Only After Dark by Anonymous(1999)

The Little Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I really, really hate it when I'm making love to a beautiful woman and she suddenly turns into a lycanthropic beast from the Planet Xelxxxoon and tries to kill me. I mean, hell, it's happened three times this week alone. What do you have to do to find a good woman these days?

The Little Handsome, Good Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: An impressive horror game that is very worth playing.

My Verdict: Intriguing story, but very little game.

The Review...

Probably the worst thing about the competition is that it inspires many authors to make their games a little too small in order to fit the competition format. This generally works out well for the funny, entertaining type games but it usually hurts the more genre plot-oriented stuff - this game is a good example of this in action. It can boast of an intriguing plot concerning the werewolvian native inhabitants of an island where the protagonist's ship(he's a sailor) is docked. Thy goal is to try to stop the evil beasts, of course. The execution, the writing, the plot, etc is all excellent, but it's just such a tiny, tiny game. Fifteen minutes worth of gameplay essentially. It leaves the player thinking, "Well that game was very nice, but I didn't have to do a whole lot. Just read some writing and tried a couple things and bang, I won!" There's no possible way you could compare this game to "Anchorhead", the game which brought horror in interactive fiction to new heights despite its gratuitous Lovecraft references/steals. That game is huge, challenging, involving, exciting - this game is easy, interesting, and enjoyable, but too short to leave an indelible impression on the player. However, I will say that the story is one of the more intriguing I've encountered in a long easily rivals a lot of horror FICTION being currently put out by large publishing companies. The author, though they did not see fit to leave their name stamped upon this release, has a tremendous amount of potential for developing superb horror interactive fiction OR fiction - this game might have been his first effort, so we can't blame him for making it so short. I'm definitely looking forward for more games from he-who-will-not-leave-his-name.

The "puzzles" are very easy - that is, if you want to call them puzzles at all. I don't think they're really designed to leave the player stumped for any lengthy amount of time. Both have perfectly logical solutions that even a newbie could discover before too long. The writing is very nice. A bit more dialogue/word heavy than the true masterpieces of suspense writing in IF(Marc Blank of Infocom wrote or help wrote those, of course...and he also I believe influenced Michael Gentry, the author of Anchorhead), but I really enjoy it. All that verbosity just makes it contemporary even if it does eliminate the chance for a slow, heart-stoppingly exciting build-up a la Zork. Anonymous shows a good attention for detail and a flair for dialogue(though all the "dialogue" is included in the event descriptions, leaving no room for interaction from the player...indeed, this may be the game's greatest weakness. It comes off more like a work of fiction than an interactive computer game.) Perhaps the game was a bit rushed. Somehow all the phases(shore leave, back to ship, back to island, back to ship again) seem to be crammed together in order to compact the game into a fifteen minute experience. I think this author has his best chance at greatness writing either pure fiction or much longer works of interactive fiction. Let's do keep an eye on Anonymous - hopefully he'll reveal a name or a more defining pseudonym after the competition has ended. In the mean time, this game is a good play that won't suck up much of your time, but it probably won't be played much longer after the competition is said and done. Here's something cool: Jason Dyer helped test the game. Neat!

Simple Rating: 7/10

Complicated Rating: 34/50

Story: 8/10(Deducted one point for the generic "beautiful girl turns into werewolf during lovemaking" scene. That's already been in about half a dozen horror films I've seen...)

Writing: 8/10

Playability: 8/10

Puzzle Quality: 4/10

Parser Responsiveness: 6/10(A small game, but the parser is a slight weakness: it doesn't respond to some inputs which it, IMHO, should.)

Reader Remarks

lamebut sprach the following on October 23d, 1999

I'm lame, how do you beat this game?

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