Ribbons is, similar to Ian Finley's Exhibition, an interesting puzzle-less story centering on four exhibits at an art show. Duncan Steven's review for SPAG says it all: |
"As in Exhibition, you're in an art gallery, checking out a series of exhibits, and as in Exhibition, you get a series of different perspectives on each exhibit. Rather than playing the critics, you read their critiques, which are posted by each exhibit, but the effect is similar -- you learn something new about each work, and about the critics, from each critique of it. (At least, that's the hope.) There aren't as many exhibits here -- only four, whereas Exhibition had twelve -- so there isn't as much room for development of the critics; their voices don't develop in the same way that those of Exhibition did.
The twist is that the works themselves have a better chance of coming across because (a) the critics are a little less obsessed with themselves than Exhibition's critics were and (b) the works are, to some extent, interactive. (It also helps that one of the critics' opinions is that of the artist himself/herself.) You can alter certain aspects of the works, and the critics' opinions will change (though not their ultimate judgments) to reflect the alterations. The results in this respect are sometimes amusing: the same critic praises the same work for both the presence and absence of an element, or slams an artist's binary decision no matter which way it goes. As a jab at criticism itself portraying critics as applying preconceived opinions regardless of what they actually find -- this works pretty well.
Unfortunately, not enough of the game leads to those moments; Ribbons is more interactive than Exhibition, but that's not saying a lot. Interaction with one exhibit (other than passive interaction like SMELL) is precluded entirely because someone else has vandalized the work and you don't want to be held responsible. Another exhibit allows for interaction, but not in a way that changes any text (of the descriptions or of the critics' reactions) -- you're told that you're altering things, but that's about it. The other exhibits allow for a little more interplay, but I left the game feeling like the most interesting aspect was barely there. (Perhaps the author and I differ about what the most interesting aspect was.)
Credit where credit is due, though -- the artworks themselves are well rendered and intriguing, and the variety of perspectives you get (the descriptions change slightly after you've read each critic's take) is impressive. It's pretty clear (at least, to me) that they occupy four distinct categories -- one strictly aesthetic, one literally representational, one metaphor/symbol, and one simply abstract -- and I enjoyed seeing the extent to which each critic managed or failed to grapple with each work on its own terms; in each case, some of the reaction amounted to "I don't like this because of the category it's in." (Sorry, no points for complaining that this critic has been known to do the same thing.) It's also fun to see the artists gently mocking the whole critical enterprise.
Ribbons is a fifteen-minute game at most, but it's a worthwhile fifteen minutes. As with Exhibition, reading the critics' thoughts is far and away the meat of the game, but those thoughts are good enough that that's not faint praise." Highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Underdogs