Of all the real-world settings, the partially mythological history of China and Japan are some of the most interesting, and readily adaptable to the adventure genre; Games that utilize them have been few and far between, and those that do it effectively are even fewer. While it is not nearly as good as Infocom's classic James Clavell's Shogun, Matt Rohde's Katana is a fun and accessible freeware IF that succeeds in bringing feudal Japan to life. |
Katana casts you as an American descendant of a samurai warrior who finds himself travelling back in time during a visit to the estate you lived as a child. While exploring the past, you will discover startling facts about distant ancestors, and a lot more facts about historical Japan and its folklore than you will likely remember afterward.
The game as a whole is uneven: some descriptions are so well-written that you can visualize the scene, while some are obscure. Similarly, some cutscenes are very well presented, while others come across as flat or uninteresting. The puzzles suffer a similar fate: many puzzles are so clichéd as to be obvious, and there are a bit too many "guess the verb the author is looking for" puzzles for my taste. But the overall mood and exotic setting kept me playing all the way to the end.
Katana's strongest point is definitely the setting and its plentiful fascinating details about Japanese myths and history. Despite having to restore frequently and peek at the walkthrough, I had fun playing this charming adventure, and would recommend it to all IF fans. Just be patient with the uneven writing and inconsistent quality of puzzles. While an above-average game, excellent details about an exotic culture that more authors should tap push Katana into the realm of Top Dogs in my book. Recommended.Reviewed by: Underdogs