"Transparent" is a tale from Hanon Ondricek, the guy who gave us last year's "Final Girl". "Final Girl" was a B-movie slasher flick rendered in StoryNexus, which simulates a sort of card game interface, and I enjoyed it greatly. "Transparent" takes the action over to a more traditional parser interface, and I find that I did not enjoy it quite as well. I believe that the parser system is not quite appropriate for what Ondricek seems to want to do.
Ondricek seems to love his randomised events and his limited resource puzzles. A great deal of what hampers progress in "Transparent" is the interference of a ghost who wanders by and "cleans up" the place by moving your stuff to the hall closet, and turning off all the lights in its path. Meanwhile, you have a camera -- you're supposed to be a photographer taking still pictures of the house for an upcoming TV show -- and the camera batteries need to be constantly recharged. If only the ghost would not remove them from the charger! You also have a flashlight which eventually fails. (Although I found that if I always remembered to turn the flashlight off after using it a few turns, it never ran down; I don't know if that was intentional.)
I think that part of the problem here is with the expectations of the story. We're presented with a haunted house with a haunted history; we know that there was a mysterious tragedy surrounding Rose Thorne, the daughter of the house, many years ago. So what we have is a paranormal mystery, full of creepy effects, and the goal of a paranormal mystery is the discovery of secrets. We expect that the old tragedy will have something to do with the haunting of the present day, and we expect to learn everything we can about it. But, in spite of all the pieces of correspondence we find, there seems to be no link -- other than something about black widow spiders. The ghost responsible for most of the haunting is the family butler, a character who, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with Rose Thorne's tragedy. I played to a couple of endings, and came no closer to learning what happened to Rose, why it happened, or what it had to do with what's happening now.
I did like hunting down the scattered notes and piecing the old history together from them. On occasion, a photograph taken of one object would show it as different from reality; this often provides clues as to what has happened or what one should do next, and I liked that. Needless to say, some of the flashes taken in the darkness did the same, in between the stock scare effects. I especially liked the photographs of the dead grooms' portraits, showing them destroyed in manners that seemed to echo the fates of each respective groom. See, all the good stuff feeds on the need to know what happened.
The goal of "Final Girl", as a slasher flick, was survival, and it delivered beautifully. "Transparent" uses many of the same techniques, but the interface is different and the story is different. The demands are different. The two genres deal in different forms of fear: one born from terror, and one born from unease. Survival is insufficient for the latter, while the demand for solid explication is greater. What worked for "Final Girl" does not work quite so well for "Transparent".
(Incidently, I wonder if Ondricek has read the Book of Tobit, from the Catholic Bible -- there are certain similarities between Rose and Sarah.)
For breakfast, we are having a lamb curry with basmati rice, with a rather dry, blood-red wine of uncertain vintage.