A non-spoilery review of...
Gris et Jaune (Gris et Jaune.ulx)
A Glulx game by Steve van Gaal
I was very deeply conflicted, on a few levels, as to how to rate this game.
On one level, this game has a beauty, an allure... a sensuality running through it. A spell. I felt like I couldn't stop with it, and this is the first comp game in a long time where I remember going far in excess of the two hour mark. I wanted to find the end. I cared.
That said—and there's unintentional metaphor here—the critical ingredient of the spell that binds you tightly and draws you through the game? The bit that makes it possible to find its ultimate conclusion? The walkthrough. I honestly don't see how you could get through this game without it.
At first blush the game is silly and on rails, but then suddenly it grows sinister and seductive and opens up in such a vast way that the interactor has no clue where to go, what to do. I tried an attempt without the walkthrough—and got far!—but could never have found the end alone. I'm not sure how this could have been mitigated, either. On the one hand, I enjoyed the agency it gave me, but it gave too much, too quickly. I drowned.
I said I was deeply conflicted on a few levels, and I've only touched on a couple. I should move on with that.
There are other things this entry does really, really well. For example, it does a great job of show—don't tell—with accents. By the time I was half-way through, I was reading dialog in my head that dripped of humid Southern nights laced with cicadas. This was done exceptionally well, without misspelling everything to hit you over the head with it. Maybe I only picked up on this due to having spent a lot of my time in the South, though. I'll be interested to hear others' views on this point.
To continue with respect to the writing: it is this lovely mix of succinct matter-of-factness, evocative descriptions, and eloquent dialogue. This is what hooked me fairly early on, kept me going through my initial dismay, and teased me far enough along that I couldn't let go.
Also, we begin with this sense of being a slave, of being directed, and gaining volition... earning it. That was well done, though (as mentioned above) I think the author loosened the reins just a touch too quickly.
The next bit is spoilery, so I'm going to go all ROT13 on you.
V'ir orra nfxrq jung V gubhtug bs gur Ibbqbb. Vg vf, ng vgf pber, gur frafngvbanyvfg fbeg bs ibbqbb lbh trg va ubeebe abiryf naq Ubyyljbbq. Ohg gung'f jung guvf vf zrnag gb or, qrfcvgr gur nhgube'f erfrnepu. Vg'f boivbhf ur xabjf n ovg nobhg Ibbqbb, gubhtu vs guvf orpnhfr ur'f fcrag gvzr va Arj Beyrnaf be whfg ernq n ybg bs negvpyrf ba Jvxvcrqvn, V'z abg fher. V'z pbzcyrgryl hasnzvyvne jvgu Ybhvfvnan Ibbqbb.
Ohg V xabj rabhtu bs Ibbqbb sebz n gevc V znqr gb Unvgv naq obbxf V'ir ernq fvapr gung gevc naq erfrnepu vagb fbzr bs gur negvsnpgf V oebhtug onpx jvgu zr gung V haqrefgbbq n ybg bs gur grezvabybtl hfrq va guvf cvrpr bs svpgvba. Vg jnf vagrerfgvat gb pbzcner naq pbagenfg jung V xarj bs Ibbqbb gb guvf. V'z abg fher vs gur nernf jurer guvatf qviretr ner ba nppbhag bs Ybhvfvnan phygher, be whfg gur frafngvbanyvfz.
Vg'f n jbex bs svpgvba. Vg'f cebonoyl cerggl bssrafvir gb fbzr. Ohg V gbbx vg nf n jbex bs svpgvba, naq V rawblrq vg.
I didn't realize (for some reason(!)) until after I'd completed the game, that there was a hint menu. Maybe that would have been enough. Maybe I could have gotten through without the walkthrough. Maybe I could have found my way without feeling led. That's really all that held me back on scoring this very, very well. But I rather doubt that to be the case. Some of the things in the walkthrough felt so. poorly. cued. I stand by my original statement: I don't see how you could have gotten through this game without the walkthrough. If you did, please leave a comment. I'd love to know.
I wanted this to be more. Really wanted it to be more.
As per my well-established rating scale, I should give this a 7, but I enjoyed it too much, and thus gave this a 8. That is, admittedly, a bit of a gift.