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1-5 of 5

Lethe, by Thomas M. Disch and Tom Blackwell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A fun choice-based remake of a 30+ year old parser game, February 13, 2023

You wake up naked in a hotel room and have no memory of who you are.

I should provide some context first.

Lethe is an Ink game based on a 1986 parser game called Amnesia by Thomas M. Disch. I had never heard of it prior to playing Lethe. Perhaps it crossed my vision once or twice while skimming IFDB, but nothing I could remember (that’s absolutely not a joke. I’m just telling you how it is). Lethe has its own page on IFDB. If it were not for its description, or the credits in the game, I would not have made the connection.

I am going to cut this excessively long review into two large sections. The first is my review for Lethe. The second half is about how playing it introduced me to another side of interactive fiction. I’ll stick most of that part under a spoiler tag.

Part I: Game review
Lethe. The game made with Ink. That’s what this review is about. In fact, it is one of the most exciting Ink games I’ve played so far.

Lethe stays true its theme of amnesia. In fact, the title, though different, hints at the subject. It stems from a piece of Greek mythology about a river of the same name that, when drunk, causes forgetfulness. There is also a second clever meaning to the title that is revealed near the end of the game, but that would be a major spoiler. Just know that it’s worth a shot even if you are not a huge fan of the amnesia trope.

GAMEPLAY: As I said, you wake up naked in a hotel room with total amnesia. The game takes place in New York, and you play as a male protagonist. Your only real lead at the moment is to find any clues that will hint at your identity. Slowly this will expand into a broader story.

I feel that your first playthrough is by far the best one because you are just as clueless as the protagonist. Unless you’ve played Amnesia, I suppose. Oh well. Let’s just assume you were like me. Everything intrigues you and oozes potential.

Whose knocking at the door?

What’s in this closet?

Does this window open?

WHO AM I? (And why am I naked?)

Endless questions, but the game merely provides you with a list of things you can do. The player is left to launch themselves into the unknown to find the answers. Through trial and error, you can find the optimal route to move into new areas with more clues.

For me, the main event of your clueless first playthrough is the branching gameplay structure. I always like seeing that in choice-based games. In Lethe, it creates the perception of an expanding world that just grows. First time around, it feels huge. The novelty of it all contributes to the sense of scale as you leave the hotel to explore more locations. It takes the shape of a mystery game.

While Lethe does feel a bit smaller once you’ve played it, there is plenty of incentive for replays. It is a chance to experiment with different paths or switching up the order of tasks. Try making challenges. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show) play without ever getting arrested and/or killed.

Lethe is easy to play in sense that you are just clicking through links. But it is also designed well, too. Its strength is its mechanism for failure. Dead is NOT the end. It can if you want it to be, but there is no “messing” up in Lethe. The sequence also happens to be my favorite part. (Spoiler - click to show) You end up in a surreal and somewhat humorous afterlife.

You and a few thousand other naked anxious souls are standing on the bank of a misty black river, being stung by mosquitoes and bitten by large centipedes.

Charon, a character from Greek mythology who ferries deceased souls across rivers in the underworld, swings by to offer you a choice. You can stay in the afterlife or go back in time before your previous decision. Done. That’s it. Right back where you were. Even better, your environment adjusts to keep you from making the same error.

Your hotel room seems subtly different.

This was fantastic. It makes the gameplay more forgiving for when the player makes a mistake. You never need to restart. If anything, it also encourages dumb decisions such as leaving your hotel room naked, “just to see what happens.” Or (Spoiler - click to show) getting married.

STORY: Given what I’ve said, the last thing I want to do is tarnish your first playthrough with spoilers. It is better if you let the story unfold on its own. But if you insist, I will give you a rundown of what’s going on. I would consider these as mild/moderate spoilers since they can be discovered early on, I’d caution you against reading them at all until you play Lethe. (Spoiler - click to show)

Everyone at the hotel calls you John Cameron, but if you get arrested it is revealed that you are Xavier Hollings, a criminal who killed a guard and escaped a Texas prison. You go back to court and lose. Even Denise, your own wife (to which you ask yourself, “I had a wife?”), testifies against you. After you arrive at death row, she comes to visit merely to say how happy she is to be inheriting everything because apparently you are super wealthy. Hm.

