Monday, February 22, 2016

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

by Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe
Simulacrum Liberation Press
(80 pages)

Ice-Bound is amazing! Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe have succeeded in transforming a moribund medium: the text-adventure game into something that seems as futuristic as the hover board. The interface is sleek. Even a Luddite such as myself who hardly knows what an Ipad is, was able to play the game easily.

Not only can you make choices in the story in the more traditional way by selecting objects, but you can also select your favorite themes to propel you through the story. I loved how much more literary this made the interaction. Even as you read through your choices, the text itself changes, making everything feel in perpetual flux. My mind boggled at how complex a process it must have been for the authors to keep track of the all the paths of narrative. Because of the many options and complexity of the story line, this game has great re-play value.

As the reader, you are trying to help KRIS, a simulacrum attempting to come to terms with his reality. He is an artificial intelligence created to complete an author's unfinished work. Does this make him less real? Or is he a person, struggling to come to terms with his identity?

The story within a story is that of a station in Antarctica that is sinking into an ice. Those who explore it can unearth older versions of the station and its teams with each layer. As you navigate through the station, picking up objects like an almanac, a dried rose, a board game, you are also selecting themes such as human dignity, the fallibility of memory, and the fantastic.

The one thing that I felt undercut the intentionality of the experience was the hard copy book that accompanies this game. I was surprised because as a book-lover, I expected this to be my favorite part. The player is supposed to take a digital photo of the book to give the simulacrum more information about himself. The interface works just fine, but even after reading the compendium, I had to select pages more or less at random when requested by the game.

If you enjoy ambiguity and co-evolving a story, but are looking for something that takes advantage of current technological innovations, then this interactive fiction is for you.


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