IF Comp ’08: Riverside (spoilers)

“All of mankind shall live on forever.”

“I wish for everyone to be able to find happiness.”

“An eleven-inch pianist!”

Well now. That was certainly a gloomy and disheartening prologue. And here I thought it was gonna be a madcap romp with genies and wishes. I keep forgetting — as Jenni pointed out earlier: when I was growing up, these were “text adventure games”. Now they’re “interactive fiction”, which doesn’t necessarily have to be fun. Has anyone started calling them “interactive literature” yet? Because that’s when you’re gonna see great things.

“Call me Ishmael.”

Anyway. Funeral time.

> x grave
You can’t see any such thing.
> x coffin
You can’t see any such thing.
> x tombstone
You can’t see any such thing.

Are you sure this is a funeral? Am I in the wrong place? It’s a cemetary, plainly-labelled. There’s a minister here talking. A grave, coffin, and/or tombstone are things you would expect to find here, right?

Oh, there it is. Now that the priest is done talking and the coffin has arrived to fill it, there’s a grave here. Still no headstone, though, by any name I can think of. I think we planted John in the middle of a vacant lot. In front of all his closest, yet non-existant, friends.

That’s not a painting, because Escher did prints. I could further argue that, since you got it at a flea market, what you have there is probably in fact a poster, but then I’d be heading even further into douchebag territory.

Laptops are useful for much more than e-mail. License-plate database searches, for example.

> kiss amy
Amy says, “Hey! That’s some way to greet a girl!”

Well yeah, I am a pretty good kisser.

> punch amy
Amy says, “Hey! That’s some way to greet a girl!”

Well yeah, I am a pretty good… Wait, what? Either my girlfriend of two years doesn’t approve of me kissing her when she comes home, or this is a very strange relationship we have.

> get beer
You grab a bottle of light beer for Amy, open it with the beer opener attached to the fridge, and throw away the cap.
> s
Whoops! You forgot to close the fridge door.
> close fridge, dickhead
You can’t use multiple objects with that verb.

She hands you an orange lighter with the word “ZORK” on it in plain black lettering. “Is this a Zork lighter?” you ask, incredulous. Amy laughs. “I thought you’d like it,” she says with a smile.
> xyzzy
That’s not a verb I recognise.

Dude. Come on. You made a pointless throwaway reference to Zork, but you didn’t code a response to xyzzy?

The phone call to the cops went about how I’d expected.
“Hello, officer? I was at a funeral, and saw one of the deceased’s old friends there!”
“…Oh really?”
“Yeah! He had a fancy car and everything! Fortunately, I got the license plate number!”
“Well, he had a piece of paper! With the deceased’s name on it! And he checkmarked it!”
“Did it say ‘Dudes To Kill Today’ at the top of the page?”
“Well, no.”

Later, at the train station:
Track 7
You can see a choochoo here.

I first read this as ‘chocobo’, blinked, and looked again. Then I blinked, and looked again. Wha?!

It gets even better though.

Now, I’ve marked nearly all of these reviews as spoilers, because with the exception of Buried In Shoes, they all have been. But what’s coming up here is SUPER-DUPER SPOILER THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE CONTINUING, because I’m going to c/p the ending to this game.

> enter train
You get on the train but then you remember that you’re pregzorz with teh baby, so u get off but teh baby drink all the blood. it wuz teh baby all along. his name was riverside!!!11one!1eleven (also you should try ragequitting)


Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game or QUIT?
> what

That’s it.

It’s a prank. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and if you played it, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that you did too. It looks like a serious game (albeit a sparsely-implemented one, and now we know why), but despite my mockery of the implementation faults and so forth, I was playing under the assumption that all this seriousness and intrigue was going somewhere. (Probably to, as I think the dénouement might be referencing, a Silent Hill knockoff/pastiche. I had my “Welcome to Silent Hill Riverside” snark all ready, too.)

Now, just because we were all taken in, does that make it a good prank?

No. Jeremy Crockett and Victor Janmey, YOU FAIL IT, it being IF pranks. You shot your wad far, far too soon, with absolutely no sense of style. You didn’t even wait for the mystery to properly start. The correct way to play this was to take us into Riverside neé Silent Hill (or whereever you imagined the plot might have gone if you’d actually finished it), gradually start ramping up the dark weirdness and mystery and tension and then — just before the mystery is solved or Pyramid Head shows up or whatever the climax of the story is — you get raped by Pedobear. (Or, if you guys aren’t 4channers, whatever your meme-mascot of choice is.) In lovingly rendered, technicolor detail, over several pages of text.

That is how you do it. You make the sound of the trap snapping huge and loud and a total blistering mindfuck, and you do it at the CLIMAX of the story, when the tension is highest. That would have been awesome, and I would have given you full marks if you’d done it well. You guys couldn’t even wait for the story proper to begin before you unleashed your pathetic little “omgtehclit lolwut?”


Addendum: Some people seem to be assuming that this wasn’t a prank, but rather that the authors intended to do a full game, got bored, and chopped it off instead of finishing. If that is the case — it wasn’t a prank, they just submitted an unfinished game — then it is DOUBLE EPIC FAIL, because why would you expect anyone to be interested in playing it if you couldn’t even be arsed to write it? Submit a not-even-half-finished game to a competition? Seriously?

But no. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it. That ending paragraph is definitely prank. But the suggestion does present a third possibility to me: that it was originally a real game, but the authors got bored, and then decided to turn it into a prank. If that’s the case, then holy shit guys, you can’t do anything right!

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