Sep 15, 2005 (23:00)

(This analysis was first published on the IF-Reviews website.)

There are two kinds of reviews, that differ in aim as well as in target audience. The first kind attempts to inform the prospective reader of a piece whether it is worth her time or not. Consequently, they must remain as vague as possible, in order not to spoil the possibly future play experience of the reader. The second kind analyses a piece, or some or one of its aspects, in detail, trying to learn from its successes and failures. These reviews presuppose that their reader is familiar with the piece, and does not hold back on 'spoilers'.

Jul 28, 2008 (23:00)

(This analysis was first published in issue 52 of SPAG.)

Metamorphoses is instantly recognisable as a work by Emily Short. Many of her fictional worlds, including that of Metamorphoses, are distant and slightly surreal, described to us as if seen through a veil. These worlds are not our own; they are not even for fantastic or science-fictional version of our world: they follow different rules. What rules? The rules of the symbol, of order, of a totality of meaning.

Objects and people in these worlds do not appear in their individuality: they act as symbols of ideas and principles. And it are these ideas and principles, rather than the objects and people themselves, that dictate what will, can or must happen. There are no brute contingencies; the metaphysical reigns supreme, while the physical and the psychological are relegated to a purely supportive function.

Sep 15, 2008 (23:00)

(This analysis was first published in issue 53 of SPAG.)

It is now almost exactly a decade ago that Photopia was released, and in that decade it may well have been discussed more often than any other post-Infocom interactive fiction (with the possible exception of Galatea). All this discussion notwithstanding, the game has been consistently misunderstood; a theme, message and purpose have been attributed to it that it simply does not have, while its true theme, message and purpose (which are in many respects the opposite of those of the received reading) have gone unnoticed. This tenth anniversary of Photopia seems as good an occasion as any to attempt to change this situation.

Sep 15, 2008 (23:00)

(This analysis was first published in issue 53 of SPAG.)

Rendition, a political art game by nespresso, has already seen a fair share of discussion. It has no less than seven reviews on the IFDB, it has been featured on Play This Thing!, and it even has its own Wikipedia page--all that in spite of the fact that it cannot have taken the author more than a handful of hours to code it up. Rendition consists of a single, very sparse room, and its game play is incredibly repetitive. So what is all the fuss about? Why are reactions to Rendition so diverse that it gathers as many 1-star rating as 5-star ratings? And what does this game really achieve? If we want to answer those questions, we need to add some more discussion to the already substantial pile.

Nov 29, 2009 (15:46)

This analysis was first published in SPAG #56.

I - Introduction

"A wandering monster I —
A king of shreds and patches,
Of ballads, songs and snatches,
And frantic lullaby!

May 11, 2011 (0:56)

This analysis was first published in SPAG #60.

Of Horrors and Distancing Tropes

It is easy to criticise Gigantomania. Almost immediately, it throws a terribly overwritten and not quite flawless passage your way:

The grunts and sighs of dozens of men plowing or extracting potatoes and grain with roots firmly in the ground fills up the silence of the sky, the silence of repression. The barren soil matches the thin arms and haggard faces further raping it. I haven't slept for ages either, but the pain of avoiding hunger for even longer and the slight rumble of land constantly being upturned keeps me awake.

which presumably aims to make clear to the reader that Stalinist Russia is not a fun place to live in. This is unfortunate, partly because the game doesn't need such a ham-fisted introduction, ably establishing the gruesome nature of its historical era during play; but even more because it obscures the fact that Gigantomania's ideas are both subtle and subtly conveyed.