Saturday, 5 October 2013

Blood on the Heather by T. Orisney

Click here to play Blood on the Heather online

---------------------------------------------------------------

(Version reviewed: Original)

Blood on the Heather, or BOTH as I will call it from now on, is a wack-seeking Twee format CYOA adventure about three young Americans who take a vacation in Scotland and get mixed up with petulant feuding vampires and their scenery-destroying vampiric offspring. The author says it was inspired by the vampire B-movies of his or her youth. This raises disturbing questions about how old the author might be… Twelve?! Okay, that was facetious of me, but the game's combination of vampires who act like the rabid zombies of the cinema of the 2000s, Underworldish vampire clans and a splat of Twilighty romanticism points to pretty recent stuff.

BOTH gives off a strong vibe of modern vampire movie zaniness through its predilection for one-liner gags and funny/cool character behaviour, but it is of course prose. It's quite driven prose in what is possibly the biggest CYOA game I have played to date, and also the one with the longest passages inbetween each moment of player choice. I've been curious about what a text game which was confident enough to use this much unbroken prose would be like. As I'd expected and hoped, the prose can gather more traditional momentum because it remains unbroken. I also feel that it can add more context to each choice, potentially making the whole thing more character-centric. While I'm grateful to BOTH for demonstrating all of this to me in a big, real world case, I did find it an effort to get through a lot of this game because I just wasn't interested in the petulant vampires or their moderately complicated mythology. In this respect, the game definitely reminds me of my experience with most of Hollywood's recent films about supernatural clans.

Very mild spoilers ahead, and I do mean mild.

If the writing and characterisation of BOTH were both excellent, that would obviously do a lot for player interest. The trouble with the former is that it's erratic. I wouldn't underestimate the feat of achieving consistent propulsion of a story this big, which BOTH's writing pulls off comfortably, but it is the length of the thing which also throws the jumpy proofreading into relief. Some pages are in great shape while others are rife with typos and mistakes of tense. The characters tend to make the same kind of opportunistic jokes as each other, spreading a fuzzy zaniness across the game at the cost of character individuality. And I found the feuding vampire characters really annoying. They have a kind of Flash Gordon / Prince Barin rivalry going on, except that both of them are Prince Barin. The heroine (us), who unfortunately spends nearly all her time as an unwilling sidekick to one of the vampires, does develop over the game, mustering a tenacity which is underestimated by all the baddies. Her emerging resolve was a source of humour and tension which sucked me back into the second half of the game, but in the main I found too much of BOTH tiring or insufficiently involving. It would take more preparatory work than was done here, or more idiosyncratic characters, to get me interested in all these feuding vampires and the spectacle of their rampage.

PS I strongly recommend that you choose the 'do a sexy dance' option in a certain moment of desperation. I found the result to be the funniest piece of writing in the game.

2 comments:

  1. Okay, that was facetious of me, but the game's combination of vampires who act like the rabid zombies of the cinema of the 2000s, Underworldish vampire clans and a splat of Twilighty romanticism points to pretty recent stuff.

    I assumed Buffy was a primary influence, given the combination of rakishly dressed vampires, wisecracking, and the fact that Misha was plainly played by Eliza Dushku.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That sounds pretty good except it said 'movies'. I mean the Buffy that was popular was the TV series that you're talking about, not the original movie. Still, if you think you're right, you probably are, as I never watched the Buffy TV show and you seem to know it.

    ReplyDelete