This is a conversation-powered, living poem in which two people uncover a village previously submerged by a dam. As they uncover layers of the physical landscapes, so they also uncover the landscapes of the PC's childhood and family.
Everything is fragmentary, forgotten, which creates a sort of creeping horror. The unpredictable visual design adds to that.
The game has a striking use of images throughout, and whether by design or browser variability, the text design occasionally looks buggy - text sometimes appears in unexpected places, or laid out in odd ways. Here I chose to see that as part of the effect of the game.
The Good People was intriguing, not least because it scratched my particular itch of exploring abandoned landscapes and memories.
Here is a tiny story of an assassin and a contract and a deal to keep a kingdom safe. It's a bit like a braided bracelet: there are no proper endings (veiled commentary? An inevitable unsolved struggle?) but you can take different threads each time. As with the most intriguing small games, offers the prospect of a much bigger narrative space - much like hearing the reverberation of a huge room, yet only seeing one corner of it.
You're going home for Christmas, for the first time in years, if only to make up for all the damaged relationships you've had over the years. But the snow is coming down hard, and your next coach is likely to be delayed.
The authors describe this substantial, large work as primarily an interactive novel, but it works as a vaguely open-world exploration as well. There are lots of optional 'side quests' and characters with whom you can interact; exploration opens up different endings and storylines.
But this is built on an emotional heart, reflected in the parallels between the PC and the building. The location's brokenness reflects the PC's own. The shoddiness of the building itself, the glitchy machinery, the inertia of the buses, even the irritable, argumentative NPCs: aspects of these are reflected, in some way or other, in the PC's own relationships with their family and in their own life decisions. Perhaps even the liminal nature of the bus station - a space characterised by transition and impermanence - reflects how the PC stands on the cusp of something new.
The theme of symbolically rich buildings, buildings as containers for ideas, is not a new one. This idea, for instance, is taken more literally in Bruno Dias's Four Sittings in a Sinking House. In both, the titular building reflects brokenness elsewhere: it is the PC themselves in Bus Station, Unbound, while it is the owners' material worship in Four Sittings.
Something else I enjoyed in reading this were the contrasts and almost-contradictions in the bus station's 'characterisation'. It is described in ways that sit uneasily with each other. It is at once a "monstrous waste of money", but also a structure of "pale concrete petals", "heartlike" in its action. The storylines invite comparison between Preston Bus Station's mundanity and terror, human warmth and mechanical coldness.
There's a lot to explore here in Bus Station, Unbound.