This is quite obviously the best game in the comp -- solid, polished, well-crafted, atmospheric. The detective portion of the game is immersive and works smoothly, with no contrived puzzles, and on the few occasions I became stuck there was an ingenious integrated hint system to help me. The solution to the mystery was very predictable, but I'm not sure that matters, the story being less a whodunnit than an exercise in exploring certain themes and creating a certain mood. To the latter end, the illustrations must take a great deal of credit. This might well be the best-looking of all IF games.
The writing is utilitarian and for that reason effective -- the prose has a quietness and patience about it that gives the story more pathos than perhaps it deserves. I wish more IF authors would write clearly and simply like this, and not aim for literary heights and fail spectacularly. There are occasional errors which betray the work of a non-native speaker -- but they're nothing like as bad or as frequent as the errors which betrayed so many native speakers in this comp.
This was my favourite game of the comp, but still my appreciation is somewhat detached. I wasn't really moved by anything here, and part of this stems from my immunity to all things Gaiman. This is a typical and self-consciously Gaimanesque milieu, with its pick-and-mix from the world's mythology, mile-wide symbolism, constant striving to strike 'mythical' tones, and uneasy balance of childish fairy tale and over-the-top horror. As befits the genre, death is in the foreground: the PC is a dead baby and the plot revolves around a dead teenager. There's even a certain longing for death, a suspicion of necrophilia, looking towards death for the peace and fulfillment that cannot be found in life. It's a perhaps unwittingly Christian attitude, and the game seems to take a simplistic and conservative Christian morality at face value. I liked it least when it was moralising about an individual choice between good and evil, or hinting at some pro-life theme.
"Dead youth" is a subject of such easy pathos that it takes something special to make it work for me, and it didn't quite work for me here. But the game avoided lapsing into crude sentimentality, which is to its credit. In addition, it's too long for the comp, and a bit too long in general -- but enough caveats.
Rating: 10 (First Place)