You are a king in this short little game, and your duties include listening to the cries of the people, giving advice and occasionally invading France. But before that, you have to find your crown and scepter.
True to the blurb, this game has self-deprecating, irreverent humour in buckets. For example:
An intricately decorated wooden cabinet strengthened outside and in with a cage of the strongest steel in the world. This is where you keep the Royal Crown.
And, sometimes, also snacks.
This game brands itself as a one-puzzle, short game, and indeed, strictly speaking, only six actions are needed to complete the game itself. The author has, however, implemented little bonuses for those who poke a little more at the game, so it’s equally fun - if not more - to try and explore and uncover some of the game’s secrets, including the traditional references to other well-known IF games and pop culture
The humour sometimes backfires, though; the custom parser error messages start out cute at first but quickly become annoying. The parser could definitely be more comprehensive, especially for ambiguous references to nouns. Not a bad play- slightly silly and unsubstantial, but that’s completely excusable. Good for maybe 5 minutes' poking around.
This Twine game plays on the oft-repeated phrase ‘friend zone’, using it as a literal prison for Nice Guys. It brands itself as a horror-parody 'in the tradition of Franz Kafka’, but I’m not sure Kafka could have topped this level of bizarre imagery.
What is by far the most distinctive thing about this game is its writing and mythos, really. There are apocalyptic scenes galore, and Lovecraft inches his way into each scene. It feels like the game Neka Psaria. It feels like a slimy version of Stross’s Rule 34. It feels like some kind of regional gothic, made interactive. This game reads like Porpentine… kind of, with more effigies and less cyberpunk.
The story appears to be set in an elaborate mythos with Priapus (in its original form, a Greek god of fertility and protector of male genitalia) worshipped as a kind of malevolent deity.
It’s no surprise that there’s sexual imagery throughout, though the imagery seems less erotic than violent. There is also quite a fair bit of violence, though at that point it felt more abstract than visceral. This was partly because the targets of the violence were nameless and, for all purposes, not distinct.
Apart from that, I found it hard to get my bearings. The way to progress through the game isn’t really clear - you start off naming a person you’re looking for, but exactly what has happened to that person is very unclear. It made it frustrating for me, half because I kept 'walking’ in circles, half because I didn’t know how to advance the story.
Nevertheless, Vance’s writing is sound. It never veers into Lovecraftian purple prose, despite its influence, and putting aside my misgivings, this is an able piece of genre writing.
Disclaimer: This game depicts violence (specifically, animal abuse) explicitly.
Taghairm is a dark Twine game with a brutal, sparse way of words, which I liked. The writing is purposeful and builds atmosphere well - it implies a lot from very little. It suggests the ghost of a storyline: something (or somebody) has been lost, and this… this that you go to your cousin’s field to do, is the only way.
What moved this game from linguistic beauty to visceral horror, though, was the emotional stake. The game punishes the player at first for wanting to disagree with what the NPC is doing by not allowing the story to progress, and by having an NPC who dismisses your misgivings, trapping you firmly in the horror storyline.
There is a key decision-making point at a certain repeating routine which essentially allows you to choose what outcome you want. The more brutal path ends up showing the toll of the ritual on the PC and the NPC. It never returns to the context in the beginning, the reason why the PC did this in the first place, which made the story weaker than it could have been. Perhaps, in the search for your heart’s desire, you lose everything else, and you lose everything that made that desire so worthwhile in the first place.
I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I found the visceral horror truly upsetting. On the other hand, though, the feeling of dread was weakened by the (Spoiler - click to show)repetitive sounds which lost its impact after a while because they were so predictable and the vagueness as to why the PC was doing that. This is a game which stayed with me.
An escape game - well, in a loose sense of the word - where you have to get out from a series of surreal, weird rooms. The overall feel of the game reminded me of Mateusz Skutnik’s Submachine games, especially the more abstract ones. Unlike Skutnik’s Submachine, though, the rooms in Recorded lacked an overarching theme, or a repeating motif - something stylistic which would have made it clearer that this was the work of one entity/being/person, and ultimately created a stronger storyline.
One problem is that there’s not much in the way of story, or puzzle. What story there is is delivered through cryptic messages, though they often felt more like flavour text - purposeless, and not hinting much at what the story was. I felt like this opportunity to build a distinct NPC had been wasted, and it’s a pity.
As far as I can tell, there was one puzzle, and it was of the ‘pick up this object and put it there’ variety. Not exactly the most inspired of puzzles, unfortunately, and it was not clear to me how to trigger the appearance of the object that I needed to solve the one puzzle (I used the walkthrough).
Recorded has the beginning of what might have been a very interesting concept in the game, but it might have gone way over my head, or it was never developed.
The title hints at something mixing alchemy and words like ‘eldritch’ and ‘esoteric’ with mundane stuff, and having played Dalmady’s previous work, I admit I come to this game with expectations.
The game hits the ground steeped in the context: symbols from what I think is the Key of Solomon, and the language used in modern-day internships.
You’re aspiring to get into book publishing, and of course if you want to go down that path then internships are the way to go. It’s just that this Precantatio Publishing seems a little different…
Dalmady’s writing is able and smooth. She uses visuals in this Twine game minimally, though attractively.
The game is divided into sections using a to-do list as a kind of progress marker - which is kind of ingenious, really. Despite the title, there’s plenty of variety in the intern-like activities and plenty of things to inspect and explore. The story branches at some of the choices - something which isn’t immediately obvious - but once you figure out how to get to the branches, the new story paths are quite satisfying.
Well-written and visually attractive, Arcane Intern (Unpaid) lives up to its title.