Posted by: Ben | October 16, 2008

if: April In Paris

(videogame. TADS. Aikin. Interactive Fiction Competition 2008)

Review follows. Spoilers.

I seem to have stumbled upon a sequence of well-implemented games (two). This one seems to understand any old nonsense I type in. In fact it only failed to understand me once, and I quote this not to be churlish but to comment on the fact that it’s almost as if the game engine has started to absorb the personality of its own snooty French waiter:

>x table

Which table do you mean, the old man’s table, the other tables, or your table?

>mine

That was not one of the choices. Which did you mean, the old man’s table, the other tables, or your table?

Something else peculiar about this game’s implementation: the café initially appears to be a single location. Then you find you can wander over to different areas of the café, but because the location description doesn’t change you imagine you’re standing in a different part of the same room, when in fact they’re all discrete locations with different objects in them that need to be searched, examined and otherwise interacted with. All of which is entirely normal for interactive fiction, but had me slightly off balance because I’d convinced myself I was playing a one-room game.

Anyway… we’re in Paris, although judging by the number of Americans about the place it might possibly be the one in Texas. And after so many deserted games, it’s nice to have some company. There was a hard-bargaining fat guy at a nearby table, who wouldn’t accept a stolen bottle of wine in exchange for his half-eaten sandwich unless I got him the corkscrew too. There was the flavour-of-the-month workman with the flavour-of-the-month toolbox. There was a waiter, a hostess, a busker, a dog, two other interactwithable patrons and a chef. There was our wine-filching, accordionist-bothering hero, who was just about tolerable if I pretended he was George Stobbart out of the Broken Sword games. Then there was the titular April, who had lost all interest in me once she had joined me at my table. I was starting to change my mind about buying her a meal.

So it’s a perfectly competent game, but one that mysteriously feels like less than the sum of its parts. There’s a lot to admire about April In Paris, but not a lot to love. Whether it’s a defect in the characterisation (because let’s face it, she doesn’t do much), plot (why doesn’t he just go to a different café?) or something else entirely, for me, it’s missing a certain je ne sais quoi.

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