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About the Story
The smallest choices have drastic consequences in this short story. Follow the girl as she tries to assert independence in a society that tries to cut her down.
14th Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my 2013 IFComp blog.)
The lyrically titled Autumn's Daughter is an Undum hyperlink story taking the form of a series of social encounters in the life of a young Pakistani woman named Areesha, played by yourself. Though you apparently hail from an okay-to-do family, various threats to your future independence and happiness are looming quickly, and their sources are not always obvious.
This game seeks to educate about the difficulties faced by women in Pakistan by engaging the player in a story with outward touches of romance and intrigue. This is a good strategy, given that some of the obvious alternative ones – like involving the player in a story which is grim and didactic – might just turn players off or bore them. Thus Autumn's opening scene seeks to get folks onboard immediately and build up the heroine's happiness. When you greet your visiting friend Samina, the tone heads towards conspicuously exuberant soap opera with lots of squeals and exclamation marks. The writing is broad in its exposition and a bit ripe, but the situation is inviting. The challenge for the game, then, is to be able to convincingly take the drama to the bleaker places it wants to go in a short span of time, and I don't think the challenge is fully met.
The overall design of mostly binary choices, all tied to single pieces of dialogue or action, is pretty good, especially in retrospect; the dynamic between that first happy scene and any of the endings tends to be a smooth but swift slope. But I think the game as a whole is lacking the kind of subtlety which could better convey its message. The characters have the specificity of types (earnest heroine, complicit girlfriend, potential shining knight boyfriend) but don't have the specificity which would illuminate them as individuals. And specificity is really needed to imbue obvious binary choice pairs, like whether to gush at the handsome lad or forget how to speak in his presence, with much meaning. This becomes a bigger problem in the sticky ends of the game when some extreme choices are presented. So while I don't doubt that most of the situations here can and have happened to people, I found the portrayal of them too broad to feel them deeply.
Autumn's Daughter exhibits some good design for its aims over its relatively short playtime, but it is shooting for a lot and would have benefited from stronger characterisation, from which would grow some less generic feeling choices, or at least less generic iterations of them.
This game uses a setting not commonly explored: Pakistan, with a young girl protagonist.
This game uses a branch and bottleneck structure, and is fairly short., with a dozen or so choices on average.
I found the explora5ion of unfamiliar culture and issues fascinating. The game played smoothly, and the writing was descriptive.
The game has a strong message, but was ultimately a bit frustrating--the narrative needs some tweaking and improvements to really convey the story and immerse us in the character.
I suspect that English may not be the authors first language, based on some of the typos and grammar issues I found, so I'd encourage the author to reach out to the IF community and get some help polishing the storyline.
An interesting game, from an interesting perspective, which is held back primarily by issues with the writing.
It is short, puzzle-less, and largely linear--while you have choices, they don't feel particularly fulfilling, largely because you're playing from the perspective of a character with very little agency and freedom in her life. A frustrating but worthwhile experience.
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