In this bite-sized adventure, seventeen (or so) Ebenezabeth Scrooge is training her powers with her adopted father, Ebenezer Scrooge. She has the skill of traveling across space and time simply by staring at fire. While she has not been hired for an official mission, as is the case in the second and third games (nor is there combat), she still encounters challenges that, as the title indicates, result in acquiring her signature weapon. For good, of course.
Apparently, there is a puzzle design challenge called EnigMarch where a prompt is assigned to each day during March to inspire authors. How the Little Match Girl Got Her Colt Paterson Revolver, and Taught a Virtue to a Goblin was made for March 13 (I promise I’ll shorten the title from here on). The prompt?
MATCH. I think that seals the deal.
It’s pretty straightforward. The game begins in the Scrooge household, London during 1846. Ebenezer presents you with four fire sources: a lamp, streetlamp, candle, and fireplace, each of which lead to different settings. This is a game where you do not need fire to return home. All you do is “wake up.” Which is probably a smart idea since the (Spoiler - click to show) paper castle location would not fare well with an open source of flame.
The gameplay follows a fetch/trade quest structure. I give you something in exchange for something else that can be used as leverage for another character so they make a similar exchange with me so I can appease yet another character elsewhere with my new item, etc. That’s how the game flows. Many of the NPCs have struggles, and the goal is to help them out with a useful object.
Later, it occurred to me that you can only have one inventory item on you at a time. Certainly not an inventory-intensive puzzle-fest. The puzzles are not particularly awe-inspiring, but they are consistent and enjoyable.
There is one little subtly that I must acknowledge. It’s barely been a week since I first played The Little Match Girl 3 which was recently released. One memorable moment from that was (mild spoilers for the third game) (Spoiler - click to show) with the location on Deimos, one of Mars’ moons. I distinctly remember seeing Mars and being able to examine Tharsis, the planet’s largest city, on its surface. It was described as- here, I’ll go find it:
Mars is a waning crescent, so Deimos must be waxing gibbous... you think.
On the night side of the planet are the lights of cities: The biggest one is Tharsis.
The Martian capital of Tharsis is so tiny, you could blot it out with your thumb. You hope never again to see it in any greater detail, if you can help it.
Well, guess what, Ebenezabeth? That’s exactly where we’re going.
Oh. Joke is on me. How the Little Match Girl technically takes place before the third game in which she is nineteen years old. But the third game was released first… which means “You hope never again to see it in any greater detail,” foreshadows How the Little Match Girl.
I wonder if anyone else has made this connection. It would be interesting to know if anyone spotted it before I did. If anything, the overlap only continues to show the complexity of the “Little Match Girl” universe.
I'm not kidding you. I remember observing (Spoiler - click to show) Tharsis and thinking how cool it would be to visit a (Spoiler - click to show) fictional Mars city. And so, I was thrilled to see (Spoiler - click to show) THARSIS, CAPITAL OF MARS flash across the screen when I glanced at the streetlamp.
Voices are shrieking at you from all angles, hawking skin treatments, hallucinogens, escort services, antiques, homegrown organs, designer handbags, religious experiences, illegal pets—monitors and loudspeakers are built into the walls, into the ground, into the railings and utility poles. Everyone but you is ignoring all this effortlessly.
One shop, way at the edge of the open-air mall, seems to be fairly quiet. Streets lead southwest and west.
But Ebenezabeth had things long figured out: (Spoiler - click to show) Tharsis would not be the best place to live.
If you are new to the series, this is a fantastic starter guide. Naturally, one would consider starting at the first game, but How the Little Match Girl would also be an appropriate start. Heck, all of them would, due to their flexibility. For first timers, though I would still recommend either the original The Little Match Girl or this game. The latter gives you a solid understanding about the mechanics of Ebenezabeth’s powers in a compact gameplay experience.
As I have mentioned, How the Little Match Girl is less structured around a specific objective or “mission” like we see in her other adventures. However, a narrative does emerge. The game does not begin with, “Father, I am going on a quest to find a mystical revolver.” The possibility of acquiring said revolver emerges later. If anything, the story is centered on (Spoiler - click to show) fielding the romantic advances between the tin soldier and paper dancer in the paper castle. They both like each other but have been told by a felt goblin that love always lands in heartbreak and thus be avoided.
But Ebenezabeth does not accept that nonsense. (Spoiler - click to show) She makes the tin soldier and the paper dancer to feel more confident about themselves but ultimately it is not enough. She must deal with the goblin as indicated by the game’s title. To “deal” with someone means different things in each game in the series, but here, it is simply about educating a goblin. If you want to know what that entails, play the game.
I was pleased to find the adventure recap that occurs after you (Spoiler - click to show) feed Colt. As he works on his revolver, Ebenezabeth gives an overview of the characters and places she encountered from the first game. Because I have already played it, there is a feeling of, "heh, I know who you're talking about."
NPCs are not the focus in this story. Except for Colt. He’s literally in the title. Most characters encountered in the four locations never form a relationship with Ebenezabeth, although some still express their gratitude after receiving help. Everything is ultimately about the little match girl and the focusing of her skills through fire.
My only disappointment is the cat only gets a mention this game.
How the Little Match Girl is slick but not without roughness.
There is a bug that occurs when (Spoiler - click to show) trying to smell items in Zadar’s shop. This is merely my experience:
(Spoiler - click to show) I was puttering around the location called BYBLOS, PHOENICIA (which has a lovely blue background) when it happened. After I punched in "smell" or "smell [object]" just to try it, the game froze and then crashed. At first, the parser did not respond. I waited. Then the words disappeared leaving a blue screen behind. This later became a white screen. It was if the game just decided to call it quits. I had to abandon the playthrough when that happened.
There are also some other, more superficial technicalities in the gameplay. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show) I think it could be made clearer that the great hall in the paper castle can be accessed from the courtyard. But since this is already a high-quality game produced within a few days, I have to cut it some slack.
I happy to see that colour-coding the background for each location is still shown. Parser does not always have to be an unchanging white screen.
How the Little Match Girl is a great game made even more impressive by the fact that it was written in a meager three days. Does it have the pristine shininess from the games in the main series? Well, no. That said, if you had never played Ryan Veeder's works before but tried this one, I bet you would ask yourself: "If this is what he can do in three days, imagine what he could create without any time restraints." Super awesome games, that's what.
