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Pytho’s Mask

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2000, Emily Short

Pytho’s Mask is an excellent short entry in Emily Short’s fun “SmoochieComp,” a mini interactive fiction competition that invited authors to write romance-related games. The game sports an intriguing plot set in the fantasy/alternate “Victorian” universe similar to Adam Cadre’s Vericella, written with flair and conviction not unlike Short’s other games. The game casts you as a mysterious female member of the “Order,” who must ensure that the King remains in power after the night of the Comet — the unexpected guest from the heavens that shatters the “balance.”

The real star of Pytho’s Mask, is the revolutionary conversation system evolved from the one in her previous game, Galatea. Instead of simple responses to ASK or TELL inputs, NPCs in Pytho’s Mask carry out a real conversation with you via a menu-based interface in which you pick what to say next from 3-4 multiple choices at a time. One of the choices typically offers the ability to backtrack to talk about something else, and the choices dynamically change as your conversation changes. You can also quickly break the current conversation to talk to someone else, although everyone in the game has so many interesting things to say that you’ll want to play the game more than once to hear it all. Thanks to Short’s writing skills and an eye for detail, NPCs you can talk to in Pytho’s Mask are astonishingly lifelike in their conversation, especially the mysterious “man in the dark mask” (who provides the romantic interest required in the SmoochieComp). I had so much fun talking to NPCs that I spent a lot of time restoring saved games to see what conversation “branches” I may have missed instead of focusing on the no-less interesting plot. Overall, Pytho’s Mask is definitely a must-play for every IF fan, and here’s hoping that more authors would utilize Short’s excellent conversation system in their games in the near future. Two thumbs up, way up!

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