H. P. Lovecraft's Verdict: It was just so.... devilishly gay!
Auric Goldfinger's Verdict: I, too, recommend tying up the hero to a boat rather than simply killing him!
Verdict: This is the most Infocom-like game of the 2000 Interactive Fiction.
Game Type: Inform
Author Info: Gunther Schmidl is the greatest Austrian game developer currently living and will throttle you if you put his game on an IF CD without his permission.
Other Games By This Author: Only After Dark
Download Link: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/competition2000/inform/atwctw/atwctw.z5
And The Waves Choke The Wind is the kind of game that kicks its player in the face and doesn't stop WHALING on on him until he's reduced to a greasy spot strewn about the pages of a long-lost demonic tome.You know that genre, right? It's actually the fourth-best selling one in Japan after "console RPG" "Gameboy sidescroller" and "girlfriend simulator." This game continues the adventures of the poor seafarer Ranil Kuami, who we last saw banging a werewolf in Only After Dark, Schmidl's 1999 release. Ranil's world is one that makes RFTK's list of places we'd absolutely, under no circumstances, wish to be trapped in, joining the proud ranks of ZPC, Mortal Kombat II, Thrill Kill, McKenzie and Co., and Domino Pizza's Yo! Noid. I mean, seriously. I remember the hard time my buds used to give each other when one of us simply hooked up with a girl of somewhat generous proportions. But at least it was the same species. If word got out of Ranil's previous history and he was living on our floor he'd wish he was tied up and deserted on a boat. "So, going over to the Washbar, guys?" he would no doubt sincerely inquire. To which we would reply, "You bet. We will be sure to page you if we happen to spy upon any medusae, killer! Ha!" And then we'd all knit our brows into deep thought while furiously try to remember another dungeons-and-dragons monster before one of us eventually popped up with "or a griffin!" We would all chortle again and the remainder of the night would then be spent in a drunken debate as to whether the griffin was the monster that looked like the old dude with a man's bearded head and lion's body or the three headed dragon, goat and lion's head.
What makes this game so effective is in its appreciation of what makes a great "throwback" game. The term "throwback" is one I use to describe a modern day piece of interactive fiction with the same kind of aspirations and demands that the old Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls and Level 9 games had. Chiefly:
Ten or fifteen years ago, we were lucky to have Zork, The Pawn and Spellcasting 101 that fit that mold. Those games sold some copies and were as entertaining as any of their graphical counterparts. Three games that fit the mold today would be Guilty Bastards, Varicella and Winter Wonderland -- and now, And The Waves Choke The Wind (AtWCtW for short).
Drawing from a number of truly vicious and horrifying sources, such as the Lovecraft-inspired "Call of Cthulu" role-playing games, AtWCtW sports a user interface constructed with more care than some games have spent on story and plot. The user-customizable options and ability to playback cutscenes are hopefully the future of interactive fiction in general -- while it's understandably taken quite some time for authors to adapt beyond our Infocom beginnings, (those Imps in the back of the class cracking jokes at us are the only ones who've managed to put up 250K worth of sales on one of these things) IF can finally begin to get what fans of sports games have been wistfully belaboring for, for years -- simple, effective, text-base setup screens. Hopefully the flow of information flows from Schmidl to EA Sports and not reverse; it would be a shame if the expanded version of AtWCtW pauses itself for ten seconds after telling us "if it's in the game, it's in the game." Although that would increase the overall horror content. But such exchanges as:
[There are many ways of examining an object, including looking at, in under and behind it. Assuming you mean "look at the leather boots"...]
Indicate the kind of professionalism lacking from so many pieces of modern IF, which in turn gets us cruelly mocked in the Portal of Evil forums.
With the engaging cutscenes, Schmidl manages to create an effective backstory, and with his custom "play movie" type commands, us DOS Frotz users can go back and get it a second or third time if they happen to be secretly playing at, say, work. More, he does not simply push the bar like a sniveling pedestrian, he hurls it like a frigging javelin. There's an opportunity, in interactive fiction, to toy with slightly repulsing the player because there are not many effective "dark" games, and Schmidl takes full advantage of it. The early vacancy of the island is haunting and reminiscent of wandering about the beginnings of Zork III, yet with the "exits" command, never frustrating.
OK, the obligatory "what sucks" paragraph: well, there isn't a whole lot in that category. Some of the quotes feel out of place (I know that Trent Reznor plays computer games -- Doom, at least -- but his take on things seems out of place for a game that takes place in the 17th Century, even though this game is certainly gay enough for him) and there's an undeniable feeling of player helplessness when Ranil is again captured when meeting up with Jones for the first time. Plus, as a player you are going to have to wrestle with the question: do I play the game the way it is now, or wait until the full version is released? And The Waves Choke The Wind may come off as a bit of tease, then, but as the Interactive Fiction Competition has a rough two-hour limit on game size, I have no real problem with playing the game in this manner.
If this preview can keep up the energy it's exhibited and continue to both repel and terrify its players, there's no reason why it can't do some serious damage in the end of year 2001 awards and advance the slowly growing cathedral of IF that jeers at you as you enter that next command while remaining as beautifully nasty as a lurking, rusty knife.
Simple Rating: 9.0 / 10 (This took spot #2 in my author vote for IFC2K)
Story: 9.3 / 10 (So little modern IF has this kind of negative energy about it...)
Writing: 9.2 / 10 (Gunther is capable of effectively depicting some seriously vicious scenes)
Playability: 9.1 / 10
Puzzle Quality: 8.6 / 10
Parser Responsiveness: 8.8 / 10
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