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Video Game / Spider and Web

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"Don't be absurd," he says. "You're no more a sightseer than the Old Tree in Capitol Square; and if you'd had enough sense to walk away from that door, you wouldn't be here. You don't and you didn't and are; we caught you. And you're going to start by telling me how you got through that door. Do you understand me?"
The Interrogator

Spider and Web is an independently written work of Interactive Fiction created by Andrew Plotkin, which won five of the 1998 Xyzzy Awards and was a finalist for four more. The story is told through a series of flashbacks by an Unreliable Narrator - who also happens to be the protagonist, an unnamed, captured spy, on an unknown mission against an unidentified country in the near future, and equipped with a wide variety of sophisticated tools.

The game may be found on the author's website, and on IFDB.


Spider and Web provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absence of Evidence: When your equipment is brought to the interrogation room, examining it will list what's there. Some items are missing, which is a clue as to how to proceed.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Averted; the man mentions that the grates have been custom-made to be impossible to crawl through. The ventilation grilles, however, are a handy hiding place for objects in a pinch.
    "We rebuilt our ventilation system from the ground up, less than half a year ago. It's fenced and webbed and wired so that a grain of sand couldn't sneak through."
  • Alien Sky: One of the pictures in the interrogator's office shows that this world has two moons. One of the interrogator's lines also mentions that there are two moons, and no-one's landed on either yet. This makes it likely that the game takes place at a later stage in the history of the world in the same author's game So Far, which also has two moons.
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  • Berserk Button: The man doesn't like being lied to about serious matters. If you do so, he will kill you, given enough time.
  • Blatant Lies: You can lie brazenly to the interrogator, such as answering "yes" to the rhetorical question of whether you'd been captured before you had time to do anything. These are even referred to in the source code as blatant_lies (as opposed to sneaky_lies).
  • Bolivian Army Ending: You use the teleporter, but you never find out where it takes you.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • "Tango" is used to escape from the chair.
    • Subverted with the package; it never existed as it was just a lie you told the interrogator to keep him from discovering your gun.
  • Cultured Badass: The interrogator's personal office contains shelves full of books, and his own sketches.
  • Deconstruction Game: Of second-person narration and trusting the narrative given to you. First-time players will likely take everything their character does at face value even after the initial reveal of them being a spy. Figuring out what the character has kept secret from the interrogator and by extension, the player, is the biggest challenge of the game.
  • Enforced Cold War: You can choose this by destroying the papers; neither side gets the teleporter so there's no open war like the interrogator feared there would be.
  • Everything Except Most Things: Checking your inventory after entering the building will tell you that you're carrying nothing important, except for all the spy equipment.
    You are carrying nothing worthy of attention, except a lockpick and a toolcase (which is open) (in which are a minilamp, a scan scrambler, an acid pack, a blast tab, a voice module, a radio module, a timer, a toggle switch, a pushbutton, a voice transmitter and a key transmitter).
  • Featureless Protagonist: The protagonist's sex, age and looks are indeed never specified; however, as the game progresses, it implies a more specific history and personality for the protagonist.
  • First-Episode Twist: The entire game is premised on the fact that you are not just a tourist, despite the opening's attempt to mislead you otherwise.
  • Foregone Conclusion: You know almost from the start that you got captured. The plot of the game is tracing the precise course of events that led to that moment.
  • Foreshadowing: The conversation about nonmetallic guns and secrets.
  • Framing Device: Your interrogation.
  • Heroic Mime: Not quite, but the majority of the interrogation is carried out through the interrogator using equipment to read your mind in induced flashbacks; uncommonly for an Interactive Fiction game, your only dialogue options are "yes" and "no".
  • Interrogation Flashback: The game is told through interrogation flashbacks.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Since this is your interrogation, dying causes the interrogator to get pissed at you for fooling around. This is also used as part of the story - initially you can't finish the operation, but when you hit several in-story dead ends, the interrogator demands you explain an action you took or item you were carrying, which lets you use them.
  • Minimalism
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In the endgame, the enemy manages to corner you in the room where they are developing their secret technology... a teleporter. The interrogator is rendered momentarily speechless when they tell him they have you cornered, then tells them to blow open the door immediately.
  • Nintendo Hard
  • No Name Given: You, and your interrogator's only referred to by his title: with'.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Annoying the interrogator enough will make him fry your brain.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Depending on how you answer the interrogator's questions, he may describe you as similar to him. Whether you buy it depends on your choices.
    "... We are faces reflected in the mirror of our countries' border. I think you understand that." He nods.
    "I know you are intelligent, as well as determined. You hold those strengths to what you believe, and in that you are not so different from me."
  • The Paralyzer: The pulse guns shoot bolts of energy that knock people out, while shooting most inanimate objects produces the result: "The [object] showers a corona of sparks. Lacking a nervous system, however, it is unaffected by the pulse."
  • Red Herring: The package; it never existed as it was just a lie you told the interrogator to keep him from discovering your gun.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Examining the squad of unconscious guards tells you: "They look like six unconscious guards."
  • Shared Universe: With Plotkin's earlier work So Far. Paintings and conversations note the two moons seen in both games and a copy of a play from So Far is in the interrogator's office.
  • Space Cold War: It's noted that the world is basically in this, with neither your side nor the interrogator's making a move but obviously stockpiling for a fight.
  • Spy Fiction: Though it subverts and plays around with the conventions of the genre.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The contents of the lab you are there to investigate.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Early in the game, you throw your lockpick to distract a guard. Turns out the "distraction" story was to cover up the fact that the player character had left the lockpick in a lock while hiding from the guard.
  • Undead Author: Possible to achieve by dying in a flashback... upon which the interrogator will call you on it and let you retry.
  • Unreliable Narrator: You. Figuring out your cover story (and your real story) is the biggest challenge in the game.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Once you escape from the chair, it is possible to enter a state where the game becomes unwinnable.
  • Wham Episode: Everything after your escape from the chair.
  • Wham Line: "Tango" changes the scope and plot of the game completely, as it leads to your escape and throws everything about the previous events into question.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: Your enemy's end goal, and the reason you're in the country. In the ending where you steal the teleporter's plans for your own side, this is possible for your country to achieve as well.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: You're sent in with cool gadgets that border on Applied Phlebotinum.