The Awakening (IF)

Dennis Matheson, 1998. Release 1. Inform 6. Z-code 5


I have seen The Awakening mentioned here or there, but never really played it besides to fire it up and take a quick glance at the opening. It seemed really neat, as far as openings went, but just never played on.

With Halloween approaching (it being only a couple of weeks before All Hallow's Eve 2007) I figured that some horror would tide me over. I've only recently played Michael Gentry's Anchorhead and so did not need to play that again. I won't be getting my copy of Howard Sherman's The First Mile until next week. And, for some reason, haven't quite psyched myself up for the classic horror IF: The Lurking Horro. This game was short, had a mood factor that I liked, and had mixed reviews.

In some cases, mixed reviews are where you find the gems. Sure, the fan favorites are all good and well to play. But usually mixed reviews indicate that there was a particular type of passion that went into make the game that might not be there for everyone to see. It also, mind you, could just mean that the game's good and bad average themselves out. What the hell, though, might as well press on.

The game starts with the PC coming to and a storm raging on. Oooh, a waking up AND a dark and stormy night. Now that I think about it, it combines two of the most cliched horror openings ever. But, wait, there is more. You are in the mud. Frankly, that sold me. It is quirky. Sort of a "man in a box" mystery except it is "man not in a box when there should be some sort of box".

Now, I'm going to try real hard and spoil nothing, but I figure it will take the average horror fan about five moves to see what's happening and the average HPL fan about two. C'est al vie, I don't even know if the game was aiming for a plot twist.

As you wonder around, the map is set small, and the puzzles start showing up. Most of the puzzles require a relatively specific solution wording. In some cases, there are hints in the prose or responses to help you get going. Had I been more awake (I made the mistake of starting this at the point where I probably should have been in bed) I probably would have not had so much frustration. IF is not a sleepy man's game. Trying to guess the difference of "place" and "put" and "under" versus "in" and all the sort of little word tricks you have to do will drive you bonkers.

Suffice it to say, I glanced here or there at the hints and suggestions. Only needed it really on one puzzle, but then that was about an hour into it with me playing "guess the verb". Turned out not to be a GtV but a "pay attention, dummy!" moment. Just as soon as I saw the rough direction the hint was going I had already figured it out.

Since the storyline is mostly known, the biggest mystery is where all the points belong. There is one "puzzle" that doesn't even seem to be a puzzle. And another that was immensely enjoyable because it was something out of an old gothic story. I'm speaking cryptically, sure, but these are the sort of puzzles that knowing about them is half the solution. I have to stay mum. Overall, I can say the puzzles make perfect sense, but you might have to think about it a few times to get in the mindset of the world.

The game has a mood, and a bit of a style, but no real tension. There was no real sense of countdowns, and most of the description was random "it rains harder, then lets up" and "you hear the sound of hail" messages. In this, it fails ultimately as "thriller", but at least pays homage to horror. Not a bad game for mood setting, but the short play time extended through a few puzzles means you will be frustrated about twice as long as you will be listening to the storm.

Recommend to horror fans, especially HPL fans. Also good, short adventure a tad more solid than the standard short one. Good online hint system that will help you through being stuck. Since the ending is guessable pretty quick, this one might be ok to cheat through if you have to, just so you can read all the room descriptions.

Final score, 70/100 (with 50 as average).


My Score

50 out of 50 with more turns than I can recall. Took me a bit to "unlock the door". Died about four times, three out of tenacity to keep trying the same thing over and over.

Final play time was about 2 hours. At least thirty minutes was added to this time because I was/am half asleep.

Hints, Suggestions and Mild Spoilers (for what they are worth

In some cases, think back to old action movies or serials. Think back to the mystery books you might have liked as a kid. At least two of the puzzles has a vibe of mimmicking the things that the characters in those would do.

The only other suggestion I have is think of the fox, feed and chicken puzzle. The sort of reasoning it requires will get you past the trickier puzzle.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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