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IFCOMP 2005 - Snatches

Game #10: Snatches, by Gregory Weir
Played On: 10/18/2005 (3:10 PM to 5:05 PM and 9:00 PM to 9:55 PM, adjusted)
Unofficial Score: 7.5 (8.0 base with -0.5 skew)

     In Snatches, a survival horror game told from various (at least ten) viewpoints and set in and around a not-all-that-creepy bed and breakfast, Gregory Weir tells an entertaining story. Itís the first entry Iíve played (so far) this year that feels short enough to embody the two-hour spirit of the competition (although Psycheís Lament may also qualify).

     Each viewpoint changes room and object descriptions, as you might expect. This seemed effective, and I found very few instances where it didnít feel right. A young girlís perceptions wonít be the same as a semi-drunk businessman, and one segment is even told from the perspective of Duke, a familyís pet. As far as I can tell, the segments arenít always played in order Ė Samís segment is played before Kaitlynís, although it happens after hers. Itís not about time travel in any way Ė just the way the story is shown to the last of the series of victims as she struggles with the loosed creature.

     Itís a story and a game structure that sets itself up for high expectations. To make it work, though, the author had to prevent most of the potential overlap between segments. It doesnít seem that any segment ever happens during another, and most of the time, each character is restricted to a subset of rooms that prevent interaction with the others. This means most segments have only minor effects on the others. I played through to three different endings once (allowing the creature to escape, killing the creature, and capturing the creature), but felt there had to be more. Later, I played through again, trying everything I could to make these segments interact. I managed to create some minor inconsistencies that way, but I never managed to find a deeper plot line. I hoped that the first character could do something that would help the second character do something to benefit the third character, and so on.

     I just couldnít. The separation of segments was so thorough that I couldnít bring key items into an area that could be accessed by characters in later segments. The ďaboutĒ text mentions NPC conversations, and I only found it possible a couple times (once near the beginning, and again near the end). I could be wrong, but it seems that the author had a much better plan for this structure. The decisions made in early segments are supposed to impact later ones, according to the ďaboutĒ text. Thatís true, to the extent that doors opened or closed and items taken or dropped by one character remain that way into the next. This just seems like a persistent world state, though Ė not the plot device it could have been. I would love to see an alternate walkthrough in which my initial hopes for this game are proven right, but it seems more likely that the logistics of managing so many characters in so many segments, coupled with a looming competition deadline, made this a game that strays from what the author had originally set out to do.

     Each characterís perspective, as I mentioned, is done well. Unfortunately, since itís a comp-sized game, we are never really given a chance to get to know any of them very well. The game does a good job or providing information about each character from the perspective of the others too, and that alone is rewarding. I just found some of the segments constricted and short. One of the longest and most free-roaming is the first, and ultimately thatís just a segue into the main story. It does allow for some familiarity with the game map without the urgency of later segments, and thatís a plus.

     The writing is great, and I liked the story. Even though it seems to fall short of what I hoped given the structure, itís still a good game as-is. I have scored it at 8.0 on my scale, but with a -0.5 skew (for an unofficial 7.5) because I still felt some disappointment that I couldnít manipulate the game in the ways the premise seemed to promise (and because of some weird interpreter errors toward the end).

     Iím very interested in hearing what Gregory Weir has to say about his entry, after the results are announced. I expect it will be one of the more discussed games this year, and since itís the kind of thing judges tend to go for, it will probably be one of the few games that do better with the judges than it did by my rankings. Even so, I do recommend it!

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