As you eat your last meal, you have a moment of insight. Tidbits of info about Denise, prison, some guy named Zane, and a recalled soap product appear in your mind. Just enough to realize that you are innocent. Ultimately, the meaning is lost, and you are executed. Fortunately, this is not the end.

Once more, you are by the infernal river Styx. After a few years, Charon's boat emerges from the mist. He looks disappointed to see you.

Charon has got your back. He won’t think highly of you about it, of course.

What I just told you is only the first layer to the story. No moment in the game beat the suspense and surprise of seeing this reveal for the first time. Woah. That was my reaction. The protagonist clearly has a lot going on. The bits of info from this fiasco only serve to direct the gameplay after (Spoiler - click to show) Charon zaps you back to existence. I’ll stop the spoilers there. I’ve already told you too much.

As for my general thoughts about the story, the narrative itself was not particularly moving. Certainty, creative. It’s just that I was not drawn in by the characters or their motives. The drama was more like watching a film rather than feeling like you are the protagonist of the story.

Also, the ultimate cause of the amnesia was a bit underwhelming. I’m sorry. But at least the sprinkling of clues throughout the gameplay is combined with a dramatic reveal near the end that makes up for the lackluster parts. I cannot express this enough: The witty writing and gameplay implementation is what makes Lethe work. Otherwise, I would not award it five stars.

I think a lot of people can appreciate the writing. A favorite of mine was, “So far you're scoring zero on the Know Thyself Questionnaire.” The (Spoiler - click to show) H&R 207-7655 pay phone reference was especially clever.

CRITIQUES: Lethe is excellent, but it is not flawless, either. I had two cases where the game reached a dead end where no links appeared on the screen. In other playthroughs they were not an issue. I do not know what caused the issues, only that I was experimenting with the gameplay at the time. Your chances of seeing this is low. Be assured, that once you’ve played the game, you can cruise through it quite quickly.

There are also some minor spelling mistakes, including with character names that can be noticeable. The longer changes of dialog occasionally abandon the use of quotation marks. Finally, location descriptions are shown at the top of the screen, whether it is “Hotel Room” or “Oblivion.” However, sometimes they fail to change with new locations.

PART II: Broader context (time to go on a tangent)
(Spoiler - click to show)
You can play Amnesia through a digital archive.

At least that is what it says on IFDB (that’s how unsophisticated I am). But the content written about Amnesia explained that playing it was more than just clunking yourself in front of a computer. The part of my title that says, “30+ year old parser game,” should give you a sense of where I am. As someone who rarely crawls off IFDB, a lot of this is new terrain.

Apparently, when the game was published, playing it required buying a physical copy (which is so alien to me) of the game. From my perspective, it sounds like an artifact. However, reviews expressed a different angle. People have shared fond memories of playing Amnesia. Or at least of trying play it. While I have not, it was cool learning about its origins. Hopefully I’m not awkwardly trampling over everything.

I did attempt another existing remake called Amnesia: Restored after playing Lethe. For the record, I accessed Amnesia: Restored through the entry for Amnesia on IFDB. I used the link to the game’s own website and went to the section called “PLAY GAME.” I have a reason for going on this tangent. Just hear me out.

I don’t want to dismiss the immense collaborative effort- as showcased on its website- that was put into Amnesia: Restored, but the gameplay was a rocky experience for me. It seems the objective was to replicate the parser of Amnesia into the gameplay. If that’s the case, the gameplay Amnesia must have been wild… and frustrating to play. That could also be my inexperience talking.

Thing is, you must know the specific command the game wants at a given moment, almost like I was having a conversation with someone via a script. If you use the right command, great. Otherwise, the game lets you fall on your face without any direction. It was incredibly difficult to know what command or action was required. Play it and see for yourself. (Aside from my whining, I really do think there are parts of the game that are not functioning as intended.)

