Designing interactive fiction has always inhabited that shade of grey between the arts of writing and game design. In interactive fiction, the words you choose as a writer can have gameplay consequences.
PataNoir takes this dynamic to its extreme. PataNoir is surrealist noir interactive fiction. If you see a set of rusty wheels described as “the color of coagulated blood,” you can then say “take blood.” In your inventory you will then find a “figurative piece of coagulated blood.” Does it sound confusing yet? It will.
I literally could not solve the first puzzle without consulting the game’s walkthrough, which involved taking the marble from the butler whose “face looked like it was carved out of marble,” then giving him a warm ember from a figurative campfire to give his eyes a friendly glow. Then, his disposition altered via the text, he would finally let you proceed.
Suffice to say I found this game very confusing, worthwhile as an experiment but not very fun to play. It stands as a monument to the difficulty in bringing some of the subtler aspects of story and character into a game, even with interactive fiction.