IF Competition Discussion: Wish

Next up: Wish, by Edward Floren.

Wish is one of those games where a surreal puzzle sequence is dovetailed with cut-scenes from “reality”, so that your progress is understood somehow to be affecting the real world, but the player never gets to interact with the real characters or situations.

This can work more or less well depending on the quality of the puzzle sequence and the reality cut-scenes, though in almost all cases I find myself wishing that the author hadn’t put the story at this remove from the interaction.

In the case of Wish, the “reality” story struck me as rather saccharine, and I got stuck on the puzzles — I didn’t pick up an apparently-scenery item that the walkthrough later told me I needed, so I went back and played the whole game through from the walkthrough. Overall, it’s not really good enough to recommend, but not bad enough to rail against, either. I did have a more negative reaction than I think it probably deserved in absolute terms, but I’ll save the details of that for after the cut.

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The main story, about Sarah and her grandfather, bugged me. For one thing, it’s all rather contrived and cliché — the pure-hearted young girl, the kindly old man, the idealized Christmas landscape. For another, it strikes me as something approaching cruelty for the mother to tell her distraught daughter that “if she wished hard enough, and worked hard enough at making the wish come true, then everything would be fine.” Sometimes people die; in that event, how could it be comforting or fair for the child to think that was her fault for not wishing “hard enough”? I’m kind of ill-disposed to this kind of story right now, given that a friend of a friend just died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in her mid-fifties; so I’ll chalk up part of my reaction as subjective. But still.

As for the puzzles, those don’t really work either. How are we supposed to know that the gel will make people invisible? And double as a handy glue? What clue is there that we should keep NPCs talking until they get around to giving us stuff?

5 thoughts on “IF Competition Discussion: Wish

  1. I had the same reaction as you did to the mother’s comment about wishing hard enough (possibly similarly due to subjective experience). I had already developed a less than positive opinion of the parents, but I don’t think the author intended this comment to promote that opinion.

    That said, I had a somewhat more favorable opinion of the game than you, possibly due to the fact that I didn’t have much problem with the puzzles (in particular, I grabbed the gel immediately, expecting to need it as a light source, and the further uses of the gel seemed to be hinted well if you already had it). There were one or two moments where I experienced a little bit of a sense of impending doom, but unfortunately this happened too close to the happy ending to really be effective. Also, I would have been much harsher if it had turned out that the PC had been in a car accident…

    Which brings up a question. Have there been a lot of other games where the PC’s fantasy is inspired by someone else’s injury/death as opposed to the PC’s? I can think of a lot of examples of the latter, but not so much of the former.

  2. Which brings up a question. Have there been a lot of other games where the PC’s fantasy is inspired by someone else’s injury/death as opposed to the PC’s? I can think of a lot of examples of the latter, but not so much of the former.

    I’m not thinking of any off the top of my head — Photopia doesn’t quite count; Exhibition is inspired by a non-PC death but isn’t a fantasy; ditto In the End…

    Maybe On Optimism? But I might be wrong there: I’m not sure whether the NPC in question is actually dead/dying, or merely Really Messed Up, and something pretty dire definitely happens to the PC.

  3. (spoilers)

    I somehow didn’t have much trouble with any of the
    puzzles. When I looked at the gel (after coming out the other end of the tunnel), the game told me that it made my hand invisible. So, it made sense to cover myself in it (although this was guess-the-verb-y a little). As for using it as glue, that’s automatic, right? I already had it (else I couldn’t have passed the “man” blocking the cave), and once I put fabric on the kite frame, the gel just fell onto it and Sarah automatically used it as glue.

    If anything, I felt the puzzles were too *easy*. But I could have just gotten lucky.

  4. I found them not so much hard as arbitrary– I didn’t feel as though there was likely to be any coherent explanation for why things worked as they did, and that weakened my interest in solving them. Some pieces were also (I thought) under-clued, or at least clued in ways that the player would not necessarily see; but that wasn’t all there was to it.

  5. Which brings up a question. Have there been a lot of other games where the PC’s fantasy is inspired by someone else’s injury/death as opposed to the PC’s?

    Hm. In a sense, Silent Hill 2. In an even more strained sense, Silent Hill 1.

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