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Act of Misdirection, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Callico Harrison



Copyright 2004, Callico Harrison

The Act of Misdirection is an excellent first game by Callico Harrison. Despite some inconsistency in the writing (some parts “flow” better than others, and sometimes the writing style shifts in an incongruous way) and parser quirks, the positives far outweigh the negatives. You play a mysterious magician who starts the game on stage, with the audience’s rapt attention focused on you. Your job is to figure out which magic tricks to perform in the right sequence, based on cues from the audience, your off-stage helper, and gentle clues by the game itself. This first part of the game is very well-designed: terse, minimalist descriptions help accentuate the tense and “mystical” atmosphere of the stage, and vivid details bring your magic tricks to life. The extreme linearity of this first part and relatively simple puzzles in a one-room setup also help maintain the taut and suspenseful atmosphere.

Unfortunately after a very captivating first part that ends in an exciting climax, the game fizzles out a bit with a duller second part. The Act of Misdirection is split into several distinctive “acts,” each with its own locations, cast of characters, and objectives. The second part and beyond are considerably more difficult than the first, mainly because you have many more locations to explore, NPCs to talk to, and puzzles to solve. The game remains more or less linear, but it is less clear what you must do next to advance the story. Fortunately, the first part drops enough tantalizing clues and innuendos about your mysterious protagonist’s past that compel you to tolerate this decidedly inferior portion of the game, just to discover how the story ends. There are some parser quirks (mostly sections that require you to type the exact sentence the author had in mind), but they are forgivable given the overall strength of the plot and character development. Puzzles are overall quite easy, and the help menu is very well designed.

Like all good first efforts, The Act of Misdirection is a wonderful, thoroughly captivating game that is well worth playing despite flaws. If you are in a mood for an interesting and even scary modern murder mystery, this underdog more than fits the bill. There is even a hard-to-find alternate ending to lure you back on stage one more time after the curtain closes. Two thumbs up!

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