Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Review: Ventilator

Posted by Reiko on November 26, 2016

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

Ventilator
Author: Peregrine Wade
Format: Glulx

It’s a hot day in Mexico, and the PC is stuck in a disgusting hotel room with an evil ventilator. As an aside, this seems like an odd use of the word “ventilator”. I think the intended device is an electric fan with spinning blades. While this does provide ventilation, a “ventilator” is usually the medical device that keeps someone’s lungs moving if they can’t breathe without assistance.

It’s a rather uneven piece, really. There are a number of arbitrary deaths, some signaled and some not. (For instance, entering the toilet is signaled by refusing to let you do it the first few times you try, while taking off the t-shirt results in an immediate death.)

There are at least two “successful” endings, one better than the other. I didn’t use the “think” command enough and ended up turning to the walkthrough after I was tired of getting trapped by the evil ventilator. The “real” ending tries to say that the whole ventilator scene was some kind of allegorical dream about the PC’s life. I guess it’s trying to be deep, but it seems like a bit of a cop-out.

The good part is that there are a lot of amusing and optional actions that have sensible responses. But it’s tricky getting all the details right: there are a few bugs left. For instance, at one point I’d thrown my bottle at the ventilator, which cut it to shreds. Then in the next scene, I had the bottle in inventory again.

Plus some of the required actions seem rather arbitrary. I get that “think” was supposed to provide light hints, but it wasn’t clear that it was almost a required part of the playthrough in terms of pacing. I think the intention was for the player to slow down and “think” any time it’s not clear what to do next, but that wasn’t really signaled. So I missed some cues here and there that I would normally expect to be placed in object descriptions and unsuccessful action text.

Time: 20 minutes
Scoring: base 7, +1 for amusing actions, -1 for shortness, -1 for arbitrary actions, -1 for bugs
Score: 5

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