The Dink Network


This DMOD has a unique inventory screen. From the COTPATD project.
July 8th, 2023
Score : 7.6 good
Peasant They/Them Australia
"Prelude" was released for the "failure" contest, in which entrants had to submit something where the player would most likely fail to achieve a stereotypically satisfying Hollywood-style ending. As v1.08 was new and shiny at the time, many of the entries took advantage of its new features such as introducing alternate protagonists or using the time of day. Prelude goes one step further by utilising Redink1's Aural+ fork with the option of a full MP3 soundtrack instead of MIDI. For a complete experience, the MP3 soundtrack is a must-have and should sound as intended in any modern iteration of the Dink engine without needing the now antiquated Aural+.

Past the somewhat crudely drawn title screen, the player is treated with an introduction of sorts. Vaguely unsettling in the usual Joshriot style of edginess, after a quote from Marquis de Sade the narrator discusses the history of the moon and alludes to the pitfalls of scientism present in the modern era so as to make the player question what may be be quantifiable and true. Once the player is suitably primed, he starts on a fairly nondescript screen and must figure out the first major discrepancy in the world of Prelude, namely saving with scrolls rather than the usual strange machines.

The initial screenlock achieves its purpose of impressing the player with the new interface and introducing the objective-driven quest log feature. Unfortunately after traversing a few screens it starts to feel as if the majority of the development process was spent on the introduction sequence and the interface, with little left to any sort of coherent narrative or integration with the new interface. The overall construction of the map is maze-like and confusing, with its construction seeming like a cheap trick to draw things out. After a while, I was left wondering what the introduction had to do with anything I was actually encountering and considered quitting. I almost wish I had.

If you can successfully find your way to the western part of the map, you'll be able to stock up on items at the shop before being subjected to the author's take on the contest's theme. Unlike "If Ducks Ruled the World" which uses time limitations to enforce failure, or "The Basilisk Smile" which has no optimal ending, "Prelude" instead opts for a technique vaguely reminiscent of the ending of Terry Gilliam's 1985 film "Brazil" in which the protagonist finds himself in a fantasy state in which all his dreams come true, only for his delusion to pass and reveal himself strapped to a chair for the purposes of being tortured. The 2010 film "Repo Men" uses the same technique, however much more insultingly to the viewer, in which everything turns out to be a dream, and Prelude's rug-pull in which you arrive at the final encounter to find that everything you were working towards is a farce reminds me more of the latter. Its denouement does not inspire a sense of helplessness in the face of failure like its rival contest entries but instead disappointment and perhaps anger at being cheated out of what could have been something much greater.

Much like the other contest entries, Prelude sets a high bar for itself that it often struggles to reach. If the contest deadline had been extended, and more effort poured into various aspects without as much consideration of the "failure" theme, "Prelude" could have set a precedent for every subsequent d-mod, with its name instead referring to an era of d-mod development where features such as full soundtracks and alternate combat systems were the norm. Unfortunately, it didn't, with its novelty extending no further than a few explicit instances mostly occurring at the very end that aren't used to their full potential. At best, this relegates it to being a one-off aberration in the world of d-mod development in which new paradigms are explored to create a compelling atmosphere. At its worst, however, it comes across as a tech demo with a game tacked onto it.