This is the third game I am reviewing in the 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. There needs to be some text here so that when Facebook links to it it doesn't include bits of the actual review. And thus it is that I say: two and two are four, four and four are eight, eight and eight are sixteen, sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two.
Moderate language issues; plowing and harvesting are different things. I ran into serious early bugs giving grain to the collector and had to restart. There are also a few minor but non-game-stopping bugs in the second section, although, more problematically, a lot of obvious actions aren't implemented in the bakery line in a way which suggests the author thought of them (the actual solution to the bakery-line issue is offensive; yes, it's historical, but from a gameplay perspective it's catastrophic). Some text in the third chapter appears to be repeated, and then, in the fourth chapter, random angle-bracketed text which eventually replaces actual conversation and... er, there seem to be major bits missing.
I wanted to like this. It catches a historical period in a manner which is effective if somewhat cliched, and has some strong narrative voices. And at the end it kind of all falls apart. Apparently the bracketed text is chess moves, which is OK as that goes but looks a lot like a bug to those not expecting it. Plus the conversation tree is fucking long, and I think I didn't actually need pages of conversation to convince me that Stalin was a shit.
There is promise here, some of which is badly derailed by the choice of theme. Atrocity writing always seems manipulative, even at its best (compare Buried in Shoes, for a well-done but still troubled piece, or Blink for a more ham-handed attempt). In addition, while time-management is a good way of depicting the rather frenzied pace of the first and third scenes, tedium is not, I'm afraid, acceptable for depicting the repetitive and monotonous character of life in the second scene. Add in the moderate bugs and the insufficient cluing and pacing of the fourth chapter, and we have a work which isn't quite living up to its promise, but whose intent I (grudgingly) respect.