IFComp 2016: Stone Harbor   Leave a comment

By Liza Daly. Played to completion on iPhone Safari.


A lot of web-based interactive fiction only play on mobile with, ah, difficulty, but this one I’d recommend mobile over desktop. This is nearly an “enhanced ebook” with very long periods of minimal interaction, and reads very well on a phone.

You play/read as Frank Petrio, a boardwalk psychic who inherited the gig from his mother. His routine is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY, at least until a detective investigating the suicide of rich business mogul Alan Healey arrives and Frank discovers he has real powers.

So unfolds what the author calls a short story but I think in word count might strictly speaking be a novella. It hits many of the plot points of the typical crime story but the psychic element ratchets the experience on a different vector.

stone

There are some fantastic bits of character here, especially in the main character and the Healey clan. The excerpt above will likely remain one of my favorites of the competition.

On the downside, there were a couple bits where the plot flagged. I’d trim down a scene or two, plus I found a late fight scene confusing to the point I’m still not sure the full sequence of events.

I wasn’t sold on the interactivity. When it happened, much of it was to to pick an item that were then replaced by more descriptive detail. This is intended to simulate Frank’s powers of observation trained by years of being a fake psychic. In theory this sounds like an excellent blending of character and text but in practice I found it a headache to read and I had to reread from scratch every time some words changed.

Also, the interaction isn’t consistent. Sometimes you can (are in fact required to) click on every choice to move on, and sometimes there are choices such that after only one is picked the story moves on. I got frustrated not knowing what kind of interaction was happening next. I couldn’t get into the rhythm of it, especially given large chunks of text that were essentially “click random word to continue.”

Still, these glitches were somewhat minor and personal, and they don’t get enough in the way to block out readers: this is a solid yarn.

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Posted October 3, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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