(none) Quintin Stone - Interactive Fiction Review
Interactive Fiction
Role-playing Games


Author: Brandon Wyber
Language: z-code
Genre: Horror
Score: 9

The most important aspect to a horror game is atmosphere. If the player isn't scared, even just a little bit, then the entire goal of the game has failed. Some people may be incapable of being scared by a game. All I can say is that they should not play horror games, and that game designers should ignore them, because they are not the audience.

Let me make two statements of fact: 1) Theatre definitely has the necessary atmosphere, and 2) I am not one of those people.

It's hard not to compare Theatre to Anchorhead, a horror game regarded as one of the best pieces of post-Infocom IF. But I'll do my best to make this a standalong review that everyone can appreciate, even if they haven't played Anchorhead.

Theatre is neither a very long game nor a large one, in terms of room count. On both it could be considered medium. Going by memory, I'd say it has about half the number of rooms Anchorhead had, and in Theatre there isn't the concept of Chapters, so each room stays pretty much the same throughout the game.

In terms of puzzles, again, Theatre probably falls into the category of medium (maybe a little on the easy side). Even with my stunted imaginative processes, I only had to resort to the hints for a single puzzle, and then only for suggestions on how to apply what I already knew was the answer. Your inventory nevers gets so large that you're overwhelmed by the number of choices you can apply to a particular puzzle. I never once forced the game into an unwinnable state, though I'm sure I could have on at least one occasion if I'd wanted to. I also never felt that the puzzles felt forced or artificial. Many of them were very clever (the ticket one, especially).

Theatre's mood is what really makes the game shine. During your wanderings, you encounter sounds of unexplained origin: footsteps on tile, the creak of stairs, voices from an empty room, and music from unmanned instruments. Stepping into a new room left me tingly each time I passed a new obstacle, and I was often on the edge of my seat as I scanned the new text. The atmosphere is not overwhelming either. Understated, it lets the player's isolation and imagination build up the dark mood of horror. It's not quite as effective as Anchorhead, in my opinion, and one room of animated creatures failed to really provoke any response in me, but the rest of the game worked quite well.

Good writing, good puzzles, good atmosphere. Altogether, a good game.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)

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