This is where Lethe comes in. Turns out it can function as a rough “tutorial” (my words) for Amnesia: Restored because Lethe also stays faithful to original writing. Seriously, the choices you make in Lethe can be punched into the parser. Not precise word-by-word, but close enough. Suddenly, everything fell into place. The parser responded smoothly. I was making progress and keeping up with the metaphorical conversation. Even better, it gave me a chance to explore Amnesia: Restored and appreciate what it had to offer. And it offers a lot.

The makeshift Lethe tutorial will end once you leave the hotel because Amnesia: Restored recreates the complex city navigation puzzle in Amnesia while Lethe does not. A few city locations will still apply although Lethe cuts back on nearly all simulated New York content. To be honest, if I did not have Lethe as a reference, I would still be stumbling around in the hotel room. But I managed to get the hang of it enough to brave the city puzzle on my own.

I must hand it to Amnesia: Restored. It goes the extra mile in incorporating built-in guides and visual elements in the game’s interface that were based on original feelies and physical materials. I was really impressed by that. I did not continue playing after I passed out on the street from exhaustion and was carted away (and the save function failed on me), but I can tell you it is worth a look. While I preferred Lethe, I sincerely suggest trying Amnesia: Restored too.

There you have it. The extent of my encounters with Amnesia.

Concluding thoughts
I apologize that this review was so long.

Lethe is faithful to the Amnesia storyline, but its choice-based format still offers a different experience. It eliminates parser related technicalities such as guess-the-verb by replacing everything with links. It bypasses puzzles for (Spoiler - click to show) navigating the city streets and solving riddles at gunpoint.

The trade-off is a simplified version of a vibrant world. It can’t even touch the complexity in Amnesia. But I think it does a decent job in capturing the general concept. I would love to hear second opinions from anyone who has played both.

I completely recommend Lethe as a thrilling Ink game with lots of surprises. Even more so if you are curious about a parser classic (correct?) turned into a choice-based piece of interactive fiction.

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Vespertines, by mondaysandwich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Has all the potential of being a high-quality urban fantasy game, December 9, 2022

This is an urban fantasy Twine game about seeking refuge in a new city. On your first day in Bareport you make a monumental discovery: contrary to what you always thought, the population of modern civilization is not entirely human. (Spoiler - click to show) Demons partly make up the waking world and have lives of their own in society. With nowhere else to go you find yourself taking a job at a bar called Vespertines with unearthly patrons.

At first, I thought this was a full-fleshed game. The game’s IFDB page explains that it is a multi-branching story with different endings. Right now, it is currently a demo (though a quality one, nonetheless). This review is for CHAPTER 1.

This is a Twine game that features character customization. It starts with the basics of choosing name, gender, and pronouns, and later lets the player customize the protagonist’s physical appearance such as hair, height, eyes, and body type. It only takes up a brief portion of the gameplay but still adds some richness that is nice to find in choice-based games.

Most of the gameplay is based on conversation, which some significant choices near the end such as (Spoiler - click to show) deciding whether to get a tattoo of a protection ward. I had the impression that the gameplay would be largely about the protagonist in their new job, but the chapter ends (Spoiler - click to show) once Gremory agrees to employ them. If you were looking forward to encountering paranormal bar patrons, you are out of luck at the moment.

There is not much to spoil right now. The story is still developing since the game is only on the first chapter. This is a partly a romance game and so far, everything has been built around (Spoiler - click to show) introducing the two (potential) romance option characters. But the game does not feel over-saturated with romance either. The characters are interesting for other reasons and the player is not required to purse a romantic relationship with them. I think this flexibility will appeal to players.

Most of the other urban fantasy games that I have played so far are a bit grittier. This one is a little more lighthearted and upbeat without abandoning its somber undertones. Then again, this is just the first chapter. I cannot say what direction it will go in.

The protagonist has run away from home for some unexplained reason, other than that they are being hunted by an unnamed entity. The only default piece of character background is that they previously lived in a country environment and now must adjust to life in the city. But other than that, the protagonist’s character features are selected by the player.

