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IF COMP 2004 - Blink

Game #34: Blink, by Ian Waddell
Played On: 10/24/04 (9:20 AM to 9:55 AM)
Unofficial Score: 8.0 (no skew)

     I was wondering when the first example of puzzle-less IF would appear in the competition. This seems to be the one and only (three more games could reveal another, but I'm becoming doubtful). I don't dislike puzzle-less games -- they just aren't my preference. I think you can blend puzzle and story together, without sacrificing either.

     "Blink" is a short game. The "about" mentions multiple paths, and my thirty-five minutes of gameplay included more exploration than is needed to finish, and a few restart attempts to search for these alternate paths. The game can be won in under a minute, start to finish, once you've been through it once. I couldn't find any alternate paths, even by leading my conversations in different directions. I don't doubt the author's word -- only that I wasn't able to finish with different results.

     The game is far less boring than the original premise suggests. Not only is a story packed into such a short game, but it packs a moral as well. With no real puzzles (the reed shoots seemed to be one, but a replay shows that this was optional), the only spoilers can come from discussing the story. I don't want to give any spoilers, so it's difficult for me to discuss the story in detail. Maybe I can do so in a vague enough way that will make sense to those who've played it, without spoiling anything for those who haven't.

     The game features a theme that I used in my entry, although "Blink" does so with a message. Thomas Walsh comes to realize that what he has believed in and stood for his entire life is a sham. He reconsiders the notion that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. In a bit of retrospection, he remembers an incident that allows him to consider "what if" -- and he realizes that futures can be ruined and lives can be changed, all in the name of something nobody really wants or understands.

     The message is clear enough, and it's a noble concept. Sadly, it isn't one that can easily be put into practice. That requires participation. It assumes that the concept is shared by all parties concerned. It assumes the world is generally a good place, and that by keeping to yourself, nobody will ever try to take advantage of you. It assumes the weak require no protection, and that the strong are always capable of practicing restraint. It assumes a world with no injustice, no causes, no greed, no malice, no jealousy. Earth will be a far better place to live when we can all agree to put these things behind us -- few would dispute that. Until then, in what other way can we practice these high ideals? In what other way can the weak find protection, the tyrannical find opposition, our way of life remain protected? Ian's game shares a trait with "Who Created That Monster?" in that it's likely to spark similar political controversy.

     My notes only cover a few things -- two, to be exact -- that might be considered problems. Both are so trivial, it's almost a shame to mention them. First, "believe" is spelled "belive" in one spot. Second, it would be nice if "son", "grandson" and "wife" worked, as a substitute for providing the name of each person. It's a small thing, but it might help convey Tom's personal perspective.

     I gave the game an 8.0 on my scale, not so much because of the subject matter, but because it's a short, puzzle-less game. The interesting thing about the IF-Competition is that nobody can write a game that is all things to all people. It can't be done. While one judge will mark off for a game that is long and features much to read and solve, another will rank the game highly and mark off a game that is short and puzzle-less. "Blink" is going to be very popular with one camp, and far less enjoyable to the other. The game is well written, almost flawless, and it packs an emotional punch. I liked it, I appreciate the story and the presentation -- it just didn't hit me "right" to earn a higher score on my scale.

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