And if you are a fan of Ebenezabeth, playing this game is a given.
(In light of some helpful feedback, I have edited this review for clarity.)
Our little match girl is nineteen years old and still on a (new) mission.
For those who are hearing about this for the first time, The Little Match Girl 3: The Escalus Manifold is the third game in the “The Little Match Girl,” series, the first game simply titled The Little Match Girl. They follow a kind-hearted girl (she gets older in each game) as she learns to travel to new realms through her connection with fire. Hence the match reference. You do not need to play them to enjoy them, but if you are curious, you might as well start from the beginning. It’s up to you.
Before the game begins, we get a briefing from the protagonist's father, Ebenezer Scrooge. Almost like Mission Impossible but with the appropriate atmosphere suited to this story. The Snow Queen has been manipulating people far and wide. She controls them through Mirror Shards that can alter a person’s behavior to make them act destructively, and an unnamed client has tasked you with ending this abuse.
The Snow Queen is dangerous. But you are not alone. Or at least you won't be.
Because this game? Is all about teamwork.
The gameplay is about recruiting a team of NPCs to travel and fight with you as you prepare for your fight against the Snow Queen. Only the best companions are accepted, which means searching high and low for teammate material. Staying true to Ebenezabeth’s origin story, you travel across space and time through fire. Look at a fire source, and bam. New place, new time. You start at Finland, 1848.
There are six exciting realms in the main gameplay, and each have fire sources for travel and places to take naps (you will need them) to recharge your energy levels. The exception is with (Spoiler - click to show) Nonolulu 2933. It lacks both. That one’s a bit of a wild card.
Once you identify a potential team member, you must solve a puzzle to “free” (literally or figuratively, it depends) them to join your cause. These puzzles* were creative and fun to solve. For me, they were one of the highlights of the gameplay. You fight the Snow Queen if you think you’re ready. She’ll be waiting in her palace where the game begins. (*My favorite puzzle of all was (Spoiler - click to show) communicating with the stones. You can’t recruit them, of course, but it was an excellent puzzle.)
The Little Match Girl 3 does not have death or graphic violence. No assassinations this time. But combat is a central feature in the gameplay. There are many people operating as the Snow Queen’s puppets. To save them, you must "deliver a sound thrashing to the afflicted party," to borrow Ebenenzer's words. Defeating them in combat frees them since it expels the Mirror Shard that was keeping them under the Queen’s control. And, in fact, most characters will thank you for doing so.
The gameplay is not “about” freeing as many characters as possible. Aside from (Spoiler - click to show) the two guards in the palace, fighting characters is technically optional. Thing is, you must increase your skillsets before taking on the Snow Queen. Mirror Shards allow you to upgrade yourself and your teammates, making it in your best interest to win in combat as much as possible to acquire them.
Not a fan of combat in interactive fiction? The Little Match Girl 3 just might surprise you. I won’t hash out the rules since you can go play it for yourself, but I liked the flexibility of the combat’s mechanics. Freedom of movement is not dependent on fighting your way through hordes of NPCs. This allows you to pick and choose your battles at your convenience while enjoying the scenery. It’s well-balanced.
Similarly, the strategy for combat is nicely implemented because it provides technicality while also being easy to master. During combat, you make a move for Ebenezabeth, and then a move for each teammate based on a list of possible actions that are unique to each character. These lists are further developed throughout the gameplay.
What should Ebenezabeth do?
SHOOT - Fire your revolver at an enemy. (Ammo: 6/6)
DEFEND - Brace yourself for an attack.
RELOAD - Load up the barrel of your six-shooter.
BOLSTER - Spend 3 HP to increase an ally's Attack temporarily.
KOYNNOKSET - Spend 8 HP to summon entangling vines that grasp at all enemies.
It was cool how you gain extra skills by collecting wearables which can be worn by you or another teammate. Mix and match. Once you get the hang of everything, you zip through it all quite quickly. (Spoiler - click to show) I was surprised at how quickly I defeated the Snow Queen (but if you think you can take her out at the start of the game, think again).
I want to chew the fat on one technicality: Putting a Mirror Shard in a phylactery automatically upgrades your level and health points but can also upgrade any of the six other stats you possess. However, the number of stats that are upgraded are chosen at random. Sometimes you only get two, other times it is more fruitful.
To be honest, (Spoiler - click to show) I would undo until I got upgrades for five or six stats. People reading this will probably sigh at me in disappointment, but I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm trying to make the most out of resources. When you are a time traveling assassin, you have to take what you can get.
You insert the Mirror Shard into Eunoia's Phylactery. Eunoia levels up!
Max HP +1!
Her lip quivers. "That can't be all I get. I insist you UNDO and try that again."
She said it, not me.
In all sincerity, this game is extremely generous with its resources. I would hoard inventory items that can replenish your HP during combat, only to learn that I never really needed them. Frequent use of UNDO is probably why I found it so easy to dominate without any NPC team members. I was so effective on my own, having them would only function as an extra step in the combat scenes.
In that regard, it is probably a good thing that every stat is not upgraded with every Mirror Shard. Plus, I am saying this as someone who has strategized through the gameplay. First-time players will experience it with a blank slate (hence why I put some of this under a spoiler tag), and it will have plenty of challenges.
The only feature that confused me was changing my affinity. The (Spoiler - click to show) man at the bar in Honolulu explains how you can temporarily alter your affinity to try new skills, but no matter which beverages I consumed, I could not find an application for any of them or notice any effect on the gameplay. I am probably overlooking something, but what? It would be nice to know. I’m probably missing out on the fun.
Usually I have the “Story” section before the one on characters, but we’re shaking it up. The Little Match Girl 3 is all about the NPCs.
I've played this game several times already. I snatched it the second it appeared on IFDB. Following The Little Match Girl 2: Annus Evertens, I was looking forward to what came next. However, I wanted to hold off on writing this review until after I recruited all four characters. They are a key component of this game’s experience, and I was not sure if I were missing anything important.
It’s not required that you recruit team members. In fact, fighting the Snow Queen alone- you promised not to- has an unexpected but hilarious impact at the end of the game: (Spoiler - click to show) An invite from The Universal Sisterhood of Naughty Little Girls.
