This game had a lot of interesting components that just didn't add up. It consists of a number of longish pages of text peppered with links to other pages; the links on any given page always lead the same place (as far as I could tell). After a while it started feeling like a maze, which I found an interesting idea-- but not one I managed to solve.
The story, too, was interesting: exploring the history of a young woman who fell out of a window. It's supernatural and creepy and interesting-- but it's just a little too much information presented in a very dry way to really get invested in. I skimmed.
And the voice, finally, was interesting: dry, matter of fact, disinterested, almost scholarly. Omniscient, too: I was getting information from each click but there were no eyes attached to that information. I wanted to know more about how it worked, but I couldn't find the key to the maze, maybe because the long passages of hyperlink-studded text was hard to process and the voice made it even harder to engage.
I picked this up because hey! I could play it online! and it said it was short! and steampunk! What's not to try?
Unfortunately, it suffers from a distinct lack of cueing. That can be okay in an environment where nothing pressing is going on, but a speeding train under attack is pretty much the definition of a countdown timer. The lack of cueing about who I was and what my goals were, combined with the speeding-train-under-attack environment created a surreal, distancing effect. I was in a position of literally being able to decide anything about my goals and I wasn't usually given any information to contradict what I decided until too late.
(Spoiler - click to show)For example, I had a gun and bullets in my luggage. Maybe I was there to shoot somebody? I couldn't shoot the attackers, though. I came across a clockwork man intent on getting through a door. He ignored me, he was unshootable. Clearly I wasn't his enemy! Once the timer ticked down, he burst through the door and killed what turned out to be somebody I knew. Huh!
The game had a lot of requiring very precise object names for puzzles; I spent about twenty turns trying to unlock a door manually before I hit on the right door name. There were also what I assume were bugs in implementation: specifically, picking up a bucket supposedly full of sand only to be told it was empty.
I ended up stopping without finishing the game(Spoiler - click to show) at some clockwork dogs after I'd (as player) managed to kill every other human I'd found on the train, including accidentally murdering somebody I was protecting with some scenic ricochets when I tried to use my gun to shoot the dogs. I would have kept poking at it but the various interactivity problems (and bugs?) I'd encountered up to that point made me unwilling to invest more time in something that possibly couldn't be beaten.
That said, I'd play a revised version. It had phantasmal hints of something I might enjoy.
This was confusing-- what am I saying? this was Porpentine. It had evocative hints of a bigger... world? story? Of a bigness. And little lines from the text stuck with me for days, like a song I couldn't shake off.
It was interactive and catchy, but there was no game element. No, I take that back. It had, spread liberally over the text, gamelike elements. Inventory lists. Other bits. It's like a narrative of playing a game, from the inside and the wrong point of view. Which fits the theme I took away very well, so I'm keeping it.
Anyhow, it's a worthy way to spend a few minutes.
I loved the story, the setting, the sense that I was steering the story while making the subtlest of choices. It was one of the few hypertext games I've played where I felt like there was a reason NOT to click on all of the informative links and I picked that reason up through gameplay.
I went through this once, after discovering it on the Twine Garden, and I got two endings. I think there was a major fork at a midpoint but I was satisfied enough by the endings I got that I had no interest in exploring what happened if we didn't capture the unicorn.
Story-wise, it's interactive fiction about being an ugly maiden in a unicorn-haunted forest, and all the hunters who come to buy your services. I expected something I'd actively dislike, because I'm opinionated about unicorns (I discovered this game a day after viewing a screening of The Last Unicorn with Peter S. Beagle....)
...but I didn't dislike it. It was competently written. It worked for me.
As for interactivity, it's Twine. It has many endings but I only personally identified a couple of forking points. It's the kind of story where you click throughout the page to get more information and then return to the main story.
It didn't take too long to play. Recommended for an entertaining fantasy half an hour.
This was... well done, I guess. But very much not my kind of story. Maybe fans of Cormac McCarthy's The Road would like it?
Every element of the storygame was just so... unpleasant that near the end I almost stopped because the unrelenting unlikability of the point of view I embodied was forcing me to disengage. I'm not sure there was much payoff either.
Still, it was well put together, and I'm sure people who like that kind of thing will enjoy it.