App Reviewed on: iPhone 4, iPad 1
Game Controls Rating:
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Despite the recent resurgence in the adventure game genre - thanks in large part to Telltale Games’ revivals of the Sam & Max and Monkey Island series - text adventures are a subgenre that has retained their relative obscurity. The Warbler’s Nest by Jason McIntosh proves to be a solid attempt to adapt the text adventure to iOS.
An albeit brief story, The Warbler’s Nest is an interactive piece of fiction with a Lovecraftian bent. It focuses the majority of its very well-written prose on establishing an unnervingly eerie setting, leaving an actual plot by the wayside a bit. The strength of the writing more than makes up for the relatively little action, and it’s clear McIntosh’s focus was on establishing a specific mood. That said, it’s best to know nothing about the story going in, as the turns in the ride are most severe when they’re not seen coming.
The iPhone and iPad are perfectly suited for text adventures, which is why it’s such a shame more don’t make its way to the platform. Inputting commands is as simple as typing them with the on-screen keyboard. The game even has its own shortcuts for common commands such as cardinal directions, making input quicker and more streamlined. A help menu is necessary for figuring out specific commands the game responds to, but everything needed is there and most of it is pretty self-explanatory.
The game links to a walkthrough on the developer’s site (a text file) if what to do next becomes a mystery, and there were several moments where it was absolutely necessary. A difficulty inherent to the genre is cluing the player into what to do next while not sacrificing the quality of the prose, and The Warbler’s Nest is militant about prioritizing the writing over directions. It’s a shame the walkthrough isn’t an in-app overlay or integrated some other way. Having to leave the game to read a line or two in Safari isn't exactly fun.
It’s clear The Warbler’s Nest is a product of a single artistic vision, but it would’ve been nice to have some original music to accompany the story - especially with such an emphasis on mood.
At just a dollar, it’s hard not to recommend this throwback of a game to fans of text adventures or good writing. But it is important to note that the experience won’t last more than an hour - even with multiple endings. Still, if the concept piques an interest, it’s worth a look.