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About the Story
All you remember is that you're cursed. Cursed to spend every night writhing in pain. You've come here, to this desolate farmland, to find a cure. But now that you're here, you might find more than you wanted.
69th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
There's a lot to like in Savor: rich, evocative (if a bit florid) prose; a pleasing visual design including well-chosen graphics to lend weight to the atmosphere; a compellingly mysterious setup that then delves into slow-burning horror.
But while I appreciate all of those things on an intellectual level, I found it a struggle to actually enjoy any of the game's strengths. Actually, that's an understatement - after all, some games aren't meant to be enjoyed as such, and that's just fine. But playing Savor is straight-up frustrating thanks to two design choices which combine to create a punishingly unpleasant experience.
First, the structure of the game encourages several replays. While the narrative stakes are high - (Spoiler - click to show)you're trying to help a pair of chronically-ill, suicidal characters - many of the choices you make along the way are rather mundane. Do you perform this chore or that chore? Do you wander over here or over there? Incongruously, these mundane choices have outsized import to the plot, determining whether or not you find the items you need to progress. And there's little hope of determining the right choices apart from hindsight, since, after all, many of them are mundane things with no obvious gravity. Thus, in order to reach a decent ending, it's likely you'll need to replay the game with the benefit of knowledge from at least one failed playthrough. This, by itself, is in my view a minor detriment. I'd rather a game not rely on this kind of recursion to inflate its challenge/complexity unless there's a specific narrative reason why it makes sense, in-universe, to be replaying (e.g. there are stories about time travel that make sensible use of this device). But it's not a huge deal and I could overlook it...
...Except for the second thing. The game is chock full of timed text that can't be skipped. Mercifully, it's fairly quick. It wouldn't have been terrible if this was a one-playthrough game.
But put these two design choices together, and you have a game which forces its player to spend a whole lot of frustrating time just passively waiting for the game to scroll through stuff that the player has already seen once, twice, or thrice.
The author definitely has a vision worth seeing. But making it so taxing to actually explore that vision was, I think, a misstep.
Oh, lordy. Savor is a generally well-written horror game with intriguing mysteries, mostly-solid prose, and some beautiful presentation elements, but painful design choices and egregious bugs made this perhaps my most unpleasant experience in the Comp so far.
Right, let’s start with the good. The setting is a unique one that made me eager to learn more – the protagonist is an amnesiac suffering from a poorly-understood but crippling disease, who wakes up in a sun-blasted corn field and eventually strikes an uneasy détente with the farmer who lives there and also has the same disease. There are occasional flashbacks that hint at what’s going on, and an alternation of laconic dialogue with lush landscape description that’s a little Faulknerian. Usually this is effective – here’s an early bit:
"The sky a gradient stretching up from a deep mauve horizon to the violet highs above. Corn stalks line your horizon, menacing, ragged and gnarled yellow heads blooming with the threat of death."
Occasionally it tips over and feels overwritten (soon after that passage, there’s this: “The door finally frees itself from the constricting embrace of its jamb and tiredly swings inward, granting you access”), but for the most part the prose is one of the main draws here. And there are nicely-curated, blanched-out photographs that serve as the background for the text and help underline the alienation, pain, and flatness that define the protagonist’s existence.
Sadly, now we’re on to the litany of complaints. All that well-written text is presented in timed fashion, and while it displays quickly, it still makes replays really frustrating. You get occasional, signposted choices that are the most significant ones, but there are also many smaller ones along the way – most of which are about physically navigating a space, but the environment is usually described in a confused way so that I wasn’t sure why ENTER HOUSE and OPEN GATE were meaningfully different when I was (I think) standing at a house’s outside gate. Progression seems very arbitrary – at one point, (Spoiler - click to show)the protagonist committed suicide without any clear prompting for what I could have done differently – and when I tried to rewind by clicking the big “replay” button that popped up on the achievements page, the game crashed. And when I started poking around to try to figure out where I got stuck, I found the myriad bugs lurking below the surface.
