Channel Surfing

Mike Vollmer (2008)

Channel Surfing is base on an experimental television concept, where the viewer becomes the participant. With lots of humor upfront it's a real satire on American television, taking a serious turn, with a political ending.

The player finds himself waking up in a Matrix type of room, in front of a large television with a remote sitting next to them on a table. Immediately I had problems operating the remote, and throughout the game you can see that there is a certain lack of implementation.

One thing that would have helped some of the problems with the remote, and even the Taser, would be better descriptions of the objects; including something that points to how these objects are used, especially if the target audience is people new to IF.

The game relies on a number-choice system to handle responses when talking to characters, there's no ask/tell method here. While this does feel a bit constraining, I can see the need for it in this type of game.

There's also a lack of implementation in this game that makes it look like it wasn't even tested, like:

>push fire
You feel nothing unexpected.

>touch fire
You feel nothing unexpected.

It's so bad, one of the solutions to a puzzle becomes guess-the-verb, and I had to turn to the walkthrough to get through it. In essence, the game needs more synonyms within the verbiage and the objects. But the strength of the game is within its satire; the humor is really funning and goes a long way. It's populated with some pretty crazy characters, and there are some great one-liners here, like: "All the world's a game, and we're merely the NPCs."

Another thing I liked was how you could carry items between shows, then having those objects be used in later puzzles. If the game was longer, this could've been exploited even more. Then the whole thing takes a radical shift with a political agenda. In this section, based on what choices the player makes, the game has three different endings. Something I feel that taps into the real power of interactive fiction.

Overall I felt that this was a short game that needs to be fleshed out more, and as a ulx file there's plenty of room to do this. Its real strength is in its satire, and the political agenda at the end really changes the whole tone and doesn't add anything. If the author stuck to the humor, and added a few more scenes, I feel it would have been a better game. I gave it a 7.