Such ruthlessness, coupled with such wanton disregard for filial responsibility, is more than sufficient qualification for membership in our highly selective organization.
In the end, I could only recruit three characters. And so, I decided to proceed with the review just to get it out there. I'll figure out the rest some other time (see the note at the end of this section).
Moving on. As is often the case with the author’s work, the characters shine. There are four NPCs who can join your team to help defeat the Snow Queen. Here, they aren’t just firepower for combat. Their implementation is discrete and yet enriches the gameplay with a refreshing vividness. They feel like traveling companions rather than invisible accessories.
The NPCs I have managed to recruit so far are (Spoiler - click to show) Hrieman, Eunoia, and Nuci. A highlight of the entire game is the spontaneous dialog that occurs as you travel to new locations or examine scenery.
The sky is blazing with millions of silent stars. The ground is bare rock, the color of charcoal.
A nearby crater has been converted into the dish of a large radio telescope.
You can go north, southeast, southwest, east, and west from here.
(Spoiler - click to show)
"How exciting!" Eunoia says. "What an adventuresome place this is!"
Hrieman flies up for a better view, wheeling around for a while before returning to your shoulder. "It's curved!" he says. "I mean, it's round! I mean, of course it's round. But I'd never seen the curvature of anything before."
Nuci stares up at the stars. She is speechless.
It adds unexpected flair that also reminds you that everything is being done as a group.
I was especially pleased to see (Spoiler - click to show) Eunoia, the mermaid princess from Atlantis. I immediately recognized her since she is introduced in the series’ first game, The Little Match Girl. And I'm liking her more and more. She seems genuinely affectionate for Ebenezabeth.
Eunoia sits on the beach, regarding you expectantly.
Oddly enough, in the first game she seemed colder, as did her father and sister. There was- it’s hard to describe- not a bitter or envious vibe but... something that gave the characters a sharp edge that you could accidentally cut your finger on. The effect was subliminal. Now, she has evolved without losing her core identity. Warmhearted, though still dramatic. I’m glad her character made it into this episode.
I must admit though, my favorite NPC in this game was (Spoiler - click to show) Nuci.
Note: I have a hunch about the fourth one: (Spoiler - click to show) Cole, who lives on Deimos, one of Mars’ moons. Issue is that his cow is orbiting overhead. He’s trying to figure out the calculations to retrieve the cow. I don’t know how to help him. Does the large net have a use in this puzzle? I tried (pathetically) throwing it at the cow but that did not work.
I have little to add here. Your contract is to take out the Snow Queen (you already know this) who is fooling around with Mirror Shards to (Spoiler - click to show) channel energy into the Mirror of Reason on the first floor of her palace. It’s an ongoing project. She wants to reach/use a realm called Escalus Manifold via the Mirror. Hence the game’s title. I did not make that connection right away.
Word of advice: If you’re curious about the Snow Queen’s scheme, I highly encourage you to (Spoiler - click to show) examine the Mirror of Reason when you have NPCs (more the merrier) in your party because it produces dialog that provides additional background context for the story.
Sitting at my computer in the 21st century, Finland in the year 1848 sounds so long ago, but that’s at the same time period for Ebenezabeth’s “present day” life in London. The (Spoiler - click to show) date on the official letter at the end of the game reads 1847. So being dropped into Finland a year later would not be much of a difference for her. Just some random tidbit that put things into perspective.
This is a parser game that uses colours in the gameplay. Every location gets its own screen colour. In fact, colour-coding settings was also shown in the second game in the series. It’s excellent at making the player feel like they are being transported to another place.
Also: Is that (Spoiler - click to show) Nuci in the cover art? I pictured her as having less of a humanoid body shape, but that’s cool either way.
Let’s reflect on how far we have come (so far): I have now played three games starring Ebenezabeth. Each one is unique in plot and gameplay while still sharing the same essence. As for a favorite, you can’t really pick one. It’s like having a selection of beloved film DVDs that are neatly organized on the living room shelf.
The Little Match Girl (first game) is where the magic begins. It is a high-quality game and a strong introduction to the series but did not quite have the same blow-your-mind effect that the next two games had. It’s still well worth your time. Especially if you want to know the full story behind the protagonist. As for the next two…
There was a stronger sense of satisfaction at the end of The Little Match Girl 2, but the gameplay mechanics were more consistent and impressive in third game. For me, the key difference is being able to revisit realms by eyeballing an open flame. It weaves the puzzles through time and space while also giving the player a little more control over the chaos. Both are unique adventures. I can’t pick a favorite.
The Little Match Girl 3 is a treasure to play. It is a mix of action and heartwarming moments blended into a truly unique game. The narrative, character dynamics, and combat mechanics are all integrated together to create a piece that beckons you to play it and return for more. It is perfectly playable if you have not played the first two episodes, although I have a feeling that if you end up liking this one, you will be tempted to play them all.
I am looking forward to the next game, The Little Match Girl 4: Crown of Peals (currently listed on IFDB), but I am also dreading it since it will be the last in the series. Ebenezabeth is getting older. Bittersweet, although I have loved viewing her transformation throughout each game.
UPDATE: I FINALLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO RECRUIT THE FOURTH CHARACTER. In case anyone wants to laugh at me, read on. MAJOR STORY & GAMEPLAY SPOILERS. (Spoiler - click to show)
I would wait until the cow was directly above me: The flying cow passes right over your head. If you need more context, look at the character section of this review.
I tried the following commands:
>throw net at cow
>catch cow with net
You can't do much more than look from way down here.
I now had the impression that I needed to be higher or have some additional mechanism that would allow the net to reach the cow. Or maybe the net was for a different puzzle. Perfect case where I overthink things. The correct solution was "take cow" or "catch cow." Simple as that.
But hold on a minute. Cole and Nuci... get married? WHAT? I did not see any chemistry/individual character dynamics between them at all during the gameplay. Good for them, though.
I want to make sure we are on the same page. At the end of the game, you can get letters from three out of the four possible teammates, assuming they were recruited. Cole sends a yellowed letter and Nuci sends a crisp letter. However, if they are both in your team, you don't get either letter. Instead, you get a picture postcard that says:
I never heard of no honeymooners cutting into their honeymoon time to send any Wish You Were Here cards but Nuci says it's de rigueur so here we are.
