Posted by: Ben | October 28, 2009

if: The Duel in the Snow

A z-code game in IF Comp 2009 by Utkonos

This is a review of the first duel-related game and the second snow-related game on my list.  Unlike last year, I’ve managed to play all of the games (although not all for the full two hours), so the next challenge is to see how many I can review.  I’m into the second half, so it’s all downhill from here (in terms of momentum, not quality.)

This stuffed owl belongs to Natasha, but she did not take it with her when she left. Not surprisingly, because it is an ugly, dense, moth-eaten thing. Not unlike her husband.

If I had to go out for a drink with one character from this year’s IF competition it would probably be Victor Pavlovich, the Duel in the Snow’s affably downtrodden protagonist.  Betrayed, insulted and generally mistreated, he’s something of an identification figure.  It is perhaps strange that I should feel this way about him, given that he socks a fellow in the jaw in a flashback.   But I did tell him to do it, however unwillingly, so he’s at least as much a victim of circumstance as I am.  Also he’s in a very good game, which helps.

TDitS is one of those stories that respects the intelligence of the reader – I hesitate to say the player – by giving them enough information to piece it together rather than simply coming out and saying it.  Principal NPC Kropkin is characterised effectively through his dialogue, turning the way NPCs never really seem to be listening to the player into a virtue

On the downside the nearly non-interactive flashback scene seems to be necessary for pacing, but these things always sit awkwardly in IF.  Knowing what the outcome will be, there isn’t really any strong motivation to punch Gronovskij out, especially considering that this isn’t often how these things pan out in Russian novels.

The owl-related shenanigans are totally out of left-field, but in a way that very nearly makes sense.  Given the situation, it would be out of character for Victor Pavlovich to survive the duel, and the losing ending feels like the canonical one.  It certainly feels truer to the source material.  (Although I never did manage to find that third ending.)  This is a neat game that I feel very positive about.

Rating: Great
Next: Broken Legs

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