There are two love interests, Ashheart and Gremory, that can be romanced in the game, and their gender is selected by the player. Romance games can stumble when it comes to pacing or character dialog but so far, the game has managed itself pretty well. The characters, Ashheart and Gremory, do not seem contrived. Ashheart is thoughtful, mysterious, and cryptic without overdoing it while Gremory is an interesting blend of no-nonsense and compassion.

The game’s description flat-out mentions (should I put this under spoilers just in case? Fine.) that Ashheart and Gremory are (Spoiler - click to show) demons. While this proves to be a startling discovery for the protagonist the player already has a sense of what to expect. The game still devotes a chunk of gameplay for the player to ask questions about (Spoiler - click to show) demons and their place in society which adds some worldbuilding. The game ends before we get a chance to interact with other NPCs, but I hope that upcoming characters share the same quality.

The game’s appearance is basic but stylized. Grey screen with light grey text and pink links. The font and text organization create a simple and elegant look. There is a column on the left side of the screen with a link called “profile” that has an overview of your character’s attributes and stats. The game keeps track of stats for character self-awareness and attitude which are shown in percentage bars, similar in appearance to the format used in ChoiceScript games. While the game is currently not long enough to really see these stats at work, there indicators that the player’s choices do influence the gameplay, making everything more robust. For example, (Spoiler - click to show) if you have a high enough “withholding” stat an option to trust a character may be grayed out in an encounter. This provides opportunities for strategizing and encourages multiple playthroughs.

Final thoughts
This game has a lot of great things going for it including smooth implementation and complex characters. Does urban fantasy romance sound like your cup of tea? To summarize, here are some defining features that may interest players:

-Choice-based format romance with flexible gender identity and orientation
-Paranormal non-human NPCs
-Atmospheric city setting
-Offers another interpretation of the urban fantasy genre

Even if I was expecting Chapter 1 to have more content, I must admit I found myself thinking, “aw, it’s over?” It is off to a great start, and I hope it continues in this trajectory.

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Who Shot Gum E. Bear?, by Damon L. Wakes

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Sweet and sour forensics, October 5, 2022

You are Bubble Gumshoe, a private eye tasked in solving the murder of Gum E. Bear in Sugar City.

The game begins at the crime scene. Gum E. Bear's corpse is in the alley. Officer Donut is nearby. From here, the city is at your disposal.

While the game has a smaller map than I expected it contains engaging scenery. This would be a good choice if you want a mystery game without tons of rooms. Much of the gameplay is geared towards talking to other characters but some snooping is encouraged. The game utilizes the smell and taste command for specific objects which not only assists in your investigation but pairs nicely with the fact that everything is made of candy. And in case you get stuck there are pointers at the top of the screen.

The humor in the gameplay comes from the candy-themed interpretation of a modern-day world. Experience the grunge and exotic nightlife of Sugar City. Adult bookstore? Not what you think. (Spoiler - click to show)

>x books
You weren't aware that toffee could bend that way.

Jawbreaker projects a gob of syrup into a nearby spittoon.

Despite the bizarreness of a candy constructed world, the game takes Bear’s death quite seriously. In clinical detail it provides a forensic overview of the crime scene:

Gum E Bear lies face-up on the floor, a gelatinous crater in his chest. A faint trickle of his liquid centre flows from it, pooling on the ground. A scattering of gummy chunks lie nearby, projected from the exit wound.

The fact that the victim is made of candy adds a comic effect to an otherwise gruesome scene. It is a new take on a murder mystery and draws the player in.

Without a doubt the story is a creative premise. I was into the story and characters right from the beginning. Imagine taking your Halloween candy and transforming them into anthropomorphized characters. It was fun to visualize. But things did not turn out like I expected. Not necessarily the content of the plot but its structure.

At one point I desperately needed hints beyond the in-game pointers which I could not find. The game uses the “Accuse” command to make the accusation and end the game. Eventually, I decided to use it randomly to see if I could stumble across the winning ending or at least bits of information to point me in the right direction. And I did. (Spoiler - click to show) I regretted it, actually.

