The Contortionist

"The Contortionist" is a puzzle game rendered in hypertext. The story involves a dystopian future in which a percentage of the population is chosen at random to work slave labour producing free goods for the rest of the nation. That's really just an excuse to put our hero in a prison where, by virtue of his ability to squeeze through tight spaces, he can escape. It also goes some way towards assuring us that we are not surrounded by hardened criminals; that, while some might be dangerous, others are innocent victims.

The most interesting thing, I think, is the interface. You have a table of verbs to choose from, and, depending on context, you can then apply the chosen verb to an available noun. It's not something done in text IF much, though it's been done in graphic text adventures for years. It is, essentially, expressing the parser in the form of a menu. It might be interesting to compare this with "Excelsior", which expresses the single-point-and-click interface in parser format.

The story doesn't amount to a great deal, I think. As mentioned, the background is really just an excuse to explain our situation. There seems to be a last-minute effort to address the issues inherent in the sort of world presented in the story, in the form of a manifesto written by one of the prisoners, but to me it seemed like too little, too late. And in any case, I was sufficiently engaged by the puzzles that I wasn't too concerned about the story.

Technically, the game is pretty sound. I enjoyed working through the puzzles, which generally made sense and were neither too obscure nor too trivial. I very much regretted the absence of a savegame feature. It is especially true in puzzle games, I think, that the player will fail several times before he succeeds, and the lack of a savegame feature makes it especially difficult to explore options and possibilities. Granted, it is possible here to undo one's action; but certain courses of action involve multiple steps, and you have a limited amount of time before a guard does his routine check of the cells. If your timing is just a little bit off, you could be undoing through rather a lot.

Breakfast is a banana-yoghurt-wheatgerm smoothie, drunk through a straw.