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Extremely linear, but well-written., February 18, 2011
"Jane" is a conversation-based game, with a strong emphasis on story. It is puzzleless, and very linear. It's best approached as a short story.
You start out as Jane, victim of domestic abuse. You are in the hospital, having a cast put on your wrist after, what you claim, was simply an accidental fall. It's clear from the start however, that this injury was inflicted by husband, and you are adamantly protecting him from exposure. No one, not even your closest friend, is privy to the truth about what goes on in your home behind closed doors.
Over the course of the game (and this came as a surprise to me since I had not read any reviews ahead of time) the player's point-of-view changes from Jane's to that of various other characters in the story. And here was the interesting part… One of the perspectives from which you play the game is from the that of the abusive husband. Wow. Switching perspectives between protagonist and antagonist was, in my mind, a brilliant choice by the author. This not only added an interesting twist to the story, but it also gives the player brief glimpses into the mind and motivations of an abuser.
Personally, I'm always a bit put off by the multiple-choice conversational system, particularly when there is only one choice offered (or when all choices have the same result!). It disrupts the mood of the story too much for my taste. I suppose the dilemma in a linear, conversational type of story is that if the author takes away the player's ability to interact with the story, he faces potentially losing the player's interest. Thus, in a game such as this, the only viable options to keep the story moving (rather than playing "guess the topic" or using the conversational system in games such as "Alabaster" and "Shelter from the Storm", which require re-typing key words from a list of possible responses) are either to present multiple-choice (even if there is only one choice on the list) or to simply have the player continue to "press any key" to continue the story. This being the case, I guess it's preferable to offer a "choice" to the player, rather than having them keep hitting the spacebar to advance the dialogue.
Your options as Jane are limited by the character's own emotional weaknesses. Therefore, actions such as hiding from John, confronting him, searching his belongings, etc… are not allowed because it's not in the character's nature to do these things. This can be somewhat frustrating, but I suppose it's also beneficial since it forces the player to operate within the mindset and self-invoked limitations of a victim.
All in all, this was a well-written story which, hopefully, will evoke in players a greater awareness of the inner workings domestic abuse.