The following has extreme spoilers. I want to discuss the outcome of the mystery because I feel strongly about it, but it will ruin the game for you if you do. Please play the game first.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Unfortunately, I learned that most of the gameplay is irrelevant to solving the case. It made me wonder if I did in fact exhaust every puzzle. Perhaps there would be no more hints to give even if they were available. This saddened me because it meant that most of the content that I thought of as important turned out to be more or less a red herring.

This is a detective murder mystery story. The start of the game tantalizes the player by saying, “Explore the area, gather evidence, conduct interviews, and ACCUSE the culprit once you've determined...” which sets the stage for some investigative gameplay. But it turns out that the investigative theme is quite shallow.

I am giving you one more spoiler warning. Turn back if you have not tried attempted to play the game.
(Spoiler - click to show)
What frustrated me was the flimsiness of the evidence used to nail the murderer, Officer Donut. Gum E. Bear was shot by a handgun which can be found in the dumpster. Apparently, Officer Donut is the murderer because he has fingers to pull the trigger of a gun while everyone else lacks the necessary digits to do the same. Sure, Candy Kane, Jawbreaker, Don Toblerone, and Big Hunk do not have fingers. But what about everyone else in Sugar City? We see people (candy people, I guess) everywhere. Do they all lack fingers? I thought that the game would make you work to solve the murder, to find the evidence. Instead, you do not even need to leave the alley to win the game. You just accuse him, and the game does the rest. That saddened me.

I was surprised that the handgun was the only evidence used to solve the murder. There were so many clues that I was trying to investigate. The main “puzzle” I was trying to solve was about the red liquorice candy woman in the bathroom stall. If you open the stall, you see that she is consuming sherbet, which is an addictive substance. It is also the same substance found on Bear’s face. The subject of addictive substances is present throughout Sugar City. A theme for the story, maybe?

Big Hunk, the club bouncer, says, “’The streets are swimming in nose sweetener. Twenty bucks there's someone doing it in the toilets right now. I'd stop it if I could but I've got my hands full out here.’" I thought there was a potential puzzle here. If I managed to get the patrons to leave, Big Hunk could investigate. Perhaps then, and this is where I started to speculate, the player could share their findings about the broken bathroom sink.

The sink has remnants of a strawberry flavored (remember when I said this game uses the taste and smell verbs? yuck) liquid that is present in Bear’s body. Sure, that would just confirm that Bear did in fact trash the bathroom which we knew from Candy Kane. But then maybe that would lead the game in a new direction. I was excited about the possibilities although I probably got ahead of myself.

I am going to wrap up this spoiler-intensive ramble with some questions. I did enjoy this game and will be eager to give it another go if it turns out that I missed things. And I hope I did. If anyone has answers, I would love to hear them.

1: Is there any goal that you have when you talk to Don Toblerone? If yes, is it conversation related or is it solely for acquiring a pack of candy cigarettes?
2: Is there a use for the candy cigarettes?
3: Is it possible to unlock the door/gain access to the VIP lounge?
4: Is it possible to acquire a quarter to buy a newspaper from the newspaper box?
5: Is there any content involving the taffy factory?
6: Or are all these red herrings?

I did not realize this at first, but Bubble Gumshoe is a female character. We do not have much in terms of backstory, but I loved the character description that says, “You're a street-smart broad with a hard sugar shell but a soft centre.”

The characters, both main NPCs and background characters, are cleverly named with humorous personas. The only downside is that character dialog is limited. Often you are unable to ask a broad range of questions about the murder. Or even their own work or themselves. But they are still fun and interesting to interact with.

Final thoughts
As I started to play the game the experience was going at a solid four stars, but this slid as the (Spoiler - click to show) weak implementation of the player’s investigative choices began to emerge. This did not just affect the gameplay’s depth, but it also dragged the story down. Made it less dynamic. But the humor and creative premise makes it worth a try. In fact, the humor still makes me laugh. And with a protagonist named Bubble Gumshoe, well, you have got to play it.

Please excuse this analogy, but I say this earnestly: Playing this game conjures the idea of planning elaborate, decorative cookies. Stay with me. You have the frosting, and sprinkles, and whatnot planned but you run out of time and only complete the basics without the extras making it into the final product. I am not suggesting that the roughness in the game was because the author ran out of time. Instead, it merely seemed like a well thought out piece that lacked the finish that would have made it a fantastic piece. But kudos for a fun game, nonetheless.

