Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Review: Rite of Passage

Posted by Reiko on November 23, 2016

This is a review of a game from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Rite of Passage
Author: Arno von Borries
Format: Web

It’s written like a diary of a middleschooler, except with better prose. The slice of life story is split into vignettes taking place over four school years, and any time a person is mentioned, there’s a link to notes about all the people encountered so far, which update as the PC sees them do more things over time.

It’s reasonably polished, but the story just isn’t very interesting, as you watch the PC’s schoolmates grow more and more crude and cruel as time goes on. You can choose to let the PC join them, or keep him from participating as much as possible. The story shifts a little bit in response to these choices, but not a lot. For instance, when I tried to help one girl, her fate fell to a different girl instead. It’s a rather realistic portrayal of the cruelty of children, but that doesn’t make it fun.

I played through a second time and made some different choices, and found that some of the vignettes were different. There’s a fair amount of material behind the scenes, as the descriptions of people in the notes are different if your actions lead to different results for them. For instance, one girl might end up quitting the hockey team if you participate in scaring her, but if not, she’ll stay on the team. Sometimes certain choices were visible but unavailable, and I usually couldn’t tell what I would have had to do differently earlier to make those choices.

Sometimes only one choice is allowed, so you don’t get to make a decision. I suppose it’s character-defining to do that, but I didn’t really like it. I wondered if some of those actions are never available regardless of what you’ve done. Maybe the point was that the PC knows there are better options, but can’t make himself take those options? It’s plausible, since many are moral issues, but if so, I’m not sure that’s the best way to illustrate it. Some sort of reasoning for crossing out the unavailable choices would have helped.

Time: 30 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for random cruelty, -1 for railroaded choices
Score: 5

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