "Ghosts with Shit Jobs". It was really good. You should buy your own copy.

"Black Rock City" employs a novel interactive interface. The player chooses one of two verbs from the bottom of the screen, and drags it up to the relevant noun within the current text description. Usually there is only one noun available, but sometimes there are other choices. The story moves along in a sort of dreamy, disconnected way which reminded me of the style of the old "Choose your own adventure" paperbacks. In that series, one's choice would fundamentally warp the direction of the story, but often not in a logical or predictable way.

There are multiple story arcs available in "Black Rock City". The blurb claims they all have six choices, which would suggest up to sixty four possible paths. I replayed enough times to confirm that the stories are always short, always have the same dreamlike quality, and always end in a dust storm.

When I felt finished, I went back and read the subtitle: "Choose your own burn-venture." So my sense of Munroe's literary influence may be correct.

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