IFComp 2008: Opening Night

(This is another Interactive Fiction Competition review .)

I don’t have a lot to say about Opening Night—not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because, for whatever reason, I find myself not particularly voluble on the subject. It’s good, though. Spoilers past the link.

My favorite thing about Opening Night was that it was functional. I realize that sounds terrible… but it came late on my list, and by that point I’d played so many half-assed, untested games that something made with care and craft seemed a major event. I found the occasional rough edge (including my old unfavorite, the Thing Mentioned in a Description that Isn’t Really There), but nothing that knocked me out of the story.

The best thing about Opening Night was the skill with which the gradual revelations were pulled off. A less artful game might have dumped you into the true situation as a twist ending. Opening Night starts small, interrupting a 1920s evening with the distant ring of a cell phone; from there the oddities pile up until you understand. Opening Night sits halfway between puzzle game and stream-of-consciousness. It’s an empathetic window into its PC’s mental state.