So, in the course of playing the game, you’ll occasionally accumulate books or journal entries, sometimes for unclear reasons (you’ll just get an out-of-world notification like “You acquired Book: Book1”). On first play, I was confused about how to read these, but it turns out that if you type ESC (there’s no button or on-screen menu icon), you’ll hit a screen that shows a bunch of collectibles including journal pages, books, “fragments,” and “rewind tokens.” If you click on one of the books, you’ll get a bit of (I thought badly-written) poetry, a notification that you’ve unlocked one of those rewind tokens, and an error message. If you click on anything else, you’ll get taken to a page not found error that permanently halts progress since there’s no undo (hopefully you figured out that when the menu says you can type L to load, actually that takes you to a screen where you can save too). And while from looking at the walkthrough the intended path through the game involves using those rewind tokens to explore every possible choice – it’s really not clear how this works in-universe – I found their implementation was pretty spotty and they didn’t always work.
I struggled with Savor for another half hour or so to see if I could get to some reasonable ending, and even dove into the source code to see if I could read where things were headed, but the frustration won out in the end. The story, at least as far as I got, really only has one note (slow physical decline in a depressing landscape, with a monotonous existence broken up only by even more monotonous chores), so that combined with the technical issues made for a really unfun time. There are indications that there might be a more hopeful ending possible (Spoiler - click to show)(much as in another game in the Comp, you’re a secret vampire, and immersion in holy water might be a cure) but I lack the fortitude to push through any more of this punishing experience to get there.
Okay, so I think I spent more time on this game than almost any other, but about half of it wasn’t playing.
This game uses immersive text, graphics and sound to tell a story of a man with amnesia and a curse who meets another man with the same. Together the two of you must discover a cure to your awful curse.
The overall storyline seems interesting, but this game is inaccessible in many, many ways.
Several other reviewers online have already talked about the slow text (including someone who screenshotted a tweet of mine about slow text), but I still want to talk about it a bit.
Slow text has essentially one use: in short, mostly linear contemplative games like Congee. And even there, Congee loads the whole thing at once, instead of the typewriter effect that’s distracting.
Long games with slow text can be excruciatingly painful to read. But at least you can get through them.
But if you have to replay a game frequently, then being able to quickly click back to where you came from is essential.
This game is full of frequent deaths, is very long, uses slow typewriter text and has disabled the UNDO button. It does let you save, but to know that you have to click on the ‘controls’ button at the beginning of the game to learn that L brings up the load screen, and then you have to guess that you save at the load screen.
After about three hours of trimming it down, I got it to work. I raced through the game, clicking and feeling euphoria. And then I realized that the main mechanic the game relies on is broken.
According to the walkthrough, if you pick up books you’re supposed to be able to ‘rewind’ at key decision points. But that didn’t happen for me.
I looked at the games Twinery code, and even this is obfuscated. All of the structure is hidden because boxes have generic names (like passage 1-1) and are lined up in exact geometrical rows to hide the overall structure. But I finally found the correct passage, and it has code for the rewind to display, but it doesn’t work.
I picked through the rectangles, trying to glean the story. It seems to me that this game is about (Spoiler - click to show)vampires, which explains (Spoiler - click to show)the reaction to garlic and holy water, and the lack of a reflection.
As a final note, I saw that the author had included a secret debug code accessible by typing D. That suggests to me that the author found his game too tedious to play through repeatedly, and ended up using the debug to test it.
I’ve seen a few other people do that in this comp. I really recommend playing through your game from start to finish the way that you anticipate others will throughout the development period.
Also, another tip that’s been very helpful for me: start beta testing before you’re finished with your tricky coding, so that people can give feedback on the concept. My first version of Alias the Magpie that I sent to JJ Guest for testing was pretty crappy, but I wanted to see if the idea worked. You can even just shop the idea around before implementing it.
In any case, it took serious programming chops to create this game, and I’m impressed by the author’s abilities.
-Polish: Has several errors.
+Descriptiveness: Is very descriptive.
-Interactivity: Very frustrating.
-Emotional impact: The UI frustrations made it difficult to get invested.
