I just finished playing Rameses by Stephen Bond. Go ahead and click the link, you can play the game right in your browser. It’s fairly straight forward, and if you’ve never played an Interactive Fiction game before, the most you will need to know is “wait,” “examine” (or X), and “talk to.”
Okay, so if you’ve played it, or you don’t mind spoilers, read on.
Rameses is, obviously, a game about control, or a lack thereof. The main character, Alex, is filled with longing and regret, primarily caused by his inability to take action. This is reflected in the player’s inability to control almost anything, except for the timing of certain events.
Throughout the game, Alex reminisces about his childhood, and specifically a friend he had named Daniel. Yet, when he sees Daniel for the first time in 4 years, he is unable to say or do anything. Later, he confesses his problems to a girl named Claire who, taking him with all of his flaws, still wants to be his friend. When she leans in for a kiss, he creates some lame excuse and runs off, only to fantasize about kissing her at the end of the game.
The game is also about perspective. There are a number of times that a scenes are transformed from ugly and unbearable to beautiful, and back again, just based on what Alex wants to see. The problem is that he doesn’t make the effort to see the positive things, and always reverts back to his negative view of everyone and everything.
It’s so freaking painful.
The worst part is that I was that kid. When I was a teenager, beyond the usual angst and woe of being a lanky bag of hormones, I also felt that I had no way of choosing my own path, and that I was too weak to do anything I wanted to do. I always had an excuse or a reason to not finish anything I started, to not take control, to not talk to somebody…
What a load of bullshit. I’m so glad I’m not a teenager any more…
But Rameses is effective at recreating the frustration and anger of somebody who feels as worthless as Alex does. It’s also maddening because Alex is an incredibly unlikable person, and trying to get him to do anything is, and I’m quoting another review here, “exasperating in that way that only a clinically depressed person can be.”
Rameses is an extremely effective and uncomfortable experience that succinctly demonstrates the narrative power and possibilities of Interactive Fiction, and games as a whole.
If you liked Rameses (or if you didn’t but you want to play some more IF), here’s some other suggestions:
Photopia by Adam Cadre – Similar to Rameses but a much more comfortable playing experience. A game of colors and dreams and fate.
Shade by Andrew Plotkin – A one room game set in your apartment. Bring some water.
Shrapnel by Adam Cadre – Set in the post civil war south…sort of. This one will mess with your mind. Best played once you understand the basics of IF.
Alabaster by…a bunch of people, edited by Emily Short – Some of the best conversation you will ever have with somebody who never existed. About fifty-billion endings, as well.
If you’ve got any more suggestions, let me know, I’m still a newcomer to IF and searching for some awesome games. And don’t say Zork, please.