Words are great! From "please hand me the pineapples" to "I swear I thought dressing a dog up in a tiny Big Bird costume and teaching it to drive was a good idea at the time", words help you get your point across and do a lot of things. And, in the case of interactive fiction, words can tell a story you play the starring role in. While classics like Zork and The Lurking Horror stand as great influential pieces of gaming history, these days interactive fiction doesn't get nearly the time in the spotlight it should. Here are three of our favourite "IF" titles for you to lose yourself in, involving everything from murder and cremated puppy dogs to love and procrastination.
- Aunts and Butlers - I'm of the opinion that any story is made better by a bit of snark and a dark sense of humour, so it's small wonder that I consider Robin Johnson's quirky piece of relatives, inheritance, and murder one of the more enjoyable and memorable titles around. As a shiftless fellow who has boozed and gambled away your own slice of the family fortune, you've set your sights on dear elderly Auntie Cedilla, whose money would come your way if you could convince her you were her favourite nephew... and then find a way to off the dear old lady. Aunts and Butlers may have a morbid concept, but its snappy dialogue, silly narrative, and willingness to revel in absurd puzzles and concepts easily makes it a guilty pleasure and helps it stand out from the more oppressively serious bits of interactive fiction.
- Violet - Jeremy Freese's uniquely engaging story of relationships and priorities took top prize in our Best of 2008 awards, and one play will show you why. The game is set in a single room, where you're struggling to find the motivation to finish your dissertation after your girlfriend, Violet, puts her foot down after getting fed up with your procrastination in life. The goal is ultimately to do away with all of the distractions in your office so you can finish, but you'll find that's a little more complicated than locking the door and turning off your cellphone. With narration by Violet herself and clever puzzles that range from the confounding to the bizarre, the game stands out with its unique presentation and engaging storytelling. Interestingly enough, you can also choose to be a straight male or a gay female in a relationship with Violet, and though it's sad that this is even remarkable in the first place, Violet wins high marks for considering the player in ways few other titles do.
- Suveh Nux - It's fitting, considering the article David Fisher's imaginative and magical title is being featured in, that it takes place inside a vault. You find yourself locked in one, specifically, and the only way out is to learn how to use a magical language that can shape the very walls around you. In addition to the standard "look at/pick up" style commands, Suveh Nux requires you to use your senses ("listen/smell/touch/think/taste") to proceed, and in doing so encourages more "thinking outside the box" to get around challenges that are a bit more complicated than use key on key hole. It goes without saying that the game is well written, and though it requires a bit more puzzling and experimentation to figure out how to proceed and string your newfound magical words together, Suveh Nux is one of the more original interactive fiction titles out there and well worth the effort.
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!