So near to happiness, and yet so far?"
So Far is a freeware surreal fantasy Interactive Fiction game by Andrew Plotkin, published in 1996. As it starts, you are sitting in a sweltering theatre, waiting for Aessa, who's stood you up again. As you leave, you feel a mysterious draft of cool air. Following it will lead you to a series of strange shadows that serve as portals between several strange lands.
Can be downloaded or played online here.
Tropes that can be found in this game are
- Alien Sky: The game's starting area has two moons, and the same is true for every other place you visit through the shadows (the ones where you can see the sky, at any rate), implying that no matter how alien they seem, they are all set on the protagonist's home planet.
- Beautiful Void: The majority of places you visit have no inhabitants, being either wilderness or crumbling ruins (in what may be After the End), all poetically and evocatively described. Even when you do meet other humans, you cannot communicate with them.
- Blackout Basement: One area is in complete darkness. Unlike in most Interactive Fiction games with a dark area, bringing a light source isn't the answer. You'll need to navigate it by the different sounds you can hear.
- A different area gets progressively darker as you approach your destination, and in this case, you do need to bring a light source.
- Book-Ends: In the final scene, the line with which the protagonist reconciles with Aessa is the line Rito speaks to Imita in the play at the start.
- Casting a Shadow: All shadows you come across are supernatural portals letting you travel between different areas. Like so much else in the game, the reason for this is left a mystery.
- Heroic Mime: The protagonist is capable of speech, but any sapients you encounter in your journey are either hostile or simply unable to communicate with you. You get to speak once, at the very end.
- Interface Screw: If you lick the frozen metal pole, the game text will change so that it sounds like itf fpoken by fomeone wiv deir tongue ftuck.
- Nintendo Hard: One of Plotkin's most difficult games, primarily thanks to the ability to lose or destroy an item you need and not realise it until later.
- Show Within a Show: You can choose to watch three performances in the game: the play at the start, the dance of the grasslands tribe, and the race.
- Title Drop: The title is dropped in Imita's monologue in Rito and Imita, where she bewails her fate. Like the game itself, Rito and Imita is the story of an unhappy relationship that ends in reconciliation.
- Tongue on the Flagpole: You come across a metal pole in the icy realm. If you stay around long enough, the game text starts telling you to lick it. And if you do, the only way to free yourself involves using up an item that you will need later, so don't do it.
- World of Symbolism: A possibly interpretation of the game is that it is simply the protagonist symbolically working his way through his feelings and doubts about his relationship.
- Your Cheating Heart: It is strongly implied (though never stated for sure) that Aessa is cheating on the protagonist. Both the play at the start and the dance performed by the tribe in the grasslands tell a story of a Love Triangle between two men and a woman. When you meet Aessa in the end, she asks your forgiveness.