“Clues,” by Robert Kendall, is a detective noir interactive poetry
piece in which the reader controls the movement and direction of the
narration while attempting to "solve the case." “There are no rules
except those of communication, knowledge, and identity,” Kendall
instructs. Readers are left to figure out the intricacies of playing
the game largely on their own, through exploration. Kendall explains
that one must uncover all the clues to win, although winning may not
be the “superior outcome."
The poem unfolds as readers select pathways through the rough-sketch
world of city streets, forests, and buildings, drawn by Kendall.
Street signs spell out oblique phrases (e.g., “is arrival just a
failure of the distance?”); an untrustworthy ambience is further
emphasized by eerie music and distorted images. The cursor changes
from an arrow to a hand when hovering over an optional path and
informative bubbles pop out, explaining the choices readers may
select. One such frame containing the image of a cop presents a bubble
saying “face the music” when one selects the cop, or “slip away down
the street” when one selects the alleyway. Either avenue brings
readers to a page of poetry (a clue) in which certain words are red
hyperlinks (called “red herrings”) leading to other areas of the
simulation. The game remembers each user and tracks the reader’s
choices in a list of .htm files.