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[overall critique] [the games] [the themes]
[the screensavers] [main f13 site] [move along home]

Stephen King's F13

Stephen King's F13 / January, 2000 / $36.90, CD-ROM

...Ctrl, Alt...Shiver...

An Overall Critique

As you may have guessed, Stephen King's F13 is a bit of a departure for even King. This is King's first foray into the world of multimedia (not counting the 1993 web posting of "Umney's Last Case"), and it kind of throws one for a loop. How would you classify something like this? As usual, King frustrates those who attempt to pidgeonhole his work. But how much of F13 is really King's work?

The purest sense of actual King participation lies in the one writing sample King contributed to the project. "Everything's Eventual" is a spooky little story dealing with computers and multimedia, the first of such from King's increasingly vast imagination. The story was released in October 1997 for the anniversary issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Originally, it was planned for Six Stories, self-published by King's Philtrum Press, but in the end, "Eventual" turned out to be too long for that book. It's a sure bet that the story will appear in the new fiction collection King will round out his most recent contract with Scribner. But if you don't want to wait (or try to search for the story in back issues of F&SF) F13 is your best place to find it.

I've never been a fan of computer reading; one of the biggest tenets of reading is that it's portable. Still, F13 offers some surprises: some spooky new illustrations, an "electronic bookmark," and a button to toggle spooky music on and off. It's apealling, I'll give it that, but it's not going to tear me away from the ink-on-page ludditia I'm used to.

The CD-ROM is easy to install (I got mine up and running in less than ten minutes), and the navigation is uncomplicated. As for the rest of it, please keep reading...

The Games

Unless you have a super-large hard drive, I reccomend running each of the games with the "Highest Quality" settings off. They just drag the cursor down and make game play difficult. I didn't really notice a difference int he quality, myself.

  • No Swimming - **1/2 out of **** It's not really a game, but an interesting little distraction. In order to "feed the fish," you are given a little host of animals at the bottom of your screen (a rhino, a dog, an alligator, a cow, and a horse), and you have to pick them up and drop them in the pirahna tank. THe pirahnas come and eat your animal in a frenzy, and then you pick up another animal and do the same. It's not really all that challenging, but it's sort of darkly amusing.

  • Whack-a-Zombie - *** This one gets points just for the sound effects. Zombies pop up out of graves and you have to whack them with a shovel in order to get them to stop hurling their bones at you. There's a cool "dripping heart" meter in the bottom right of your screen that moniters your "life." Unlike "No Swimming," this one goes up levels and gets harder. It's challenging, and actually a lot of fun.

  • Bug Splat - ***1/3 First, you get a little flyswatter and you have to splat a few bugs. Their guts, well, splat, and a windshield-wiper comes to wipe them up. If you get good enough, you are eventually given just a newspaper and more bugs. Later, you get a hammer, and bugs that don't die with one hit. It's disturbing and a little vomitous, but it's madly addictive. Just try to pull yourself away when the bugs are squirming everywhere, Creepshow-like, trying to get away from your hammer. Fun!

    The Themes


    F13 comes with a number of desktop (or "Deathtop;" these folks revel in their dark humor) backgrounds, ranging from an animated hearse to a greepy (I mean really creepy) gargoyle, and more. Added to this are a bunch of sounds (these are actually very very cool) that you can add to your regular desktop, so that when you minimize a screen, you can hear a woman's bloodcurdling scream. Or when you make a fatal error, hear a maniac laugh. They're silly little superficial thrills, but they're quality superficial thrills, and a lot of fun to play with.

    (Note: The first time I maximaized a screen and heard the "Boo!" sound, I almost screamed myself. The sounds are great!)

    The Screensavers


    I can't really go into a whole lot of detail about these. I've only tested out a few, but these seem to be where all the money went on F13. The screensaver I have up now is called "The Works," (kind of a drooling fanboy concept) in which leather-bound books with King titles fly up on the screen with a caption telling what it's about. Others include a Trivia question-and-answer screensaver, a caricature of King typing away at a story in real time, and a screen full of eyes that just stare and stare and stare. THere are a lot more, all of which seem very creepy and spooky, but I haven't tested them yet.

    All in all, I've enjoyed F13. There's still a lot to explore, so I'm sure I'll find ways to amuse myself with it for a long time to come.