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From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2002, Matt Rohde

Of all the real-world settings, the myths and history of China and Japan are some of the most interesting and adaptable to adventure genre. But games that utilize them have been few and far between, and those that do it effectively are even fewer. While it is not nearly as good as Infocom’s classic James Clavell’s Shogun, Matt Rohde’s Katana is a fun and accessible freeware IF that succeeds in bringing feudal Japan to life.

Katana casts you as an American descendant of a samurai warrior who finds himself travelling back in time during a visit to the estate you lived as a child. While exploring the past, you will discover startling facts about distant ancestors, and a lot more facts about historical Japan and its folklore than you will likely remember afterward.

The game as a whole is uneven: some descriptions are so well-written that you can visualize the scene, while some are obscure. Similarly, some cut-scenes are very well presented, while others come across as flat or uninteresting. The puzzles suffer a similar fate: many puzzles are so cliched as to be obvious, and there are a bit too many “guess the verb the author is looking for” puzzles for my taste. But overall the mood and exotic setting keep me playing to the end.

Katana‘s strongest point is definitely the setting and plenty of fascinating details about Japanese myths and history. Despite having to restore frequently and peeking at the walkthrough, I had fun playing this charming adventure, and would recommend it to all IF fans. Just be patient to put up with the uneven writing and inconsistent quality in the puzzles. While an above-average game, excellent details about an exotic culture that more authors should tap push Katana into the realm of Top Dogs in my book. Recommended.

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