IF Comp ’09 – A Delusioned Teenager’s Condemned!

October 4, 2009

Oh no!  A delusioned teenager’s condemned!  Somebody get the hose!

So.  I suspect the aforementioned delusioned teenager of being one Mark Jones, whose wHen mAchines aTtack was one of my favorite games to review last year in much the same way that The Eternal:  Kiss of the Mummy is one of my favorite movies.  Riff and I still talk about the hallway drilled into the north of him (“Ouch!  My north of me!”), and, I mean, I’d be a bad person if I didn’t want the game’s author to blossom into a powerful lexicomancer who knew what words meant, but, well, I am a bad person, with a black evil heart.  From smoking cigarettes. Made out of hate.

So I really hope this is a Mark Jones joint, is what I’m saying.  Only one way to find out!

Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: Well, if this is him, he’s gotten better at what words mean, although there are a few gorgeously clunky sentences in there.  Also, this game is depressing and I hate it and the story was pretty compelling and I hate it and the exposition bits, while they went on for too long in most places, were nicely punctuated with bits where you’re hate it hate it hate it solving small puzzles and exploring your environment, which broke it up nicely and hate it there were no bugs that I ran into and I hate it and it was mostly pretty good.


Oh, and its genre, I believe, would be “psychological horror.”

[spoilers start here]

The light from the lamp glints red off of the jungle of hanging bicycles from the gallow-like ceiling beams, the bicycles looking down at you in asphyxiated agony.
Bicycles don’t breathe.  I think we may have a winner.

Solid beginning, though, throwing you right into the action.  I am curious to find out what I’m doing nervously looking up at all these bicycles, and what my mind means by “what is done is done.”

However, there are a couple of objects of importance that lie to the north, one of which you will be shamefully acquainted with soon.
The bicycle means nothing to me, Edna, it’s just willing to do the things you won’t.

I’m not so sure about the foreshadowing there.  It seems to be saying “hey, player, the plot of this thing is on rails, so don’t bother trying to escape shameful acquaintance with that object to the north, all right?”  Granted, the plot of most games is on rails, but still.

I wonder what I did.

> x me
Sweating guilty and anxiously like drops of blood running down your face, you feel like a dirty tank of overflowing mud right now, unclean enough to remain within the borders of the real world.
Wow I’m angsty.  Also I think a tank of overflowing mud is dirty by definition.

…oh.  I died.  Also I think this game is going to be depressing.  I mean, there’s a wandered-off little sister and a deadly ravine, which are never the ingredients for anything nice.  No one ever says “Hey, if you’re coming to Scott’s party later, could you bring a wandered-off sister and a deadly ravine for the funfetti cupcakes game?”  Not ever do they say that.  Ever.

If it wasn’t for your sister’s existence, all the stress locked up inside of you would drive you insane, because there would be no other person in this world who you would be able to freely talk to and to release all your emotional burdens on.
Man, I am fucked.

…well, so far we’ve survived the ravine.  I wonder if she’s going to get hit by a bus?

And now we’re talking about how horrible Dad is.  Hmm.

Oh, shit, my friends are thinking of driving me to school tomorrow, which would mean my sister would have to ride her bicycle by herself.  That’s even worse than ravines!

For the record?  I really hate deathmarked characters.  Hate ’em.  The past five minutes has been nothing but “is she dead yet?  No?  How ’bout now?”  I am not a huge fan of depressing.

Here’s my guess as to how this will go down:  I bet I’ll get a ride with Pete and Sig and Pete will say “Hey, man, do you want to drive this thing?  Sig and I are so wasted,” and I will say “Well, I’ve never driven a car or had any lessons, but sure, I’ll give it a try.  Hey, did you guys feel a bump, as though I’d just driven over my little sister on her bicycle?” and then I will have to crucify myself.  Why do we crucify ourselves?  This is why, Tori Amos, this is why.

Is this our garage?  Why do we have a giant wooden cross on a pulley mechanism?  And, if we’ve got hundreds of bicycles, why do I ride the one that sucks?

> push button
No.  He would get mad if you tampered with his methods of execution.
Friggin’ yikes!  Although I suppose that answers my question.

You are carrying:
a wooden axe
a gag (being worn)
I wooden axe if I were you.  Literally.

Oh, man, it’s asking me to confirm whether or not I want to destroy this creepy poster.  I am genuinely experiencing trepidation here.  The game’s kinda heavy-handed, but emotionally it’s got me about where it wants me, I think.

