IFComp 2015: Cape   6 comments

By Bruno Dias. Completed; played twice on iPhone, twice on computer.

A place like this must have a pretty serious security system installed, if the owner is stuffing it full of his precious things. You could never crack it.

But tonight, there is a scheduled power cut. You scan the neon-washed darkness above for the telltale blue light of a police drone, gripping the cold weight of crowbar in your left hand.

Cape, as the title might suggest, is a superhero story. It is set in a near future of drones and paranoid surveillance. The structure and atmosphere reminded me strongly of the TV show Daredevil.

Some raving before the ranting: both the writing and presentation are excellent.

Cape works perfectly on a mobile device, where all prior text is kept as a running scroll that can be rechecked at any time. The game enters “newsprint mode” for an occasional background story. Links that inspect or change (in yellow) and links that advance (in blue) are clearly marked. Gender and nationality are unobtrusively chosen while looking at a passport (with an option for leaving the gender blank).

The author is also talented at vivid phrases (“neon-washed darkness”, “the cold weight of crowbar”).

Alas, the game is a bit of a choice desert. In a superhero game I would expect to be empowered, but I instead watched someone else automatically break out maneuvers and tactics with a mostly irrelevant choices in the middle about how to treat my foes. Threaten strongly or weakly? Doesn’t matter, they’ll skip town afterwards either way. Fight immediately or try to talk first? You’ll get in a fight anyway.

Another sample:


The paragraph above is sort of a “musing choice”, giving a prompt for the character’s internal dialogue. However, it is not obvious that the choice does this, nor does there seem any compelling reason to pick one over the other even after knowing this fact.

They take all kinds of shapes and sizes. Many are young. Your eyes fall on the Irish kids running furtively through the street. Refugees of one of history’s rhymes, they are just barely old enough to remember a better time. The drug cartels love them. They love them because they’re angry, and hungry. They know how to run, and how to fight. And most of all, they’re white, and English-speaking; and so they walk unseen through the clouds of police UAVs and cop suspicion, ferrying drugs and money, the arteries of a hidden economy.

(Lovely touches to the writing! But can you even tell which of the four choices I clicked to get the message above?)

Even the simple act of picking things to look at didn’t seem to matter. An early choice has the player search downstairs or upstairs, but somehow doing so results in finding the exact same items.

There’s a “timed search” technique of restricting the number of items the player looks at, with an interruption of plot, but it comes across as more denial of agency rather than presentation of difficult choices.

As far as I can tell via my multiple plays, there’s only one real choice near the end which affects the ending. Unfortunately, in a way this is worse: after so many false choices and redirections it was not obvious this was a point I needed to think hard about the ramifications of my actions.

I still recommend Cape as a piece of fiction; I was just disappointed with the “interactive” part.

Posted October 1, 2015 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “IFComp 2015: Cape

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  1. I helped betatest this game. I’m pretty sure that your choices throughout the game accumulate, to give you more than two possible endings (I think I saw 4, and I think there might be at least one more). It might be as simple as a single variable that is incremented and decremented. I agree that this is pretty opaque, especially for a game this long! But you might try playing it with certain extreme attitudes to see other endings.

  2. I tried to play this a couple times, and it just stopped after I picked up an item from the house I broke into. No further text, no links, just “you take the thing and run away” [SILENCE]. That’s… not the intended thing, based on this review, eh?

    • No, it’s not… What browser/OS are you on? Do you know how to open the debug console to see if there is a Javascript error?

      • A slightly-behind Firefox, on Windows 7 — I should have thought of switching browsers myself! Sadly, while I know how to open the console (and have accidentally done so to my annoyance on many occasions), I am not versed in its use. But I do have two other browsers installed, and they worked, so that’s good at least :)

  3. Also, do you have the latest version? There was a bug that was fixed a couple weeks ago.

  4. Pingback: IFComp 2015 Summary | Renga in Blue

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