Tuesday, October 6, 2015

IFCOMP'15: Taghairn, Chandler Groover

A good fit between choice of presentation and choice of theme, but somewhat spoiled by overexplanation. (As odd it may sound in such a spare game. But then, in that case it doesn't need that much to overexplain.) In Twine.

Two brothers enter a deserted barn, around them sacks filled with squirming cats, before them a fire and a spit. They get to work. If you play through to the end, unflinching, the game is a darkly atmospheric experience. The presentation is bare Twine, sentences are clipped, descriptions of cats are randomly generated, sometimes sequenced quite unnervingly. (pregnant cat, stunted kitten, furious cat, one of mine, and my favorite sentence, three words and no verb: "Barley and stars.")

The problems are a couple.

1. The "hesitate" option practically does nothing except terminating the game early, and providing neat answers, one directly, one by implication, to the two tantalizing questions in the game: what are these guys doing and why? By the end of the game, by the way, only one gets an answer, tantalizing by itself. Basically, your only option outside of just burning more and more cats on the spit spoils the effect the rest of the game is going for (presumably?). I also tried "hesitating" in different parts of the story, to see if there isn't some sort of variable there, but no.

2. The loop that determined sacrifice locks you is somewhat too static. There are a couple of stages where things escalate, dread mounting, the PC possibly hallucinating, etc., but the main loop, apart from a few changes in the static text, remains the same. I mentioned above that the cat descriptions are randomly generated. Well, I would've preferred the pool of options to change with each escalation of the plot (such as it is), the descriptions becoming more ominous/surreal or whatever, or maybe changing up the description/behavior of the PC's brother. I'm always more excited by changes in the obviously interactive parts of the text, not just the static ones.

I find the Pavlovian "Loop + intermittent rewarding changes" scheme rather pleasing, naturally, as well as the author's strategic choices (theme, graphical presentation, style), but it could've borne some more moving parts, and a little less of the static ones. 

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