It's signed by them as Nuci + Cole. Married? Am I reading that correctly? Wow. Great game.
Overrun is a cyberpunk hacking game set in 2050. Nearly two decades prior, a virus known as the Crash Virus wiped out the internet and every database, toppling governments and nations which would be replaced by corporations. To investigate the virus, computer experts turned to an experimental brain-computer interface called a cyberdeck that allows the human mind to enter the digital world. Eventually, the Crash Virus was destroyed, though not without killing some cyberdeck users in the process.
You were one of the experts who helped in destroying the Crash Virus and are now employed at the corporation Renraku Arcology as a programmer and corporate decker. One day, your System Identification Number (SIN)- akin to a Social Security number- is erased. You have no memory as to why, only that without a SIM, you no longer exist in society. To find answers, you turn to your cyberdeck.
Janos Biro originally wrote and released this game in Portuguese but later posted an English version, both of which are available on IFDB. If it isn’t obvious, I played the latter. Overrun is based off a tabletop RPG game called Shadowrun, which details the discovery of magic in conjunction with pre-existing cybernetic technology. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals similar themes and features in both pieces, particularly dystopian corporate undertones. The game also explains that Biro created a 1996 version of Overrun in QBASIC. It is cool when authors decide to revisit their previous works.
I was not expecting such a complex and immersive game when I sat down to play this. I figured it would be a familiar cyberpunk Twine game about defying corporations with gameplay where you are presented with three to four choices at a time to influence a storyline. While those games are also fun, Overrun brings something new to the table. It's a hacking game, or at least a "hacking" game, but one that makes you feel like a pro at computer hacking wizardry even though you fully know that you are just messing around on a Twine game.
Everything is centered around completing missions where you hack into systems to either find files, disable system functions, or shutdown the entire server. Completing missions rewards you with experience points, and payments from jobs allow you to upgrade utilities that give you extra skills in the field. You can also sell files for extra income.
Hacking is an interesting experience in Overrun. The server is represented with an in-game map depicting corridors and system nodes, within which are your avatar and icons representing IC programs that patrol for intruders. You move in up/down/left/right directions, either by clicking the screen or using your keyboard. Next to the map is a list of your utilities and your stat resources. Spending memory on your utilities gives you an edge of overcoming challenges. Just be careful not to set off any alarms.
It really feels like you are hacking into the "mainframe." That sounds cringy, but it is true. There is a somewhat steep learning curve. I was clicking things at random for a while but eventually I got the hang of all the RPG functions and features. Everything was rather easy after that. Maybe even too easy, but I have no complaints. Strategy is still required and provides a meaningful gameplay experience. This is what the menu of your cyberdeck looks like:
[Decker] [Files] [Mission]
[Saves] [Options] [Help] [Quit]
And that's not including the extensive stats at the bottom of the page. In retrospect, all this feels straightforward, but nonetheless left me overwhelmed when I first found the game. There is a learning curve that may compel players to quit before reaching that moment when you finally feel like you are making progress. For me, it was using the utilities in combat.
Pyro is containing you!
Pyro caused 8 damage to you.
The more you upgrade your utilities the more effective they are in the field. However, they start out as being in effective and flimsy until they are upgraded. Spending 6 memory on a mirror function that did not even work (see above) was frustrating, but it was all part of the learning curve. Stick with it, especially if you like RPG games.
To advance the story, you must build a rapport with the hackers in the Hacker Bar. They give you tasks and odd jobs in exchange for information or leads on your situation. The more they trust you the more exciting the quests. Later, there is a (Spoiler - click to show) big boss fight where you recruit almost all the hacker NPCs to hunt down a character who refers to herself as Alice in Wonderland. That one is a lot of fun.
My main complaint is a need for organizing ongoing objectives. There is the “Mission” section that lists active missions from the Hacker Board, but it does not include special tasks taken on from the other hackers. The annotation section in your files similarly lists the tasks you’ve completed, but not the ones currently in progress. While the hosts are automatically listed in your cyberdeck, you must remember who requested what which can be confusing if you have taken on multiple tasks. An objectives page would have been helpful.
For those interested in worldbuilding, Overrun is a great example. There is an info section called Shadowland that provides more than enough story context. More than most people would care to read, although I far prefer having too much over too little. I appreciate the author’s thoughtfulness in providing in-depth exposition for the player.
Time to dive into some (major) spoilers. (Spoiler - click to show) Turns out your SIN was erased because your physical body died. How is this possible? Well, it appears that the human brain can make a digital copy of itself as a last measure of defense when the physical body is on the brink of being killed. The person lives on as a program in their own cyberdeck, sometimes not realizing what had happened, as is the case for the protagonist. This raises all sorts of interesting implications of what it means to be a former human and a sentient being in the non-physical world.
This game does leave you with murky, answered questions. (Spoiler - click to show) There is some ambiguity about Project Morgan and why Renraku decided to terminate you as their employee. As part of your job, you were testing Morgan's program, but somehow was deemed a threat to the corporation. An “accident” was faked to cover for your death when in truth Renraku hired some shadowrunners to do the dirty work by ensuring that you were killed while hooked up to your cyberdeck. Ironically, two of those shadowrunners turn out to be at the Hacker Bar. If you ask the right questions, Morgan will tell you about this. I recommend saving before you talk to Morgan in the Hacker Bar because some dialog options only appear once.
While technically the erasure of your SIN means you are free from the influence of governments or corporations, you are still confined with the limitations of your cyberdeck program. Morgan and Jerusalem ramble about the Resonance and its path towards freedom but the game never provides any answers. The player is not free their program whereas Morgan apparently is, and she makes it sound so easy. Morgan is extremely confident that the player can be free, but ultimately the player pays dearly for thinking that. I will discuss this in the next section about endings.
Thoughts on genre
I have never been a huge fan of the sci-fi fantasy genre. I like sci-fi 110%. I apologize if that makes me one-dimensional. I still like trying the genre's games because you never know if you will find something that does resonate with you. For example, I am a huge fan of Skybreak! It is made with ADRIFT and balances the two genres perfectly. Overrun does a decent job in combining the two genres, and I liked the emphasis on science fiction over magic while still staying true to its fantasy elements. Still, it took some time to get used to it. The last thing I think of when I see the year 5050 are dragons or magic, especially when cyberpunk themes are involved.
