Author: Ian Finley
Development System: TADS
Cruelty Rating: Polite (can’t get stuck if you save reasonably)
Length Of Play: 2-4 hours
My Rating: 7
Awards: 1st Place — 6th Annual IF Comp
With a Kafkaesque dystopia the author must be very careful that while the world is constantly spinning around the protagonist that the viewer in addition to being misdirected doesn’t feel cheated. For the most part Finley does his job here.
I played this twenty years ago and played it again just recently (because I had honestly forgotten most of it) and was swept away both times. I have generally enjoyed frequent plot twists as long as they’re fun (e.g. Wild Things) and don’t negate everything that came before (e.g. The Game). Multiple times while playing Kaged I thought to myself “Hey, this isn’t logical,” and then it would be revealed later that I was correct and the inconsistency was intentional. I also felt like many of the plot twists were foreshadowed so that I didn’t feel cheated at the end. I also figured out the final twist with about five minutes of play time left which was a brilliant move by Finley. Throughout the game I felt empowered and thrilled by the chase, until right near the end where I felt powerless but compelled to press on. The parallels between the story and my experience as a player were often step for step.
My only critique of the structure was the ability to die at several different points along the way. While I understand that seemed necessary to conceal the ending, it feels like in retrospect that those ways of ending the story do indeed negate the final ending.
Many have commented that the puzzles are poorly clued. I frequently use walkthroughs while playing and I didn’t have to resort to one here. And I felt many of the puzzles were heavily clued but your mileage may vary. However, there is one puzzle that killed the plot flow a bit early on by allowing you to start it before finishing another.
Finley’s writing is, as always, a treat and despite the game’s flaws I was happy to be along for the ride.