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Photopia: Not a Mediocre Short Story screenshot

Photopia

Game released: 1998

Text written: Sep 22, 2009
By: Jordan Magnuson

Developer: Adam Cadre

Production: Independent

Platforms: Glulx, Z-Machine

Price: FREE

Get it from: IFDB
Jordan Magnuson's picture

If you have not played Photopia, you should play it now. You should play it because it is a beautiful work, but if that’s not enough to encourage you, you should play it because it is a very important game, and it is very short. Really, if you’re not interested in taking an hour out of your day to play one of the most significant pieces of interactive fiction of the last twenty years, then you probably won’t be interested in what I have to say anyway. All games should be experienced before they are analyzed, but some games absolutely need to be, or they cannot be analyzed at all. Photopia is one such game.

If you have not played interactive fiction before, or if you have tried and given up, then this is a perfect chance to bite the bullet and finish a piece of IF. Because Photopia is not only short, but also very easy to play. If you shy away from IF because you don’t have the patience to read, then Photopia is made for you in its brevity; if you like to read, but shy away from IF because you don’t have the patience to learn a confusing syntax and interface, then Photopia is made for you in its simplicity and linearity. “Talk to” everyone you can, use “who am I?” and if you don’t know what else to do, try “wait”-ing a few times, or just keep walking north. I promise you, you’ll finish the game in no time. Just try not to rush through it so fast that you don’t enjoy those moments that should make you say “ah.” Read more »

Anchorhead: Embroiled in Lovecraft screenshot

Anchorhead

Game released: 1998

Text written: Aug 2, 2009
By: Jordan Magnuson

Developer: Michael Gentry

Production: Independent

Platforms: Glulx, Z-Machine

Price: FREE

Get it from: IFDB
Jordan Magnuson's picture

I’ve known about interactive fiction for a long time, but for some reason I just never played any IF games. I think I started one or two over the years, but puzzling controls and less than stellar writing quickly made me abort. At the time it seemed to me that IF was simply a remnant of the past: something that we had moved beyond with graphical adventures (I blush to admit that even in my childhood I would hold such a ridiculous notion as graphics > text). Well, more recently IF has kept popping up at places like Play This Thing and TIGSource, but I haven’t had time to look into them. Then I started reading Emily Short’s blog (highly recommended), and I decided that I would by golly play some interactive fiction. Where to start? Well, I found Short’s interactive storytelling must-play list, and decided to dive right in to the first IF title she mentions. And I am happy I did—despite my aversion to horror as a genre.

Anchorhead is a Lovecraftian horror story loosely based on the Cthulhu Mythos. It is a story that starts out as light and easy as a summer’s day, and ends embroiled in layers of fantastical horror, with the universe turning inside-out and upside-down. It is very well-written, highly enjoyable, and quite intricate; its puzzles never seem very contrived, and when you finally come away from the game it leaves you feeling like you’ve spent a lifetime in another place—like one of those impossibly long dreams you sometimes have in the span of a few hours, but more lucid, more memorable. Read more »

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