IFDB page: Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites from the Graveyards of Jupiter
Final placement: 44th place (of 51) in the 2001 Interactive Fiction Competition
Note: This review contains one exasperated, Dennis-Miller-channeling expletive.
One of the first things that happens when Invasion (this year’s entrant in the traditional comp sub-contest of “I-have-a-longer-sillier-name-than-you”) begins is that it plays a song with a creeping bass line and a Shirley-Manson-like female vocalist. “Hey,” I thought, pleased, “that sounds a lot like Garbage!” Little did I suspect how closely that comment would come to resemble my assessment of the game as a whole. Invasion claims to be “an interactive tribute to everything Ed Wood“, the famously awful director of such cinematic nadirs as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda. This, you might think, would give it some wiggle room in the quality arena. It turns out, though, that there’s “entertainingly bad” and then there’s just “bad”, and sad to say, Invasion falls into the latter category. I played it for about 45 spleen-piercing minutes before finally giving up in a raging tide of annoyance, frustration, and sheer exhaustion. With my last shred of curiosity, I glanced at the walkthrough and discovered — Good Lord! — that the game is huge, and that there are tons of things I didn’t even find. I can’t imagine the sort of person it would take to find all these things and play this game through to completion.
Whoa there, Paul. Aren’t you being a little harsh? Well, in a sense, yes. This game obviously wasn’t put together overnight. For one thing, it’s a Windows executable, and anybody who’s tried an MS visual language knows that those forms are fiddly to arrange. It’s got its own parser (of sorts), a hit points system, timekeeping, and lots of other stuff. So it clearly was the product of some effort. In another sense, though, I don’t think my view is that harsh at all. This game is loaded with bad, irritating, horrible factors, things that you can’t help but suspect were put in there on purpose to annoy you. Little details like, oh, capitalization, punctuation, putting spaces between words, blank lines between text blocks, printing the contents of a room with the room description, and other such niceties are handled… shall we say… capriciously. I’d give an example but, unsurprisingly, the game provides no scripting function, and randomly clears the output window every so often, making even my Isolato Incident method quite impossible to carry out. More aggravation: image windows pop up every so often, which can’t be controlled from the keyboard — a special trip to the mouse is required to shut these down.
But this is all cosmetic, right? Sure, so far. Oh but don’t worry, there’s lots more. The game occurs in real time, and NPCs flit in and out of rooms like angry insects, sometimes changing locations as much as, oh I don’t know, once every two to three seconds, which makes it darn tough to actually interact with them, since by the time you’re finished typing the command, they’re gone. Not that they’re worth much when they stick around, as they tend to spit out uninformative, unpunctuated, and often just plain uninteresting phrases, on the rare occasion that they have any responses implemented at all. The game also throws random information at you without explaining it in the slightest. For example, at some point, you’ll see a flash of light in the sky and the game will print “** Quest : killer on the loose **”. Huh? Whaddaya mean, “Quest”? What am I supposed to be doing? How do quests work in this game? Who’s giving me a quest, and how does a flash of light tell me that there’s a killer on the loose anyway? Should you fail to figure it out within some set amount of time or moves, the game abruptly ends. Sometimes the parser ignores input altogether; a command like “drop all but nutribar” will drop everything… including the nutribar. And there’s only one savegame allowed. And there’s a money system that is seriously whacked. And… ah, fuck it. Who wants pie?