It occurred to me that the hacking sequences feel reminiscent of a dungeon crawl puzzle where you have a map with opponents. Play is move by move. Instead of ogres and looters you have anti-malware sentries roaming for you. Instead of a chest of gold you get classified files. From the other side of the room if you saw the game's map you would probably assume that you were looking at a dungeon map.
The major downside to Overrun is a lack of commitment to the endings. The endgame involves hacking into a server to talk to a digital program named Mirage who was tasked with helping computer experts overcome the Crash Virus. After some dialog, Mirage offers some intriguing solutions on how to end the game. Unfortunately, the execution of these endings is flimsy, leaving the player with few substantial options to conclude the lengthy gameplay.
I like to avoid dissecting every ending in my reviews to keep from spoiling everything but sometimes I simply want to discuss these outcomes, especially if I feel strongly about them. So here you go: A guide about the endings. I will stick it all under one big spoiler tag. Please avoid this section if you have not played the game yet. (Spoiler - click to show)
>>>I want to have a body.
>>>I want to cease to exist.
>>>I want to be free.
>>>I think I have enough, I don't need the Resonance.
The first three are the only ones that have endings that actually end the game. The fourth option just sends you back to your cyberdeck menu.
>>>I want to have a body.
The outcome I was looking for. It feels like the PC was not finished living when Renraku had them terminated. Why not seek a second chance? Mirage tells use to look for a person named Thomas Roxborough. But when you ask Jerusalem about finding Roxborough he says, "His research will only increase the power of megacorporations over people and the Matrix," and refuses to help you. That’s ominous. When finally find Roxborough he offers you to join the Brainscan project which seeks to build synthetic bodies for individuals who have lost their body. Then the game ends. I was hoping to see the implications of this decision.
>>>I want to cease to exist.
This results in a generic “You died” ending. Well, we did ask for it, didn’t we?
>>>I want to be free.
So, this one is a zinger. Turns out you cannot be free. I still do not quite understand what Mirage means by this; it seems like we can never get more than a cryptic explanation from anyone about your situation. But by making this request we are told that are story will end once we leave the server. Whether this means death is unclear, only that the game ends immediately after. This was a potent ending that bites the player out of nowhere, but it is also a bit disappointing since Morgan, Dodger, and the other characters are flouncing around explaining that you can be free! Free from your program! All you need is the Resonance!!! I still don’t understand what the Resonance is.
Oh well. The most answers you find, the more questions remain unanswered.
The Hacker Bar is full of interesting hacker NPCs with names like Misfill, Skinpact, and Dodger. They come from different backgrounds and have their own specialties. Not all of them can be found in the Hacker Bar when you first visit. Some show up later in the game as you build a reputation for yourself which was a nice change in pace.
Both Skinpact and Crapper will (Spoiler - click to show) challenge you to a cyberduel, but I was surprised at how easy it was to defeat them. I spent a lot of time practicing with the simulation feature and building up my utilities, only to crush my opponents after a few moves. It seems like battle is mostly reserved for system ICs.
The game uses visual effects to emulate a familiar “computer” atmosphere, particularly with thick green glowing text against a black screen. Its careful selection of font also adds to this look. It does use some scrolling text, mostly with character conversation, which was tedious but otherwise used infrequently enough to avoid dragging the player down. I liked how the game used flashing, urgent text for when you trigger an active alert while sneaking through a server.
Fun graphics are also included. Beside the server maps, the characters in the Hacker Bar each have their own character portrait, and the start of the game features imagery as it provides an overview on the history behind the story. The game even includes corporate logos for the files on corporations in the Shadowland module. That was a nice bit of atmosphere.
I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in hacking themes in interactive fiction and/or if you are a fan of the Shadowrun universe. Fans of cyberpunk may also enjoy this, but it seems to cater to a specific audience. Not everyone will be interested in this game but those who are will probably be immersed by what it has to offer. It is especially fun if you are looking for a long RPG Twine game with stats and strategized combat. Overrun is ultimately a cyberpunk adventure with a strong foundation.
I've been looking forward to playing this one. It was announced to be released on the 31st if I recall. There is something fun about waiting for a game that is set to be released on a specific date so you can count the days until you can play it. In a way this game is an excellent "present" for the holidays (sorry if that sounds sappy), but guess what? The game’s intro takes place during the New Year, so I think that comparison is justified.
The first in the series was simply The Little Match Girl (unless the full title really is “The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen” as is the case on the game’s listing). You do not need to play the first game to appreciate The Little Match Girl 2: Annus Evertens, but I recommend it. Essentially, a young girl is ordered by her father to sell matches on a cold day. After no success, the girl decides to use a match to warm her fingers. Upon seeing the flame, she is suddenly transported to another world.
The Little Match Girl 2 follows a similar fashion where flames act as a portal to other places and eras in history. The only difference is that our Match Girl is no longer trying to sell matches on a rainy day. As explained at the start of the game, she was adopted by a well-off philanthropist named Ebenezer Scrooge. She even has her own name now: Ebenezabeth Scrooge. Her purpose? A time-traveling assassin who provides services to clients looking to eliminate heartless individuals.
A young-girl-turned-assassin? I know that sounds gruesome, but not quite. I mean, the clients making the request are a group of sparrows. The game begins in London, 1846. We are in the Scrooge household- a simple but cozy apartment. It is Ebenezabeth’s birthday (or a celebration of when she was adopted), but she has received a sudden request for her services. On the roof are some sparrows who need to assassinate “a disgusting old man.”
The senior sparrow gave this upstart a reproving peck. "Don't be crass. 'Take care of' is how we put it. A certain someone, as I was saying. An old man—Older even than I!"
The player is transported throughout different times and places in history. Past, future, ones that fall out of any familiar timeline. It brings an exciting feeling that you never know where you will be sent next. Here, gameplay is organized into “chapters” that feature a setting. The goal for each is to find or obtain a flame that takes you to a new place. Often this is done indirectly. Rather than explicitly searching a space and its contents for a flame source, it will come to you as an unexpected result of a task or through creative solutions that feel reasonably clued.
