IFComp 2014: The Contortionist   1 comment

An arm wriggles out. Your arm. Then a leg. You hyperventilate before flattening your chest and sliding it sideways through the bars. Your pelvis, warped into something inhuman, follows almost by itself. Other limbs slip out easy as shadows gliding on the ground.

Nicholas Stillman’s The Contortionist is the first competition game I’ve played with a point-and-click interface that has the puzzle-and-inventory ambitions of a parser game. The plot is a pretty good choice for a puzzle game: you have to escape from a prison of a dystopic society that incarcerates people by random lottery to use them as free labor.

While I’d recommend it, I found the interface results mixed. None of these problems are intractable and hopefully this might be considered more of a v2 wishlist rather than a condemnation in stone.

  • Here are the verb choices:

    Walk Look Take Open Wear Item Plan
    Talk Hear Give Shut Drop Bend Info

    This is weirdly organized and took a bit of processing to navigate. “Open” and “Shut” are next to each other vertically, “Talk” and “Hear” are adjacent horizontally, and “Take” and “Drop” aren’t next to each other at all. “Item” will only show the items that might be used in a particular location; as far as I could tell the only way to take inventory was to pick “Drop” but not drop anything.

  • I had a hard time getting a sense of location. The cell that you start in is actually two “rooms”, one in the main part of the cell and one part near the bars. I was stuck at the very beginning just because I wanted to bend through the bars yet the command to do so was doing nothing. I needed to first walk to the bars then bend through them. Later, when returning to the room to pick up some items, I mysteriously couldn’t find them any more. It turns out, again, I was in a different “room” — standing near the bars rather than being in the cell proper.
  • In general, the lack of room names kept me disoriented and I often found myself confused as to which cell I was close to.
  • In at least one place, picking “take” a second time after a first time works on a different object, and it is not at all clear a new object is somehow available to use with the verb.
  • “Drop” is the choice to stop wearing something. You’ll still be holding it. While the double-use of the word is understandable in English it’s confusing as an interface choice.
  • The “bookmark” method of saving a game was unwieldy (essentially, it makes the URL unique so you can bookmark it in your browser and return to a point earlier in the game) and something more traditional would be welcome (I didn’t even understand what was going on with it until late in the game).

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Posted October 7, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “IFComp 2014: The Contortionist

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  1. Pingback: IF Comp 2014: The Contortionist (Nicholas Stillman) | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

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