IFC10 review – Divis Mortis

This is a review of a Comp game, and as often happens in reviews of Comp games, I will be Saying Things about this game.

Divis Mortis, by Lynnea Dally, is a pretty standard type of IF game.  There are just a few typos and syntactic manglifications of the structures of sentences creep in warily, like the hobo you don’t know about who’s living under your porch.  But these are rare, and it is over all a solid and fun game:  fun if you like lite, light-hearted horror with a bit of grisle.

I finished it in one hour fifty minutes, and (comparing notes with other reviewers) it seems I got the basic no-frills good ending.

From here on there are

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As you quickly discover, it’s a zombie apocalypse text game.  You wake up locked in a room in a hospital, in a situation much like (if I recall) the last scene in the Resident Evil movie.  There’s a snapper at the end that I didn’t see coming — others did; I probably should have — and some people got a tacked-on romance, which for some reason I did not.

I didn’t see the snapper coming because I got into it.  This is a fun, quick game.  Some people didn’t like it; I suspect that depends on how you respond to a zombie apocalypse text game.

Some report a greater density of errors than I found.  I chalk that up to luck.  Of course, if you beta-test really thoroughly, no play through gets too high a density of bugs, typos, or grammatical errors.

I don’t really care about typos, or even bugginess if it doesn’t make me lose faith in the game.  The errors I do care about are consistency errors, especially around actionable details.  For example, if I’m told to bolster the glass doors leading in to the hospital, I can do that.  I’ll gamely struggle with the parser as my character struggles with the various furniture.

But, if a table is by its description clearly of a type that I should be able to move around, the game should somehow acknowledge that fact when I try to move it around — even if it doesn’t end up being the thing I use to bolster the door (or climb onto in another room). 

And, I really shouldn’t be trying to bolster doors by pushing furniture in front of them when I’ve been previously told they’re sliding glass doors.  Even if they’re normal swinging glass doors — every hospital and every large public building in the civilized world has doors that swing out.  They might swing in too; but they definitely swing out.  That’s so a panicked crowd isn’t trapped inside, pressed up against the doors, in a fire.

(The game author in the About text claims to pay close attention to certain things, out of an active imagination.  So I officially chide her not to neglect such details…)

Other reviewers had trouble with the fact that you kill another survivor, especially because it’s not sufficiently well-motivated.  That occured to me, but it didn’t trouble me too much.  The guy had threatened to kill me; there was a “muffled cry” from his quarter; and I was specifically told, “maybe if you had some knockout gas…”  By the time I knew for a fact I’d actually killed him, the plot had moved on.

The real deficiency of this game is that there’s not enough story.  The game does what it does well enough, and I intend to rate it well.  But to take it to the next level, it needs more story.  The PC has no name; I couldn’t even determine whether it was a he or a she.  (I assumed a she because the author is female, and because of the similarity with the scene from Res Evil.)

Pop Zombie stories have all sorts of opportunities for narrative conflict.  Characters need to cooperate to get much done, but can’t agree on what they should do.  Or one character saves another’s life, and then gets bit.  Now he’s a liability.  How far do you go to keep him alive?  That stuff.

DM squanders a few good narrative opportunities.  The PC has a conversation with another human via telecommunications.  Really this conversation should have been played through, rather than given in a cut scene.  And at the very least I should have recognized a zombie ex-coworker or two.

So, overall a good game, in the classic solve-a-puzzle-advance-the-plot model.  I want the author’s next game to be more ambitious in its storytelling, as she clearly has the puzzle-dungeon thing knocked.

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Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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