#5: ALL ROADS
by Jon Ingold
One guide to interactive fiction games has All Roads filed under the category of "To say anything about this game is probably to say too much." Having said that, I must be careful that I do not spoil anything for you. Baf's IF Guide has this game listed as "Historical" and "Science Fiction," and the blurb begins by describing it as a "supernatural espionage thriller in quasi-medieval Venice." If you're interested at all by that description, you should definitely play the game.
The game involves a technique that must be executed perfectly in order to work at all: a series of seemingly disconnected scenes that all come together perfectly at the end (at least, if you're paying attention). The ending is quite a satisfying surprise, and like any good "twist" movie (think Usual Suspects or Fight Club) you'll want to replay it a second time very quickly.
All Roads is what many IF fans would call "a game on rails," meaning there's really only one path through the game, with almost no puzzles to speak of. You're basically along for the ride. Sometimes this can be miserably boring (I found this to be the case with Rameses, a game which others worship), but if done well, and the ride is exciting and innovative, a game on rails can have amazing emotional impact.
Released for the 2001 IF Competition, All Roads became the only game in history to win both the Competition and the annual XYZZY awards, which usually tend to honor non-competition games. All Roads also won Best Setting and Best Story at the XYZZY's. History has already determined 2001 to be a weak year for interactive fiction, but this game shines far above the rest as a masterful example of storytelling.
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