My favorite puzzle was correlating the (Spoiler - click to show) cyberskull’s sparking mannerisms with the fossil fuel sludge to create a flame. It was well-hinted and the cyberskull was helpful in filling the gameplay with idle but relevant dialog about the player’s surroundings. A tour guide, really.
Thoughts on structure
The first game followed a “fetch quest” format of obtaining treasured objects for NPCs to advance the game which involved returning to the same locations. The Little Match Girl 2 departs from that model by confining tasks to a single location before traveling to the next area, which adds variety to the overall series. I do miss being able to revisit places, but then again, the worlds in this game are not quite as desirable (inside a (Spoiler - click to show) monster’s stomach, for instance) to return to. So, it works out in the end.
I do think the game loses steam a bit later with the (Spoiler - click to show) moon and (Spoiler - click to show) office locations. I loved finding myself smack in the middle of (Spoiler - click to show) Apollo 12. Interacting with Pete Conrad and Alan Bean (not to be confused with Alan Shepard) in their lunar rover was humorous although it lacked the depth showcased in the previous sections. The final solution with the sun, though, was clever.
The office is a high-quality and creative escape-the-room game with some of the best puzzles* in the entire game. However, it drifts from the story’s initial ambience. Throughout The Little Match Girl 2, Ebenezabeth’s core character is seeped into the gameplay. Here, you feel like you could be playing as a generic protagonist. This section is also considerably longer and more difficult, almost like a standalone game which may burn out players (fortunately, there is a generous hint system). *I was especially impressed with the painting/clock puzzle.
The Little Match Girl 2 is a sampler of topics. You know games that have a strong ambience that compel you to skulk around IFDB in hopes of finding another game that conjures up the same feeling and flavor of gameplay experience? I've experienced this with Greek mythology, certain murder mysteries, dystopian science fiction, romance that was actually not that bad, underdog protagonists who feel that thrill of glory after winning a competition against ruthless NPCs. Obviously, this game does not contain all of that, but I was surprised at how often it conjured up familiar memories about getting into a certain theme or historical setting.
The game carefully navigates gnarlier themes without sacrificing a sense of light-hearted whimsical enthusiasm as this girl takes on challenges across space and time. Given the bountiful content experienced in this game, you can almost forget about your overarching goal of assassinating this horrible man. After all, you have been lugging this (Spoiler - click to show) revolver around for the entire game.
We have minimal details besides his appearance, but once we find him, we start to see the goal’s (Spoiler - click to show) connection with the cover art. There is probably extra symbolism that I am overlooking (yes, I know what a stork means), and I also don’t to spoil everything. Just know, the sparrows are right about this guy. Sure, there are some mildly explicit parts, but even they are exquisite. The ending was lovely.
Ebenezabeth Scrooge is a cool protagonist, and I don't just mean her name: On the verge of freezing to death, the little girl manifested an ability to travel through time and space whenever she looked at fire.
It is quite a change from her previous self, but the change is believable. You can see an evolution. She may no longer be selling matches, but a common thread of traveling through a mere flame remains. And now her work is more meaningful. It’s one thing to see a character transform throughout the span of a single game, but seeing it occur through multiple games is its own experience. How old is she, anyway?
I was also pleased to see that the (Spoiler - click to show) cat made it into the second game.
The Little Match Girl 2 does not shy away from using some fun visual effects which is always nice to see in parser games. Each section has its own screen colour, ranging from tomato red to pale blue, that emphasizes a change in setting as the player is shuttled to the next scene. The game also uses different fonts, notably in the (Spoiler - click to show) journal from the Terrible Dogfish section.
Dear Diary. Some of these crew guys brought up the idea of resorting to cannibalism really fast.
The diary has a dramatic, sprawling cursive handwriting font.
Dear Diary. Luckily nobody had to eat each other.
The journal author’s frilly handwriting and insistence of “Dear Diary” in the darkest of times was humorous. And on that note, the writing in this game is excellent.
I only wish there was a way of scrolling to the top of the screen- I can’t find the scroll bar- because large sections of text sometimes get cut off when they appear all at once. I end up having to zoom out to read it all before zooming back in. Maybe that’s just me.
The Little Match Girl 2 is strong addition to the Match Girl series. It’s fun with a meaningful story and diverse puzzles. You may enjoy some “chapters” more than others, but they are all worth your time. Ebenezabeth Scrooge never fails to be an interesting character. If you like this game, consider playing the first one as well.
This game looks at what could happen when you fall asleep and dream.
I want to keep myself from going on a tangent of Lost Coastlines vs. Skybreak! since this review is ultimately about Lost Coastlines, but that is probably inevitable. Both are excellent games. They are also the only ADRIFT games that I have committed to playing because I always run into lag issues (not the authors’ fault) that make me hesitant about long, epic pieces. These two are definitely worth it.
I must confess, Skybreak! wins me over a little more, probably because I am into science fiction. Sentient-computer-adventure-friend/narrator is tough to beat. But Lost Coastlines has a lot of great features not found in Skybreak! Ultimately, they both bring something new to the table while retaining similar structural framework. If you have previously played Skybreak! which came out a few years ago, you most likely will say to yourself, “this seems familiar” when you launch into Lost Coastlines. Same goes for the other way around. William Dooling has a distinct and creative style.
Lost Coastlines begins with character creation. You choose factors like where you fall asleep or what type of person you are in the day which then determines your skillsets and some of the gameplay content. I thought this was clever because it makes the gameplay more personalized to what interests you the most. You then decide who you want to be in the game, such as a Scientist or Mystic, which also sculpts your adventures. Lots of possibilities. I highly encourage you to use the author’s nifty guidebook for this portion.
A key mechanic in the game is with stat related encounters where the game lists your options along with the skill used in each choice and the probability of success. It is also colour-coded! I thought that this was a consistent structure. It is easy to keep track of your stats for these encounters and I did not experience burnout after several hours of this. One of my favorite features was how you can wear individual clothing items to improve your stats.
The part that took me the longest to manage is the currency system. Believe it or not, gold and coins are not the standard. Emotions take center focus instead.