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Hanging by threads, by Carlos Pamies

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A city of webs that is tough to untangle, October 3, 2022

Hanging by threads kicks off with an exciting and clever intro. You and a group of people are traveling to the city of Oban when the tour guide decides to throw a wrench into the game plan: Only one person gets to enter. The decision is made by drawing sticks. This builds the suspense of winning an exclusive and coveted access to the innards of a mysterious realm. Atmosphere has a faint, faint similarity with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, minus the candy and the kids. Instead, it is a city suspended over a chasm held together by spider webs.

Once you win the sticks drawing (which is a no-brainer) you make an important choice. Do you take a lantern, knife, or binoculars into the city? Each item opens unique content in the gameplay. This also encourages replays to try each item. If you want my take on it, (Spoiler - click to show) the lantern’s content was the most innovative while the knife’s content provides more exposition on the story. Binocular’s content was interesting too but with less pizazz.

After the intro you can explore the business level or the lower level to see some of the locals. Here, the gameplay is descriptive. Life is a tangle of catwalks and ladders. All you have to do is explore.

The overarching story is intriguing. Turns out that Oban is (Spoiler - click to show) slowly falling apart. There is some secrecy about this. You hear quiet conversations in the game room and bar where people discuss an unnamed decision they need to make. An evacuation, maybe? I cannot say for sure.

There is a major weak point that drags everything down. Sudden and abrupt endings. You are puttering around doing this or that when the game ends with (Spoiler - click to show) (see below):

My surroundings seem strange, as if everything is moving and I can't stand, so I sit where I am. There's no doubt now. I don't have time to watch what the others are doing, and being honest I don't care, they should be ready for it, and I shouldn't be living this situation.


??? What does it mean by “others” and what did the player do to cause this ending?

The game is fickle. In one playthrough you may step foot somewhere and be fine. In another, you get this message. Experimenting is tricky because you never know when the game will cut you off. Perhaps there is a pattern that I am missing. But after playing and replaying the game, I still ran into the same issue.

Because of this, I have not reached a winning end. Or any end at all besides the one mentioned here.

I felt like I did not see enough to really experience the other characters. You do get a sense of people’s livelihoods which was interesting. Instead of (Spoiler - click to show) fishing for fish in a body of water people “fish” for birds inside the chasm beneath the city. Surprisingly, we also learn that (Spoiler - click to show) some people are not too concerned about the city falling apart. They just see it as the natural way of things. But when I had the chance to talk one-on-one with another character the game would come in with the abrupt ending.

The protagonist's background is also unexplored. The gameplay is in first person. We know that the PC is male and uses a cane to walk even though he is relatively young. But that does not stop him from braving the floating walkways. He seems ambitious and I would have liked to know more.

The game uses a beige background with black text and a black line at the bottom of the screen. It is a simple design, but the game sometimes surprises the player with extra effects.

The most prominent effect occurs when (Spoiler - click to show) visiting the bar by the catwalk with the lantern. The screen and text are black to hide the words from view, but the player’s mouse is surrounded by a halo of “light” represented by rings that conjure up the appearance of a flashlight illuminating a wall quite convincingly. When you scroll over the words they appear. It closely follows the effect found in another Twine game called my father’s long, long legs where (brief spoiler for that game) (Spoiler - click to show) the protagonist uses a flashlight to search underground tunnels. The only difference is that in this game the light is white instead of *yellow. Either way, this is great application of effects to tell a story.
*Correction: I remembered wrong. They are both white.

There are other effects thrown in there, but I will leave those for you to find. The only criticism I have for design is that there are some noticeable spelling errors.

Final thoughts
It has a lot of great things going for it. Compelling beginning, whimsical setting, and the freedom to simply wander. Unfortunately, there are snags that cut the game short. Just as things get going the game decides to jump out and say, "surprise! The end." If this were fixed, I would give this a higher score, without question.

