Author: Andrew Plotkin
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Cruel
Length Of Play: 2-4 hours, depending on how quickly you look up a walkthrough
My Rating: 7
Awards: 1st Place: 1st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition
That’s now how life works.
And so sets the mood for A Change in the Weather: dark, dreary, and unforgiving.
I tried this a couple of times in my youth and could not get into it. I think knowing going in that you could lock the game out victory near constantly kept me from immersing myself in the world. I recently gave it another shot and I’m glad I did.
The atmosphere really is lovely. Despite the prose being fairly terse, Plotkin does an excellent job heightening the senses. Even the faintest change in the weather is felt and gives the player a sense of urgency I think is necessary for this game to work. And despite given no goal other than exploring, I was plenty motivated to solve each puzzle simply by the nature of rushing against the weather. A fox serves to amplify the setting while also giving the player an extrinsic motivation to keep going.
Losing to the weather and the frequent restarts and restores didn’t negatively impact my experience at all. There are only six locations and a limited number of things to interact with, so it never felt like a chore to try things over again. The game’s downfall, sadly, is that some of the puzzle solutions don’t feel intuitive or logical. While mapping the hill is fairly simple, it’s still difficult to get a sense of how exactly the landscape is formed. This ultimately kept me stuck for a long time in the second half (not to mention a puzzle that logically should have two solutions but one path locks you out of victory for no good reason). Ultimately, while I was able to essentially reach the finale on my own, I was forced to succumb to a walkthrough to fix some of the details.
So I will offer an unusual recommendation. Play A Change in the Weather to experience the setting and have a walkthrough handy. But only use the walkthrough once the game has you exhausted. The struggle is what makes it beautiful. That’s how life works.