IF Comp: East Grove Hills

Author: XYZ
System: Z-code
Time Played: 20 mins

More (with spoilers) after the break, you may wish to play before reading...

Review: The author didn't provide a blurb for this game, and I think perhaps it's better that way sometimes. Just start and see if you get sucked in. During my initial playing of all the game intros, I was struck by the writing in this one; the opening is in past tense and conveys quite a sense of foreboding. It's set in a high school, but the events are not at all trivial: the game is a non-linear telling of events before and after an attack at the school.

On a night with a California school shooting in the news, this game is horrifying because it could very well be real. In fact, I wonder if it is not so much fiction as the author working out emotions from going through a similar tragedy. (If that's the case, I sympathize, and hope that writing the game brought some relief/closure.)

Fiction or not, the game has emotional resonance which is helped along by some good characterizations, although it would have benefited from more depth and fleshing out, a little more showing and less telling. I was starting to care about the PC and his friends and wish I could have spent more time with them. (This also could have made the game even more moving.)

One big thing lacking is any real interactivity in the game. The player has limited time as things unfold and can't really change the outcome of events. Even the conversation choices don't do a whole lot but move things along at a certain pace. Perhaps there is no other way to tell this particular story, but I would have liked to at least been able to attempt to change things.

The ending was not entirely satisfying, either, but then, I'm not sure anything would be (given the subject matter). The potential was there, it's just too bad the game didn't quite live up to its strong beginning.

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