Pleasance:15| Sadness:5| Madness:42| Fury:36| Worry:218|
Emotions are generated through different encounters and can be used to make transactions or initiate opportunities. Some are easier to accumulate, for better or for worse, but it appears that they all have an application somewhere. The problem is that it can feel as if you always have the least amount of the emotion you need. There was a bit of a learning curve for me.
A complaint that some people had with Skybreak! is how the player can decide on everything except their destinations. Travel was random. Spaceships never used compass directions. But Lost Coastlines does. When you want to leave, you get back into your boat, pick a direction, and set sail. You have much more wiggle room with navigation. Many locations only allow you to perform one action, but it is easier to return to them because you can correlate their location relative to other areas. The in-game map is especially helpful. While travel is not always smooth sailing, the randomness is reduced. I think players will like that.
Story + Characters
As I already mention, gameplay content is molded by character customization choices. There is not an overarching story in the game’s world, just the player’s role-oriented objectives. You can find bite-sized story content in places you visit. Populated areas have legends or rumors that span across multiple regions. But the dreamlike quality of the gameplay means that there will be something to engage you.
Despite what the (lovely) cover art shows, I am pretty sure that the player is not puttering around in a little rowboat. Your vessel has a crew, a relatively anonymous and replaceable one that does everything automatically. You never truly interact with them, although I would not be surprised if you can recruit individual NPCs. If so, I never reached that point. You still have the chance to mingle with NPCs at destinations, particularly harbors, taverns, and markets.
My first playthrough
I will just stick this “dream” under one spoiler tag in case you want to know about my experience.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Character customization: (I decided to stick to a science-oriented theme for these choices, as was the case when I first played Skybreak!)
1. I fell asleep in class
2. Brought an old telescope with me
Let's see... Highlights:
-I saw Natalie Portman in a bar (she was the bartender).
-Spent three years with a talking cat to learn about the magical arts.
-Found the Pendant of Fire (is that a big deal?)
-Crew supposedly came this close to eating me.
-Dueled it out with Schenckloth. Did not go as planned.
Challenge: At one point, my crew and I were stuck on a 3x3 grid of rooms consisting of eight jungle locations and one beach location, and I had no idea of how to leave. I tried "SET SAIL," "LEAVE," "LEAVE BEACH," but nothing. I spent the better part of an hour puttering around, studying insects, plundering ruins, and hunting for meat, but there was never any opportunity of leaving.
I wondered if I should have left it at that, but there was another issue. When you read the in-game help section it says, "As an open world game, there is no final goal or overarching story: do whatever you want! You can end the game at any time by typing WAKE UP." But if I try to do this, I get this response:
➢ WAKE UP
You are not asleep!
What does it mean I am not asleep? It is one big dream! I should be snoozing away here. Waking up was supposed to end the game and give me a final score, but I suppose not. Sadly, I had to end my first playthrough there. I wanted to keep playing but you can only search the same area for insects for so many times. That did not, however, stop me from replaying the game to sample the different character creation options. While I did not devote as much time to my other playthroughs of this game, I had fun experimenting with the gameplay. There is a lot to do.
Lost Coastlines is a beautifully descriptive game. Calming with an edge of danger. The best part of this game is the open world format. Go. Explore. I love it when games capture that notion. You have your boat and go wherever you want, assuming you can weather the challenges.
Ideally, play this game when you have several hours of time available for a leisurely playthrough. Don’t try to cram it into your lunch break because it takes a while to accumulate items and stats that allow you to pursue some of the more daring opportunities. Then it becomes really fun.
Before you go: Maybe I am wrong, but isn't (Spoiler - click to show) Schenckloth, the Lord of Nightmares in Skybreak! as well?
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.
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.
The Witch’s Apprentice follows aspiring apprentice Esme Friggleswick, a young woman wishing to be a student of Madam Ingra. Her task is to retrieve a legendary staff from the villainous sorcerer Zandor.
I was not sure of what to expect when I saw the cover art. It gave the impression that it was going to be a Harry Potter riff but turns out I was wrong. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this game. Its puzzles require strategic thinking, and its gameplay is well paced. I think many players will like this one.
The Witch’s Apprentice has straightforward yet cruel gameplay. Straightforward in the sense that the gameplay is not too difficult and most puzzles being intuitive (although some tripped me up, such as (Spoiler - click to show) finding the hidden coronet). But cruel in that there are a few instances where the game can become unwinnable. Some of these are instances are semi-obvious because it has to do with wasting resources. Do not eat the (Spoiler - click to show) dewberry, for example.
The central gameplay mechanic is collecting items to make potions. At the same time, there are a lot of puzzles that do not directly involve acquiring ingredients. Solving them does not result in finding an items. Rather it merely gets the player closer to a part of the game where there is a puzzle that does produce potion items. This made the game less linear and more complex.
One of the tricker elements of the game is knowing what potions you will need to use. You are limited to what you can make based on the items you find which helps in determining which potions are possible to create. Still, it is a fairly long list of potions, most of which sound like they could be relevant to the puzzles. Out of all of them you only need to make (Spoiler - click to show) three (and you find a fourth one). There are some red herrings but nothing too unmanageable.
Challenges aside, the creativity in the puzzles makes the game sparkle. They require you to think outside the box. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show) one of the potions requires fish scales. Now, you find a fishing rod in the castle. Your first instinct is to catch a fish in the river with the fishing rod, but it turns out the fishing rod is used for a different purpose. Instead, the fish scales are found from the plate of salmon in the banquet hall.
There are some guess-the-verb issues. The "use [object] on [subject]" syntax is frequently used in this game. For example, in the (Spoiler - click to show) cave you knock out the goblin by collapsing the rotting beam in the roof. The phrase, "Break beam with shovel" does not work but "use shovel on beam" does. Once I figured this out this syntax the guess the verb issues fell to the wayside.
Thoughts on Quest
The Witch’s Apprentice is a Quest game that wields a wide variety of puzzles with varying levels of difficulty. I am always hesitant about trying puzzle-heavy games made with Quest because typically the further I go into the gameplay the slower the game becomes. It can get to the point where it takes five full sections for the game to process a command which is why I try to crank through everything as fast as possible, so I have a chance to reach the end. This is NOT the case with game.
