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The White Singularity

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Postby David Whyld » Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:56 pm

The White Singularity by Irene Villaneuva

“The White Singularity” is quite an intriguing game. It's part interactive fiction and part gamebook – the kind of thing I've been meaning to get around to writing myself for a while now but never seem to get started on. But it's also very, very flawed.

The storyline is an interesting one: you are a celebrated scientist who has dreamed his entire life of journeying to the centre of the Earth. And now, after all these years, it seems your dream might finally be coming true. The means to travel to the centre has been discovered, and you are just about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Unfortunately, where the story side of things is strong, and the writing accomplished, the text adventure side of things is very weak indeed. In the first location, it's possible to speak to your wife, Irene (also the name of the game's writer incidentally), before she's even arrived. And even when she's standing there right in front of you, the room description hasn't been updated to show this fact and tells you that you're still waiting for her. Then there are the numerous problems with the game layout. Some of this is down to a flaw in the ADRIFT programme when handling large blocks of text – it's supposed to put a MORE prompt in at certain intervals so a screen full of text is displayed without anything scrolling off the screen before you can read it. This it does poorly. Nine times out of ten when presented with a large block of text, it puts the MORE prompt in at the wrong place so the first few lines have always scrolled off screen before you have chance to read them. Scrolling back up is an option but it's also a pain. There are ways around this kind of thing – inserting your own 'more' commands at the relevant intervals – but this hasn't been used in The White Singularity, meaning that you're going to be doing a lot of scrolling back up the screen to read the text. In a game like this, it's particularly bad because it breaks the narrative flow.

The text spacing is also messed up in many places. Sometimes the paragraphs directly follow on from each other, other times they're separated by one or two line spaces. There's also a strange bit partway through the game when all the text becomes centred. Surely the author must have noticed this during testing?

There's a particularly annoying bit partway through one of the game paths when you're sitting in your office and there's a knock at the door. You're told you can't open the door as it's locked and you can't unlock it as you don't have the keys. Then it tells you that the keys are on your desk, yet if you examine your desk, you don't see the keys. The weird thing is that no matter what you do, you never get to find out who's on the other side of the door as they walk away if you open the door – and, weirder still, they do so without you even catching sight of who they are. To confuse matters further still, OPEN THE DOOR produces a different response than OPEN DOOR. Yet OPEN THE DOOR won't work as it tells you the door is door is already open. Funnily enough, CLOSE DOOR won't work because the door is already closed!

Playing the game can be a chore at times. Often, a room description will be used for a series of events and a bit of back history, some conversation and the like, as well as the actual room description itself. So if you want to refresh your memory about what's in the room, you end up having to scroll through several screens of text afterwards. While it's handy to have all the text there to read back through in case you need to refer to something, it would perhaps have been better to have handled it all with tasks or events instead.

Most room descriptions end with a series of options, some of which are in bold text, that the player can pick and choose from to decide which way the game progresses. While this is a nice idea in principal, it breaks down somewhat when it turns out that you need to type the entire text in bold to select an option (minus any punctuation), as opposed to just typing a number or a single letter. It's a clumsy way of handling things and really should have been improved upon.

Different paths through the game offer a reasonable amount of replay value, although the instant death options can be trying at times. Most of these, fortunately, are well highlighted so if you end up killing yourself by doing something foolhardy you've really only got yourself to blame.

The White Singularity is a game best approached from the viewpoint of it being a gamebook with a few interactive fictions elements thrown in instead of an interactive fiction game with a few gamebook elements thrown in. The IF side of things needs such a lot of work before it's ever going to be any good, yet the gamebook side is good. For a guess, this was written by someone who had a great idea for a gamebook but lacked the necessary skill with ADRIFT to make it work properly, yet went ahead and wrote it anyway. While I can admire the effort that went into this, I can't help but wonder how much better it would have been if she had taken a bit more care with things. I held off playing it for a while in case a second version with all the bugs fixed came out, but no such luck. So it looks like this is all we're going to see of The White Singularity. Personally I'd like to see more games like this in the future, only preferably ones better tested beforehand.

7 out of 10 for the game

3 out of 10 for the way it's been programmed

Overall: 5 out of 10
David Whyld
Posts: 6926
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2004 5:15 pm
Location: United Kingdom
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