I do think the surreal city setting makes it a game worth playing for a few playthroughs. But playing one that trips you up with random and contextless endings without providing the ability to save weakens the experience.

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Night City 2020, by Hoper
You can hide in the city. Or you can escape it. Or maybe rise above it., September 22, 2022

Disclaimer: I am not literate in French. Instead, I played the game with translation. I would highlight the entire page, right click, and select "translate selection to English," which did a decent job (I think). Does that overlook the fact that it is a game made in a foreign language? I hope not. I am not trying to distract from that. But it was a game that I wanted to play for a while, and I was excited to find a way to do so.

The premise of the story is that the protagonist previously received a job from a high-ranking executive of a large corporation with the task of ensuring the safety of a visiting nephew. But when this goes wrong the executive goes on the warpath. The protagonist is now on the run, trying to make ends meet with shady jobs.

Night City 2020 is set in a world where only people with upper-class jobs can live in the middle of the city with skyscrapers containing the best cutting-edge technology. Without a corporate job, an individual cannot even indulge the thought of stepping foot into that area of the city. If you did have such a job, it would change everything.

This is an RPG game. Stats, character customization, combat, you name it. All in a choice-based format. It also follows a choose-your-own-adventure style. The player is presented with one or more choices that are numbered: If you want to do X click to passage 4, if you want to do Y go to passage 10. This format tends to make the gameplay more generalized at the risk of the player not feeling like they can closely interact with the story. I think Night City 2020 makes up for that by allowing the player to fine-tune their character’s stats and inventory items (as is often the case with RPGs). Without these features the game would have been less engaging.

The game begins with customizing your character with cybernetic implants. Each option gives you a wide range of abilities from built-in night vision to brain-computer interface. However, each implant reduces your humanity score, a stat that affects your ability to connect with other people. This was a catchy way of starting the game.

Gameplay branches out quite a bit, depending on the job you pursue. You can investigate a gangster's missing sister, investigate the disappearance of a corporate official's daughter, or accept a mission to assassinate a former rival. Each route has unique gameplay but later, they start to merge. The game has a score system of 20 points. Not all endings reach a perfect score. Instead, the game encourages the player to try out different routes, adding replay value.

While the jobs feature different gameplay in the first half of the game, they eventually gravitate to the (Spoiler - click to show) same location: the pharmacy, where the endgame occurs. This is where the story becomes streamlined. They all center around discovering a scheme of illegal cybernetic surgery and human trafficking. How the player responds to this is tailored to the job you choose at the start of the game. The story content consists of language and violence. There was one scene with some (Spoiler - click to show) brief graphic sexual content that caught me off guard but most of the game does not include this.

There is some worldbuilding. There is an opportunity to check the news online, and the game will sometimes interject news items in certain scenes, such as when using public transportation. The Neuromat implant also sometimes provides extra information on things you encounter. I think this attention to detail helped make the city setting more interesting.

Its appearance is white background with black lines and text. Some dialog is colour-coded for convenience. The left side of the screen has a column with the player’s stats and links with reference guides, such as a glossary, that provides nifty background information without leaving the game. This was one of the first things that stood out to me.

Occasionally, there is art. I did not see the first piece of art until later in the game, so it took me by surprise. The art is basic and done in pencil or ink but does augment the player's imagination of this futuristic cyberpunk world (I guess technically it takes place in the past since it is set in 2020 instead of 2022 as I write this review. Everything in it is still futuristic). I found four total.

Design wise, there are some rough areas. I only found one broken link. When I clicked on (Spoiler - click to show) 305 it led me to a page where the only option was 85, but it was not a link. All it said was "[[85]" which required that I restore to an earlier save. I also encountered two cases where a macro error shows up instead of the link. Other than that, the game seemed consistently built.

Final thoughts
It is not a flawless piece, but it is one that can maintain the player’s interest, especially if they enjoy RPG games. Be aware, if you end up translating the game like I did with my browser, you will probably have a slight less seamless experience. There is lots of stat management with a focus on combat, and its branching gameplay encourages more than one playthrough. Overall, it is a nice addition to the cyberpunk genre.

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