Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Review: The Mouse

Posted by Reiko on November 25, 2016

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

The Mouse
Author: Norbez
Format: Web

This piece feels like one of those “awareness” pieces that people keep writing to make the player feel like they’re playing as someone with a mental issue or something like that. In this case, the PC is being abused by her (?) roommate.

As an aside, I honestly wasn’t sure whether the PC was supposed to be a guy or a girl, but given that the roommate in a college dorm is a girl, Carrie, I’m going to assume the PC is a girl too. But really, those drawings…well, let’s just say they aren’t very flattering and leave it at that. And there’s an offhand remark about the PC knowing what’s it like to be given a name you don’t like, and “Evelyn” can in some groups be a guy’s name, so there’s some considerable ambiguity going on, maybe deliberately.

More than just the portrayal of the PC, I really didn’t like the drawings in general. I didn’t like the art style, and there were just too many small drawings scattered through the text to illustrate the action, which to me was just unnecessary. The point of IF is to read the text. Yes, many pieces use visuals to enhance the story, but to me these detracted rather than enhanced the story. Maybe a few at just the most critical points would have been better, but most descriptive pages had at least one and some had three or four.

At any rate, Evelyn has a refuge from her roommate in the form of a deaf older lady. But it takes a crisis point at a party, which may or may not include a considerable act of violence from Carrie, for her to even consider telling her friend. The player has the choice to confront or run from Carrie, and later the choice to tell or not to tell the friend. It’s far easier not to tell, especially since nobody has believed her in the past, and especially if there’s no visible damage. Carrie is far better known and nobody thinks she could be so cruel to Evelyn.

It’s a very short piece and entirely linear until Evelyn gets to the party, at which point she has a lot of choices, but many of them are only used to reinforce how standing up to Carrie is mostly futile or how afraid she is of telling anyone. The conversation with the friend plays out almost identically whether there’s physical damage or not, which seems strange except for the fact that emotional abuse is still abuse, but it’s hard to prove anything until and unless that abuse turns physical.

In short, it’s pretty realistic, but not very much fun to play.

Time: 25 min (2 playthroughs)
Scoring: base 7, +1 for music, -1 for typos, -1 for shortness, -1 for linearity
Score: 4

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