Review of Episode in the Life of an Artist

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This review originally appeared in SPAG #35

TITLE: Episode in the Life of an Artist
AUTHOR: Peter Eastman
EMAIL: None found
DATE: October 2003
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters

I really enjoyed playing Peter Eastman's entry in the IFComp Episode in the Life of an Artist. This is largely because game contains many references to and is in the style of other works that I have enjoyed. After playing the first section I nearly quit and moved on to the next game on my list, but was completely hooked by the second. The tone is much lighter than many other of the games in the comp, is playable in 2 hours, and is fun.

The story starts with the character in bed with the alarm buzzing. The remainder of the initial section is concerned with getting cleaned up, dressed and ready for work. This part is a little dull but serves to introduce the character. Most story oriented games contain few or simple puzzles. Episode in the Life of an Artist is not an exception. None of the puzzles are very difficult and a few are just tedious. Still they are not the point, but are just plot devices. The writing is simple but of high quality. The game is segmented into discrete areas. Within each area the player has freedom to explore but once one of the trigger actions is taken the character is moved to a new segment. At first this is a bit jarring but is a relief in this case to not be required to find the bus stop, right bus, etc.

The setting is a skewed version of the intersection of here and now, Zork, and Daniel Pinkwater universes with bits of others mixed in. Included in the Zork references is a mention of a "five zorkmid bill" being in the character's wallet. Usually the references to the Zork universe take the form of similar items or locations. A several of Daniel Pinkwater's books contain variations of the chicken man. His appearance kept me playing the game when I was just about to quit and move on to the next entry to be judged. More than the chicken man has the Pinkwater vibe. The simple structure of the story, simple or childlike main character, and the strange characters/machines/job all are common Pinkwater elements. Also included are nods to HHTG, and likely a few more that I missed.

At the end of some movies wile the credits are being shown out takes from the filming are shown as well. Jackie Chan movies do these particularly well. They show funny mistakes, goof ups, and occasionally Jackie Chan being taken away in ambulances. They do not add to the story, but they add some extra humor and a peek at the human side of the people involved. We are invited to laugh with the actors instead of just at the characters. Some Pixar movies contain out takes at the end. These are obviously scripted, animated, rendered, and artificial. In Episode after the end of then game the player is given the option to view out takes. These were mostly well done, but but felt more like the Pixar out takes than the ones from Jackie Chan.

The game is not perfect. The beginning is a slow. The end is abrupt. Parts of the game are scripted in ways which are a little sloppy. In a few places long asides are added to room descriptions which make sense the first time the location is entered, but break the mood when they are shown each time the player enters the location. None of these is enough of a problem to really knock off too many points of my score. The ending of the game is a little abrupt.

I rated this game a 7 in the judging. It placed a respectable 11th. Hopefully we will see more games from Peter Eastman.


After this was published in SPAG#35 I checked google to see if the review had been indexed by google. My search included the author's last name and Pinkwater. One of the first of several thousand hits mentioned P.D. Eastman, author of Go Dog Go! While I had assumed that Peter Eastman was a pseudonym, for some reason it did not occur to me that another children's author's name was being used. So "Mr. Eastman", I respect your wish to remain anonymous. I also have some additional questions about your game. Please send me some anonymous mail and I will put up some questions here.

Epilog 2:

Hector Berlioz, "Symphonie fantastique" is subtitled Episode in the Life of an Artist,". It is not yet clear to me how this fits in with the game. Google is good.

Thanks for visiting.

Last updated: Sat Feb 28 11:52:00 PST 2004

Copyright 2004 Paul E Coad