“Valand” is a medium-length, choice-based about a shipwrecked child who gets involved with magicians. It has promising characters and setting, but the world and narrative aren’t developed enough to sustain them.

Gameplay: Most of the game consists of the protagonist wandering around the island and meeting its inhabitants, being more of an observer than a participant. The world itself is strange and not well-explained. The presentation of the world is not cryptic or elliptical (as in, say, last year’s “+=x”); it’s just not fleshed out. The overall impression I get of the game is that it has the tone and structure of the first chapter in a novel, but its abrupt ending and lack of branching are awkward in an interactive fiction game. 5/10.

Mechanics: The game’s first half is largely linear, but later choices do substantially affect the plot. For most of the game, the player is dragged around by the plot; the few meaningful choices lead quickly to a choice of endings. 5/10.

Presentation: The narrator in the game is a child, and the prose does a good job in describing that perspective. The prose is smooth, though I did encounter a section that simply read, “Double-click this passage to edit it,” toward the end of the game. 5/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You like classic adventure novels.

Score: 5/10

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