IntroComp 2014: '1st and the Last of the Ninja' by nmelssx

The voting deadline for this year's competition for opening scenes of unfinished interactive fiction was extended due to low voter and reviewer participation. Feedback is even more important to IntroComp than to other IF events, and I know what it's like when the Internet feels like an empty abyss. This is the fist of my  belated reviews.

The most remarkable thing about First and the Last of the Ninja is its inventory interface, with pictures representing items and spells. Individual items can be expanded to reveal the actions that can be done with them, while still showing the node text or room description above. I think this has potential. I could see this working in a text-based RPG.

Unfortunately, this interface isn't used very well. The method of "taking" an inventory object from the location isn't quite intuitive to traditional hypertext subgenres, and it's problematic when all the items in a location have to be "taken" in order to make the choice options available.

The vagueness of the story could hypothetical play to traditional RPG tropes. The blank-slate PC generated by player selection at chargen being inserted into a generic backstory works well in the roguelike Ancient Domains of Mystery -- a strong contender for my favorite single-player RPG. Here, though, there aren't enough choices. The choice of the character's background is a simple class system, but it doesn't seem to do anything. (I tried it twice with different backgrounds.) Also, this story doesn't take advantage of the tropes of a traditional story type. It's not merely generic or stereotypical; it's just empty. Maybe there's something endearing about the oppressed kid surving a bad school experience in there somewhere.

The RPG mechanics are not demonstrated well enough to judge them one way or the other. There's an indication that there will also be some text adventure-style puzzling. There's a numeric combination that needs to be discovered. (I never solved it. Maybe it's unfinished, or maybe it's only unclued.) The only way to interact with the environment is through the two spells received in the beginning, but they don't affect the environment. One of them even uses a browser alert box to say that the action isn't applicable. This seems like a strange implementation choice, implying that the inability to use that particular skill in the current location is external to the game, on the same level as a JavaScript error.


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