IFcomp 2016: Tentaculon

“Tentaculon”. We are a squid.

Or so we’re told as the game begins. Then it turns out that we are actually a disgraced researcher (I don’t think the actual cause of our disgrace is ever actually explained) continuing our research in secret; and this research has to do with slipping into the psyche of a squid. To learn stuff.

All right. There’s stuff going on, and the story quickly takes a turn into cosmic horror and X-Files conspiracy, and just as quickly … we’re done. Whoa. I am not sure I understand fully everything that happened or what I just did, but that’s the story and I think I actually found it kind of charming. It’s the “you are a squid” line, I think, even if the last iteration seems potentially sinister. And how the initial research ties into the final denouement.

As far as the story and the game goes, I like it. There’s a trace of humour (“you are a squid”) but not so much, I think, that this could be considered a straight comedy. The squid point of view is a little hard to reconcile with the human point of view, but it seems as though the limited choice lets us just walk (swim) through that difficulty with relative ease. I’m not actually sure that’s such a good thing though. The raised stakes at this point seem to imply that there should be more active brainwork involved and less of what feels like (even if it isn’t) blind luck. But like I said, I liked the overall story.

I did not like the timed text effects. I’ve said this in other reviews of other games, but I think “Tentaculon” manages to do the timed text thing even worse than usual. It’s not that there’s more of it: there isn’t. But it’s … inconveniently placed. There was at least one occasion where I had to wait for one block of text (containing a hyperlink leading to an expository dead end) before waiting again for another block containing the hyperlink needed to progress. The bad thing here was that the expository dead end led back, of course, to this node and I had to repeat my wait. I might easily have thought that the expository dead end hyperlink was the only one available, and that this was the very odd ending of a very odd story. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that it hasn’t happened on occasion that I’ve missed progress hyperlinks simply because they took too long to show up: there were a number of places where it looked as though the only way out was to use the “back” button.

Conclusion: please do not use timed text effects. Especially, please do not use timed text effects more than once in conjunction with hyperlinks. Military radio signallers use the word “over” to signal that they’ve said their piece and that the other person may proceed with what they have to say; could a similar convention be introduced to Twine authorship, so players know when to wait and when to move?

Also: I think breakfast here would be sausage gravy and biscuits. A bit opaque: you can’t see much with gravy over everything. And maybe you’re likely to miss a bit as it drips off each forkful. But it’s a tasty package, nonetheless.

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