The Online Interactive Fiction Review Site
Game: The Woods are Dark
Translated by: Emily Short
Translator's Note: For the past year, the Italian IF 'zine Terra D'IF has been publishing reviews in Italian of both English and Italian IF. Given the shortage of reviews out there, it seemed as though it would be interesting to translate some of these, so that a) authors of English games who don't read Italian can more easily see what's been said about their work, and b) English-speaking players who aren't up to playing Italian IF can still learn something about the work being done in that community.
So here is a pair of reviews by Roberto Grassi that appeared in issues 2 and 3 of Terra D'IF. They are translated with his permission, and he kindly looked over the English; any errors that remain are of course my own fault.
-- Emily Short
(Translated from Terra D'IF #2)
I decided to play this game for two reasons: first, I wanted to try a game written with Adrift, and secondly I wanted a horror/thriller ambiance.
I was happy to discover that this work by Cannibal satisfied me fully in both respects, since I found a lonely adventure (there is not a single NPC in the strict sense of the term) set in an abandoned cottage in a forest on the coast of Ireland.
The long introduction, well-written but not overblown, brings one immediately into the premise of the game: a brutal murder was committed many years before in the area. Drew Doherty went mad and hacked his family to pieces in the cottage where they lived, with a machete. The protagonist, who was an adolescent at the time, remembers with indistinct terror an attempt, with five other friends (among whom were Catherine, Stephen, and Mary), to investigate the place where the bloody event occurred. But two boys from the group of six, Siobhan and Tommy, were lost: one vanished and the other was driven crazy after the excursion went badly. So they all swore never to return to the forest to explore the haunted cottage. Now, five years later, the pact has been broken. Stephen and Catherine, by now eighteen years old, decide to spend a night in the cursed cottage. "We were children... we were only thirteen... We'll go tomorrow, on the anniversary of the massacre."
Stephen and Catherine don't return from this ill-advised expedition, and the game begins at that point. In a mournful atmosphere, the protagonist sets out to discover whether his friends succeeded and, worse, to shed some light on the horrible slaughter many years ago. The cliché is over-used (the gloomy abandoned house that hides an unspeakable secret), but always effective if developed in an engaging and coherent way. And Cannibal has certainly succeeded in those aspects: the story is very well written and the puzzles are "logical" (at least as much as they can be, in a house that is bewitched).
The story is linear and exciting, and sometimes made me hold my breath. One real drawback is the effective absence of any NPCs, since the only interactions that occur are through apparitions and are not events in which the player can participate, but it works well that way. One bad implementation of the final events would probably have ruined the beautiful and linear implementation. Some slight falling-off of the tone at the end, which requires some not-quite-logical actions, detracts a little from this otherwise good game, which I nonetheless recommend to everyone.
Review by: Roberto Grassi
By: Quintin Stone
Translated by: Emily Short
(Translated from Terra D'IF #3)
The first-ranked games of the IF Comp this year are indeed very good games.
I played Slouching (of which you will find the review in this issue [Terra D'IF #3]), and I started to play Risorgimento Represso, which I abandoned because it didn't succeed in interesting me (though it was certainly a very well-written game technically).
Then my attention was caught by "Scavenger", by Quintin Stone, a new author in Interactive Fiction circles.
"Scavenger" means "someone who searches the trash for something". And that is exactly what the protagonist of this game does: he travels in a post-holocaust environment and heads to an abandoned military base to recover anything of value, to re-sell on the black market.
This game has many good points. It has solid game-play, and well-conceived puzzles with multiple solutions. Moreover, the interactions with the NPCs are carefully constructed, and I didn't find any weak points in the plot.
But the true strength of the game, in my opinion, consists in the level of involvement "Scavenger" manages to provide. At the beginning of the game, I thought, "It's as though I'm playing Doom in TADS." Indeed, the setting, the descriptions, and, in a certain sense, even the actions which the player has to take in order to make progress are similar to the ones in a first-person shooter. Then, when I looked up the author, I realized why he does so well at communicating that impression: Quintin Stone is the leader of a group called "Night's Edge" that writes mods for Unreal Tournament: http://www.rps.net/NE/
It's obvious in the familiarity and skill of some of the descriptions of the setting and in the behavior of the NPCs.
Overall, then, the game is very well-written, it is exciting and immersive, and I recommend it to anyone.