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About the Story
Your estranged mother left you the house when she passed. And her piano...
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
Number of Reviews: 3
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Based on the title, I went into Another Cabin in the Woods expecting a horror story – but while, per the author’s note, that was the initial conception of the game, what’s on offer here is an emotionally-charged reflection on long-buried family trauma. There are no monsters here, only poor communication skills, though man, the damage they can do is sometimes almost as bad.
(That last sentence is a paraphrased bit of Mountain Goats stage banter).
Speaking of musicians, this is an audio-rich game, with sound effects, a musical score, and even voice acting. This is fitting given the plot setup, which sees the protagonist visit her childhood home after the death of her mother in order to clean it out before it’s sold – the mother was a musician, and much of the first part of the game involves finding different sheets of music and playing them on the family piano to trigger flashbacks. I can’t speak to the substantial work that went into the audio side of things, as I played the game muted – my life circumstances right now don’t make it easy to play IF with sound on – but I suspect it will enrich the story.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t work well as a text-only work, though, since I enjoyed my time with the game. The cleaning conceit is a smart one, creating a rationale for the protagonist to poke around exploring the cabin and triggering different memories as they visit each space in turn. And the writing is good enough that even without the sound on, I got a sense of what emotion each musical work is meant to evoke:
"The piece starts so quickly, with note after note rushing by on both hands. Every so often there are moments of longer notes, but they are still peppered with rapid bursts of melody."
Throughout there’s a good eye for detail – the prose isn’t doing anything fancy, but again, it effectively communicates the mood of abandonment and decay:
"The smell of rotting food and animal leavings mixes into the air before you. Dishes piled high in the sink threaten to topple over and shatter. A crunch underfoot tells you some already have."
As for the story itself, it’s unsurprisingly downbeat, but it mostly earns its pathos honestly, I think, and keeps the melodrama under control for the most part. The family dynamics are depicted sensitively, with no one coming off perfectly well but nobody an irredeemable monster, either. I also enjoyed the distance provided between the protagonist’s point of view and those of the memories, which are from the perspective of the mother – the protagonist is regularly surprised to have remembered things differently or that her mother’s memories are often substantially more positive, which helps energize a story where almost all the important events happened well in the past.
While the writing for them was overall strong, there were a few design decisions about how the memories worked that I found created a little bit of friction. First, I think they would have been more effective if the flashbacks were parceled out one at a time, but for me and I suspect many other players, the most natural approach was to explore the cabin, find all the different pieces of music, and then play them at the piano all at once. Again, each piece of this is good but the pacing wound up feeling a bit back-loaded. There’s also a small puzzle that needs to be solved to reach the endgame that involves putting the different memories in chronological order, but while after reading each, I had a sense of how each fit with the others, but in the reassembly process they’re labeled not as “memory about the piano lesson” but as the less-descriptive “piece found in bedroom” which made the process harder.
These are small niggles, though, and besides the lack of spacing meaning I sometimes worried about mis-tapping, they’re pretty much the only negatives I found in the game. I was engaged with the story Another Cabin in the Woods was telling, despite its dark moments; the author mentioned this is only their second game and they’re already thinking of repurposing the initial horror hook for a subsequent game, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of their future work!
This is a story about cleaning out your mother's house after she died. As you explore the house, you discover little secrets and memories here and there, piecing together a larger puzzle.
It's a melancholy game, and has some nice voice acting. The pacing of the voice acting is interesting; only the text in quotes is read out loud, but if there is narrative text between quotes then there is a space in the audio, which I can only presume is to give people a time to catch up. So it kind of presupposes the reader's reading speed, but it worked generally well for me.
The story is sad, overall, but in some ways bittersweet. One of the scenes hints at the MC being trans, but I don't believe that's related to the overall sadness.
I don't use headphones and play IF around others, usually, so I had to schedule special times to play this, but I do feel the audio effects were positive and contributed to the story.
It includes a puzzly element at the end that provided some good interaction, and exploring worked well earlier on.
ANOTHER CABIN IN THE WOOD
The better word that defines this game is INMERSION.
Sounds, music, spoken messages give the game an inmersive atmosphere where you discover a great history while you clean up the house to sell it. Flashbacks and music pieces do this game as original as beautiful.