The dialogue is definitely on rails here, which makes a certain amount of sense, as it’s a flashback, but man, I would really like the option of telling my friends to fuck off right about now.

Sig stares at you for a couple of seconds, expressionless, before suddenly exploding into violent scorn and laughter, the sun glinting off his big white teeth, his silky wet tongue, and the back of his mouth where his tonsils are.
Three thoughts fighting for space here:
1)  Well, damn, I wonder what my enemies are like.
2)  “Silky wet tongue” makes me feel like we’re going to make out.
3)  I absolutely love that the list of places in Sig’s mouth the sun glints off of is complete enough to include “the back of his mouth where his tonsils are.”  We’re in Little Lytton territory on this one!

Yeah.  My friends are dickbags.

I’m not even reading this anymore; I’m just scanning it for death.

Then, in a slow motion, Pete turns his head, as two dark eye holes fall into view with his rotating head.  You look into the holes, dark brown, almost black eyes.
Wait a minute, didn’t Pete have GREEN eyes?
Well, this is going in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.

Strangely, and for some reason, you cannot seem to find the axe on the floor.  The axe must have vanished into thin air after it sliced through the ropes.
As a scientist, I concur!  That is indeed the only logical explanation!

Oh, it’s sounding like she’s not dead after all, just horribly disfigured maybe.  Well then.

Wait a minute.  A door has formed in the back wall.
Man, there are a lot of perfectly logical scientific phenomena going on these days.

Gaaaaaah it’s brain damage I hate brain damage I hate it I hate it I hate it this is worse than that Holocaust game hate it hate it hate it excuse me for a moment.

Okay.  Hi.  Just went into deepest-terror mode there for a second.  Mostly back now.  Anyway, this game is depressing as fuck and I hate it, but I also want to keep playing it to find out what is up with this reality-bending crucifixion cult, and I think the second impulse is going to win out; I’ll just play it through my fingers.  I think that means it’s working.

> x desk
You ignore it.
No I don’t.  I examine it.  See?


I’m not going to play this game anymore and I think I may throw up.


  1. I played this all the way to the end, where there are daisies and a rock with a burnt soul. This was one of the most fucked up uses of time in my entire life.

  2. (Although I did play it all the way to the end and have found myself contemplating some of the earlier scenes since, so.)

    • Yeah, I spent a chunk of time last night wondering how I was gonna score this one. It’s not the most interactive of fictions, but I’m generally pretty lenient on that if the story was good. And the story – well, it was probably the most soul-crushingly horrible thing I’ve read in my life, and the writing was only somewhat above serviceable (struck me as being in the stage where you know lots of big words, but not that you don’t always have to use them), and it was definitely long-winded and heavy-handed, but the hook was solid, the tension built nicely, the jump cuts were handled well, and, mainly, the goddamn thing was effective as hell.

      Like, if the author had wanted to make us feel some nice, life-affirming emotion, and achieved that one as well as he achieved ookiness and despair, I would love the shit out of that game, right? But he didn’t. Is negativity a valid thing to dock points for?

      Wait, every time I saw a little girl today, just for a second I would picture her drooling in a wheelchair with stitches down the side of her head and I’d want to cry, scream, and vomit, in no particular order. Also, my scoring system is completely arbitrary anyway. I’m fucking docking points.

      You know what I mean, though?

  3. I rate this game 10 out of 10.

    • Didn’t you use to have green eyes?

      • No, I have brown eyes as usual.

  4. Jenni – Somebody is impersonating me in blog comments. No idea why. At least until they improve the impersonation, you can tell by the avatar image.

    • Yeah, that’s where I was going with the eyes comment. I’m not sure why either. Do you have any enemies or recently separated conjoined twins?

      • I am not impersonating anyone. I’m a fan of Jeremy Freese. He has many loyal fans in England.

        I apologize for the confusion though.

  5. You lie! Stop impersonating him.

  6. Ooh, it’s all The Dark Half in here.

  7. playing this gave me frequent chills. yes, the writing is sort-of average (as far as i can tell). but yeah you can’t beat brain damaged kids for a disturbing theme…

    poor jill. going to rank this fairly well though. also, first time i played it i killed the friends without knowing a damn thing about why, and then when i got the crushed daises ending it was… well, it was sort of poignant. not exactly positive but, geez, poor kid.

    a sad story but an effective use of if.

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