15 October 2011 @ 09:16 am
[IF Comp11] Blind  

Blind, Andrew Metzger, TADS 2

This starts out in very creepy territory; you're a young woman kidnapped by a serial killer, which is a sort of unavoidably fetishy subject. I've got some unfortunate associations here that don't help -- the only IF I can think of in which the PC is outright blind (rather than, e.g., in darkness for most of the game) are AIF pieces, and the last few times I've read something wherein a woman describes her hair as 'auburn', or uses her hair colour as one of the first things she tells us about herself, have been uncomfortably male-gazey. Either way, it seems to me that the game lingers overmuch on contrasting the suggestively icky details with the PC's vanilla nice-girl personality, and, well, any piece that straps a naked woman to a table while not overtly setting out to be porn is going to feel just a little conficted, you know?

The not-quite-credible earnestness of the protagonist extends to the game's Message:
And when I do, I'll show the world that blindness is not the handicap they all think it is!

For the most part, it's a very orthodox IF game about looking through containers, unlocking doors and exploring character through environment. Ultimately, you have to defeat your captor and escape the building; there are apparently a number of ways to do this. The game flow is generally rather stilted and awkward; there is a hint system, although at times it's misleading. There's an inventory limit: too high for strict realism, low enough to be highly annoying, ultimately pointless. The writing tends towards the starkly brief, which makes it seem as if the heroine's blindness does limit her to a world without aesthetics. This is a problem for gameplay, which requires you to touch, smell and listen to things: I found myself using TOUCH quite a lot, but the other two very rarely. The squicky environment and bland writing don't encourage an aesthetic approach, and most of the time LISTEN and SMELL produce nothng special.

The big piles of object-listing can result in output like this, which I would love to hear read aloud in a good dry voice:
I feel a puddle of vomit here. The fridge seems to contain a block of moldy cheese, a jug of milk, and some dried bread. The left cabinet seems to contain a stew pot. The right cabinet seems to contain a spatula. The stove seems to contain a burned corpse.

The PC is, apart from her blindness and pluck, unremarkable. Though we are given things to remind us that she is a Nice Girl quite a lot, which does not help the squick factor. (Standard Sadean porn figures: the nasty girl who will do anything, and the nice girl to whom everything is done.) The horror-building effect of female physical vulnerability is successfully evoked, but this is not a new, unusual or particularly difficult technique in IF.

One of the scariest and most striking sections is the sequence right at the end, where you're trying to work out how to drive a car in order to escape; up until this point the PC has been as competent as a sighted person would have been (or more; you don't know which areas are lit), but here you're suddenly confronted with the reality that, for some rather major things, blindness really does severely limit what's possible. (And let's be honest, the chances of being murdered by a serial killer are infinitesimal compared to the chances of being killed by a car, so the threat here felt a lot more real.)

Score: 3.
(Anonymous) on October 23rd, 2011 05:01 am (UTC)
I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who registered "redhead fetish" on this one. I recently got the same squick factor from a couple of published books I read, one being by the "modern Robert Heinlein". I forget the author's name.

-Ron Newcomb
Sam Kabo Ashwellmaga_dogg on October 23rd, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
I don't think of auburn as being actually redheaded, which may be a UK/US thing. But I do think that a lot of half-assed writers that just use it as a fancy way to say 'redhead'. And, yeah, brrr.