-Would I play again? Not without several changes.
Seeking a cure for chronic pain, you meet a dying man in a strange house surrounded by strange creatures.
Foreboding from the start, it uses the “creepy country house” setting to good effect. The landscape echoes the story. The style is what I’ll describe as baroque, partly due to some turns of phrase which suggest the author’s first language is not English.
The branching tends to be lawnmowery, where redundant choices dead-end and lead back to the main path. Some choices are obviously signposted, and I would have liked more consistency in the formatting – especially since some choices that result in a premature ending are not signalled as such. What makes it more frustrating is the sheer speed at which the text is revealed. Mathbrush’s review on IFDB suggests that this is incredibly deliberate, yet something which even the author couldn’t stand on repeated playthroughs…
Another thing that struck me, in the time waiting for text to appear: the player’s main motivation appears to be a mystical curse, but in most aspects is chronic pain – a relatively common experience. Sans an obvious supernatural cause, I had to wonder why it warranted this treatment in the text.
Savor is a choice-based horror game by Ed Nobody, published in 2020. The main character seems to be afflicted with a curse that makes his body ache and mind forget. Delirious, he finds his way to an old farm house, somehow convinced there’s a cure there.
Like in many other choice-based games, you simply click on text links to progress. The story is generally linear - most sections have one or two branching paths, but they eventually lead back to the same point. The game has a streamlined inventory system as well - the decisions you make during the game as well as any items you find impact which of the multiple endings you’ll end up with.
I think the writing is pretty good. The farmland setting as it is described has an eerie beauty and mild quirkiness to it, which creates a contrast with the more horrific moments. The game can get very dark very fast, for instance, (Spoiler - click to show)suicide is featured in more than one of the endings. I saw three endings, which for me wasn’t enough to solve the full mystery here, but (Spoiler - click to show)the story gave me strong Silent Hill-vibes with how there seemed to be two different versions of some locations - one nice and one hellish.
Actually playing the game is a bit cumbersome. The game extensively uses timed text which cannot be fully skipped - only sped up. I also had a somewhat bad time since I missed the “controls” screen, which is the only place the game ever tells the player that they can access the menu with ‘esc’ and load / save with ‘l’. I generally just avoided using the menu after one instance where the game seemingly restarted on its own and I lost all my progress after I entered the menu.
The cryptic, often surreal nature of the story can make it hard to predict what will happen as a result of your choices. It’s a pity that replaying and trying out different branching paths feels a bit arduous due to the aforementioned timed text.
The game uses a lot of multimedia - background images, music and even sound effects. The imagery consists of low-saturation photos with a bunch of filters on them. The photos themselves are usually quite good, although the visual filters don’t always look very smooth, and something about the resolution and zoom level might be a bit off too. (Spoiler - click to show)Something is added to the background during the farm house nightmare sequence, but I can barely see what it is because of how the picture is cropped by the edge of the screen. I can’t say if this is intentional or not, though. Could my browser (Chrome) or some other factor have caused the graphics to not work properly?
The music is varied and atmospheric. The most frequently heard track is a nearly uplifting piece with a conspicuous rhythm - I can’t say I was expecting something like that in this context. Many other bits of the ambience and music bear some resemblance to Akira Yamaoka, especially the eerie track that plays during night time. The music eventually grew on me a lot.
My biggest gripe with the multimedia is that the game doesn’t have a very fine-tuned pacing. It’s not uncommon for it to go from something very intense with a dark music (Spoiler - click to show)and even jump scare audio clips of people screaming back to a carefree vibe with no warning. Some of the use of audio is rather ham-fisted too. When the multimedia works properly, it complements the writing, but during the poorly handled moments it can cheapen it too.
Overall, I think this is close to being a worthwhile horror IF. The ingredients are all there, and the music adds a ton of charm and personality to the game. Some better tutorializing would be helpful to prevent people (like me) from missing important keybindings. I might still give this game another try after the competition to find out its remaining secrets.
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This is version 4 of this page, edited by JTN on 9 December 2020 at 7:48pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item