[This is a guest review by William Broom. If youâ€™re interested in writing an article for TIGSource, please go here.]
Walker & Silhouette is an interactive fiction by Pacian, creator of Dead Like Ants and Gun Mute, among others. His latest game is set in a fantastical steampunk world and follows the two titular characters on a brief but enjoyable adventure.
In Gun Mute, Pacian made his game more accessible to those unfamiliar with Interactive Fiction by removing most of the directional keywords: Instead of east, west, north and south, the player only had to deal with forward and back. In Walker & Silhouette, he has taken this one step further by highlighting all the keywords within the text. Although you can still type them in if you want to, it’s easier to simply click on the highlighted word. This system (which Pacian acknowledges as being derived from Blue Lacuna) makes the game very accessible and fluid. Moreover, when you’re stuck on a puzzle, it’s nice to know that you have all the pieces in front of you, not hidden away somewhere.
Ultimately, though, this kind of neat gimmick would mean nothing if the story itself were not up to scratch, and fortunately Pacian delivers on this front. His writing is frequently witty and amusing, with the banter between the two characters being his greatest strength. On the other hand, telling the story from both characters’ perspectives gives them a little more depth than your standard comedy duo. The puzzles, though few in number, are enjoyable and intuitive. You’re unlikely to feel frustrated at any point in the game, but IF veterans may find it a little too easy.
The only criticism that I could level against the game is that it’s too short – about 20-30 minutes playtime at the most. This isn’t really a problem in itself, especially as Pacian has said that he is considering extending the story with a series of episodic sequels. However, the story in this first ‘episode’ is a bit too big to fit into the small space provided, resulting in a slightly rushed feeling toward the end. But this is only a small blot on an otherwise charming and memorable little game.
Dead Like Ants is another unique Interactive Fiction game from C.E.J. Pacian, the creator of Gun Mute (2008 XYZZY Award winner for Best Puzzles). I don’t play enough IF to even pretend that I have any authority on it, but Pacian has always struck me as having a very strong written voice. DLA ranks up there for me – the theme is carried confidently through the game mechanics and writing, which is economical but also very evocative. Plus, insects are radsauce.
TIGdb: Entry for Dead Like Ants
And yeah, you’re definitely going to do a lot of shooting in this game, which may seem out of place for a text adventure. Non-linear exploration and item collection/usage are kind of the hallmarks of your “typical” IF, but in Gun Mute there are only two directions – forward and backward – and the only item you’ll ever need is your trusty six-shooter (ain’t that the truth!).
That Pacian can craft some tricky puzzles around such a limited set of actions is a testament to his abilities as a game designer. But it’s the narrative, set in a far-out futuristic Western, that keeps you hooked until the final, climactic showdown. Games like this really show off why interactive fiction is such a unique and exciting genre. Superb work!
EDIT: And if you’re stuck anywhere, you can type ‘HINT’ for hints.
And it’s all over! The winner is Pacian, with the excellent Snowblind Aces – which also finished first with a unanimous Miss Congeniality vote! Congratulations also to Akhel, who managed a very close second place with The Snowman in both the main vote and the MC vote. Finishing third is TIGSaga in the main event (keep an eye out for TIGStory!), and My Magic Tire Hoax in the MC vote (probably the most imaginative entry to the contest).
You can find the rest of the results in this thread.
Despite the low voter turnout, I think it’s safe to call this contest a success! The overall standard was amazing, especially for a contest where many were writing their first piece of interactive fiction. Everything, all the way down to tenth place is worth playing, and if you haven’t played them yet, you really should.
We definitely need to have another one of these text adventure contests!