IF Competition: Violet

Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. There is a cut, then any spoiler-free comments I have, and then spoiler space, and then more detailed feedback that assumes the reader has tried the game.

But first, we have some obligatory filler to try to make sure that the RSS summary does not accidentally contain any review. Filler, filler, la la la…

Okay. Here we go.

This is pretty terrific: a one-room puzzle game but with more than the usual amount of personality. The game plays effectively with the distinction between the protagonist and the narrator, and creates a sense of actively engaging with the narrator as another character, even though she’s never actually in the room. (If that sounds confusing, in practice it works just fine.) The puzzles are reasonably fair, though I didn’t get all of them myself; however, there are excellent built-in contextual hints, so it’s hard to get truly stuck. Implementation is also first rate. There are many many silly actions accounted for. And how not to like a game where one of the suggested commands is HETERONORMATIVITY OFF?

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Several things about this worked for me emotionally. One, the situation of Needing to Finish the Damn Dissertation is one I can sympathize with, though fortunately in my case I did, in fact, finish. But going back to those days, even in exaggerated comic form, produced uncanny feelings of stress.

It was also effectively painful, having to smash all of Violet’s gifts one after another — especially the snowglobe. Geez. Life is so unfair.

Anyway, a really nice piece of work, which manages to be at once fairly traditional in format and fairly surprising in effect.

And I like the cover art.

14 thoughts on “IF Competition: Violet

  1. This game really impressed the heck out of me. Both sides of the game – the puzzle side and the gut-level side – are intermeshed just about perfectly. (My only petty complaint was the multitude of terms of endearment liberally sprinkled throughout, but by the end I couldn’t help but be amazed that not one of them was recycled during play.) And, like you said, having to destroy mementos of the relationship in order to progress (and thus, try to save the relationship) – that’s just brilliant. I can’t imagine how hard writing the narrator’s part must have been; it worked so well, and it would have been so easy to hit a wrong note. Plus, this was so well-implemented… This was just really, really good.* I never expected this much depth from an “escape the locked room” game, but I am happy to be surprised.

    *(And I love the asides!)

  2. How did you feel about the twist ending? I mean “twist” in the sense that the note leads us to believe that Violet left hours ago when in fact she’s been planning a surprise party. I felt that the destruction of all the mementos and tokens of their relationship foreshadowed the relationship’s disintegration, and was taken aback by the twist. It felt tacked on, to me.

  3. Yeah, I loved the setting and implementation, and there was a lot of real wit, like the MC Dingo playlist and the Elliot Smith-esque indie rock.

    The ending was too happy for me, too. But then again something strange happened to me in the process of mentally filling in the gaps of this story, as a player. Maybe I brought my own relationship experience into it, but I misread the tone of Violet’s asides–and it made me think, for the first 20 minutes, that she was an “unreliable narrator” in a brilliant study of a jealous, controlling, self-satisfied significant other. Wicked! I thought.

    But then by the end you realize that you’re actually supposed to have feelings for this Aussie. By then I had started to appreciate her gifts and thought, in a last-act-of-“Clerks” vein, that hey, it isn’t every day that you find a girl who will make you a trophy.

    But lingering doubts remained…had Julia gotten a bad rap in Violet’s portrayal?

  4. Gosh, what hard-hearted people you are. I was really sad (and a bit annoyed) that Violet had gone home after everything I’d done for her — and relieved that that was just a trick.

    But then, I also felt it was clear through her narration that she really, really cared about the protagonist — so much that it would have just about killed her to leave, even if she also thought maybe she should — so it was believable to me that she had stayed. And also believable that she had played a slightly cruel trick in the process.

  5. I loved this game. I really enjoy games like this where they change all of the default lines to give them character.

    I though the pet names were brilliant. There were a TON of them, so the author really gave it a lot of thought.

    I noticed a few comments about the ending … at the beginning, she actually said she had something “fun” in mind for your birthday, so the ending didn’t feel tacked on to me. I thought it was great! :)

    I am tempted to go back and play as female … I can imagine it has to be pretty different.

    – Cesia.

  6. If you play as female, you can’t pee on the cactus, and the names of the protagonist’s rivals are changed to Molly and Camilla. I am not sure whether there was anything else — I played it through as female first, then tried a couple things as a male just out of curiosity.

  7. Loved this one. By the end of it I felt I really, genuinely knew these two people. I can’t even decide whether it was fiction or whether there really is an IF-writing couple tending a shop down in Melbourne right now. Definitely my first candidate for a 10.

    The ending hit the perfect spot between happiness and bitter-sweetness for me (bitter-sweet at having given up on their life and trying to starting over). The surprise is actually foreshadowed at the beginning pretty well (but pretty subtly also), so I felt I really could have guessed it if I had tried, but I never did.

    The *only* thing that felt a bit ‘tacked on’ was finding out that Violet had been looking at everything through a hidden camera… ??? That felt a bit weird and like an easy way of glossing over the whole gift-destruction consequence part of the game.

    But still. Excellent.

  8. Violet is superb, one of only 2 games (with Nightfall) that can win this competition, I think. I gave them both a 10 and no other games were even close.

    My biggest trouble with this game was the “clamp”, also called the “standard office clamp”. No idea what that is. Even after seeing the walkthru. Normally when this sort of thing crops up it’s because I’m American (“underwear”) and the author is British (“pants”) or possibly Australian, I thought, in this case. So I looked in some British-American dictionaries and found nothing. Then I emailed the author about how great the game was and mentioned the “clamps” and I got this reply:

    Office clamp is meant to be US, for those black clamps you used to bind sets of papers together. Maybe next time I’m at an office supply store, I’ll look at what they are called.

    Of course I realized he meant a BINDER CLIP!!! I told him, and I feel like a hero.

  9. The richness of the world is amazing–all the tracks on the platyPod, the goings-on out the window, the endlessly varying pet names, the pieces of backstory. The main innovation here is in how the interaction between player and game (including the hint system) is integrated into the narrative; if some of the puzzles were ones I couldn’t quite figure out on my own, it didn’t feel like cheating to ask Violet for a hint. (It did, of couse, feel very much like cheating when I switched heteronormativity back on just long enough to water the cactus; shoulda thought of the wastebasket.)

    Looking at all the things that Violet had made was enough to convince me that the protagonist should really, really want her to stay. I agree with Harry that the hidden camera seemed a bit off–but I think it’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that the protagonist has been imagining her there in the room anyway; finding out that she really has been watching everything seems not entirely unnatural, even if the explanation for it is a bit of a kludge.

  10. Pingback: IF Competition: General Reflections and Favorites « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction

  11. Even as a person somewhat new to IF, I knew I was playing a gem when a hundred commands in I still wasn’t getting duplicate responses from the interpreter. More than almost any other work I’ve tried, it’s clear that the author put a lot of love into this piece.

  12. The richness of the world is amazing–all the tracks on the platyPod, the goings-on out the window, the endlessly varying pet names, the pieces of backstory.

    I liked that many of these details (especially the zombie bits) are delivered as background while you’re in the middle of solving puzzles. It makes you feel like the story is moving forward, even when the PC himself is stuck working through 50 potential solutions to a problem.

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