In fact, the funkiness with Quest is probably not even authors’ fault. Perhaps it has to do with the website or a problem on my end. I am not sure. All I know is that Quest games that have graphics or built-in maps (both of which are cool) tend to slow down faster than those without them (such as this one). If you have the same experience as me, know that this game take a while before it starts to lag.
There is not a lot of written story content. Rather than having the game flat-out explain the history with Zandor and his wrath, the player learns bits and pieces through the places they visit. The subtleties of the guarded castle and ruined tower all hint at this story which I liked. It is an example of showing rather than just telling.
I would like to think that the game ends with the protagonist becoming an apprentice, but I must confess I only played 99% of the game. If you are able to save with Quest, make sure you save after you (Spoiler - click to show) retrieve Zandor's staff. When you return to Ingra’s cottage and give her the staff, Zandor appears and destroys the cottage. The game then only gives you one move to respond, or he kills you which immediately ends the game. I played a couple times to try to solve this, but I ran out of ideas. Do not let that deter you from playing, however. This is an excellent game, and I would love to see if anyone can (Spoiler - click to show) defeat Zandor. Please let me know if you do!
We do not learn much about the protagonist besides her name. The game focuses more on her goal of becoming a witch rather than discussing her backstory. While it would have been interesting to know more, I like how the game does not bog down in details.
There are almost a dozen NPCs including humans, animals, and mythical creatures. Game uses "talk to" command for characters, and dialog is brief and witty. I especially liked the talking Eagle who seemed like a character who could appear in The Lonely Troll by Amanda Walker. Character interactions typically consist of "I'll give you this if you'll give me that" transactions but this is offset by other types of puzzles.
The only character interaction that had some vagueness was meeting (Spoiler - click to show) Madam Elsa. We find her confined in a cell with chains that bind her magical powers. But there is no reaction to her predicament when you enter her cell. When you speak to her there are no dialog options that lets the player ask or acknowledge her imprisonment. Nothing like, “gee, what happened here?” Instead, the dialog only consists of either asking her about Madam Ingra (her cousin) or if she has any advice for the player’s quest. At least, the player can free her.
I would say that this is one of the best puzzle-heavy Quest games I have played (although I guess I cannot say that I have played many to compare it to). But The Witch’s Apprentice would be a great game regardless of if it were made with Quest or not. I was pleasantly surprised with the story and immersed in the puzzles. I recommend this game to anyone.
And on that note, Halloween, at the time of this review, is on the horizon. Over the next several weeks, this may be a festive game to play if you are in the mood for magic, witches, and other spooky themes.
The story is one of finding a place in a welcoming community. You have been granted a cottage in a town on a new island and have access to a range of locations and townspeople. With this new start, you find ways of making the cottage your home.
There is one thing I want to say about content. When I first played this game on itchio it came with one of those “You must be 18+ to view this content” popup warnings but there is little explicit content to be worried about. The game’s content warning includes (Spoiler - click to show) language, violent events, and brief blood, which is true. However, after playing the game I sincerely feel that the content implemented is nowhere near an 18+ rating. I am only saying this because the +18 rating may discourage some players from even trying it which would mean missing out on an excellent and light-hearted game. That is my take on it. I would describe this game as not for kids but reasonable for most ages.
The gameplay is broken into days. Each day begins at the player’s cottage. At the start of each day the player can travel, harvest their garden, craft items, read books, and invite people over if they have a good enough relationship. Sometimes the player will get notifications in their mailbox about events and festivals held by the island community.
The travel locations are the town, forest, coast, and river, each having one main character that the player can build a relationship with (and possibly pursue romance). At each location the player can scavenge for raw materials and then craft items from them. You can then sell these creations at the market or give them to other characters as gifts. Sometimes new locations will briefly be available, such as (Spoiler - click to show) a shipwreck.
You can sell and buy things at the market which was exciting at first. However, it does not take long for you to buy out everything in the market. It also felt unrealistic that you can harvest a fresh crop from your garden every single day. Selling all that produce contributed to the excess of coins that I accumulated. I was surprised there was no way to customize your cottage beyond books and plants. A room extension or remodeling would burn off those extra coins.
One of the biggest strengths in this game is that quests are smoothly implemented. Quests usually involve finding and talking to new characters for information or crafting special items. Even though quests follow a similar model they avoid feeling repetitive. Sometimes they overlap which makes the game’s world more fluid.
The ultimate goal is to become a happy member of the community but there is no variation in endings. The only ending is to (Spoiler - click to show) complete every task and achievement which is shown in a list. Because of this, players may not be compelled to replay it. I could see this as a game that you play again several months later when you stumble across it and decide to revisit it.
The game requires that the player become friends with the other characters. The only way to move forward in character interactions is to (Spoiler - click to show) alternate between giving them gifts and talking to them. It feels sort of awkward to have a heated interaction with a character and then earning points with them by giving them things out of nowhere. It is like in the Sims games where you give someone a high five until they become your best friend. Nonetheless, characters are richly implemented. They may be found strolling along in locations you normally would not find them, giving you an opportunity to chat. I also liked the idea of (Spoiler - click to show) recruiting the characters as teachers if you decide to turn the abandoned house into a school because it ties back to the theme of community building.
There is also a mild stat system that is used in character dialog. Gameplay choices affect your Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric, and Phlegmatic levels. There is no way of checking your stat levels and it is not clear on what choices contribute to a particular stat, but it does add some extra depth. You might be presented with a list of options such as these: Here is an example of three links you could click on to respond to a character:
'Sorry. I didn't mean to intrude.'
'You left your door open.'
(Choleric) 'Looking around. Who are you?'
Each one of these would be a response to a character. If you did not have a high enough Choleric stat for the last option, it would be crossed out. Using stats in Twine games always adds a little complexity to the gameplay and Ataraxia is no exception.
Game uses a simple colour scheme of teal background and orange text with occasional text effects in some of the quests. Everything is easy to read and navigate which is especially helpful in an RPG game where you are constantly flipping through inventories and stat statistics. I think its appearance is one of the game’s strongest points.
Ataraxia is a nice ambient game with lighthearted themes of aspiration and productive community-building (along with just a touch of fantasy). Its gameplay is complex but not puzzle heavy and is an excellent example of a choice-based RPG.