“This is terribly, terribly unfair. I’m really sorry. But I just started laughing hysterically, and it’s not what the author intended. In the middle of an intense ending sequence, I read the line:
‘My blood pumper is wronged!’
I just lost it. It’s a very ‘Eye of Argon’ sort of line.”
— Andrew Plotkin, reviewing “Symetry”, 1/1/98
“It takes guts to do *anything* wearing a silver jumpsuit.
I bet Rybread wears *two* silver jumpsuits while he writes IF.”
— Brad O’Donnell, 1/6/98
I hope my title line isn’t too big a spoiler. I guess I can’t feel too guilty about giving away something that’s revealed in the first 3 seconds of the game. Anyway, it would be impossible to talk about this game without talking about Rybread Celsius. Yes, Rybread Celsius. The man, the myth, the legend. There are those who have called him “A BONA FIDE CERTIFIED GENIUS” . There are those who have called him “the worst writer in interactive fiction today” . There are even those who have called him “an adaptive-learning AI” . Whatever the truth behind the smokescreen, opinion is clearly divided on the Celsius oeuvre. He appears to have an enthusiastic cult following who look at his works and see the stamp of genius, paralleled by another group who look at those selfsame works and see only barely coherent English and buggy code. I have always counted myself among the latter. Works like Symetry and Punkirita Quest set my English-major teeth on edge. I have never met a Rybread game that I’ve liked, or even halfway understood. But Acid Whiplash is different.
First of all, I need to say that I’m going to call it Acid Whiplash, for several reasons:
- I’m not sure what the game’s real name is supposed to be.
- The other name, while it may be (is!) perfectly true, is just too long to write out.
- Acid Whiplash is just such a perfect name for this game.
I’ve never dropped acid myself, but I’m guessing that this game is about the closest text game equivalent I will ever play, at least until my next Rybread game. The world spins crazily about, featuring (among other settings) a room shaped like a burning credit card (???), nightmarish recastings of Curses and Jigsaw, and your own transformation into a car dashboard. Scene changes happen with absolutely no warning, and any sense of emerging narrative is dashed and jolted about, hard enough and abruptly enough to, well, to give you a severe case of mental whiplash. Sounds like a typical Celsius game so far, right? But here’s the best part: stumbling through these hallucinogenic sequences leads you through a multi-part interview between Cody Sandifer and Celsius himself, an interview which had me laughing out loud over and over. Sandifer is hilarious, striking the pose of the intensely sincere reviewer, taking each deranged Celsius word as gospel, and in the process manages actually to illuminate some of the interesting corners of his subject, and subject matter. And Rybread is… Rybread, no more or less than ever. Perhaps being changed into a dashboard while listening makes the whole thing funnier — I’m not sure.
As usual, my regular categories don’t apply. Plot, puzzles, writing — forget about it. Acid Whiplash has no real interaction or story in any meaningful sense. (There is, however, one very funny scene where we learn that Rybread is in fact the evil twin of a well-known IF author). If you’re looking for a plot, or even something vaguely coherent, you ought to know that you’re looking in the wrong place. But if you aren’t familiar with the Way of the Rybread, or even if you are, I recommend giving Acid Whiplash a look. It might shed some light on what all these crazy people are talking about… but don’t expect to understand the next Celsius game.
 Brock Kevin Nambo
 Me. (Nothing personal.)
 Adam Thornton
Rating: 5.2 (This is by far the highest rating I’ve ever given to Rybread. In fact, I think it beats his past 3 ratings from me put together!)