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IFCOMP 2008 - Buried In Shoes

Game #23: Buried In Shoes
Author: Kazuki Mishima
Played On: November 4th (20 minutes)
Platform: Inform 6 (Zcode)

F:1 + T:1 + P:1 + S:2 + W:1 + B:0 = SCORE: 6

     Game’s Blurb:
     Everything is about the question.

     I’ve missed those quote boxes at the front of Zcode games. Whatever happened to those? They seem to have fallen out of favor.

     The next time somebody asks “what exactly is a puzzleless work of IF,” I’m going to point to Buried In Shoes. It may not be the best of its kind, but it really exemplifies the concept. It’s more than just the pressing of keys to advance the text, yet it’s still essentially a series of obvious actions used in the place of puzzles. Some optional actions are supported, but without any significant impact to the story. Players are given a small amount of freedom to temporarily hop off the story’s rails, with the reward being a little bit more information about the story and the setting.

     The story (it’s not so much a “game”) is short and surreal. After taking the slow, scenic route to the end at only fifteen minutes, I played through twice more (which took about five minutes total). It’s successfully ambiguous at first, posing multiple possibilities and allowing the player to speculate about the symbolism. Although the story doesn’t… well, “name names” so to speak… it becomes increasingly clear what’s going on as it progresses. This is confirmed by part of the >about text.

     Although I’ve scored the story a “2” (top points for the category on my scoring system for this year), it didn’t fully win me over or come with the emotional impact it might have. I may be alone in thinking this, but it seems the story wasn’t developed enough. It ends too soon after it begins, and with the whole thing feeling so hazy and rushed, it was hard to connect on the level that this particular story deserved. That doesn’t seem to be a direct result of the way it was constructed, or that the author told it in a surreal way. In fact, I found it sufficiently immersive. Maybe the author just intended it more as a reminder, without actually trying for an emotional punch.

     It’s implemented well enough on a technical level, but given the small scope, it doesn’t have to do much. I didn’t note any problems (although I did notice that “states” is spelled “staes” on a page of the >about info). The writing succeeds in being surreal, and it manages to say plenty using few words. These two aspects of the game earn 1’s -- not necessarily because of identifiable shortcomings that hold them back from 2’s, but because neither seems ambitious or developed enough to be labeled “great.”

     As the first game I’ve played in this year’s competition that lacks puzzles, it’s the first test of my scoring definition for interaction in place of puzzles. This too earns it a “1” after much thought, for a composite score of “6.” It’s an interesting story -- perhaps an interesting experiment in storytelling -- but it seems too short to draw the player in fully, and not ambitious enough to make a lasting mark among similar works of IF. It’s worth a play, though, being perfectly solid and undemanding of both a player’s time and his or her puzzle-solving abilities.

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