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Bro-Tone, an IF implementation, November 22, 2022
Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review
4 Edith + 2 Niki proclaims itself a dating sim, but this game is not what those words suggest to me. It all feels very slapdash. You enter on the grounds of psychiatric hospital I think. This setting is almost never referenced again. I guess you work there, because you are presented with a corridor of offices to visit. The descriptive text of what is on this corridor does not match the choices on offer. This is a befuddling choice. Twine lets you embed the destinations in the description itself, itís MORE work to provide two (incompatible) versions! You visit all 6 rooms, barely interact with their occupants, then pick one to date. One of the choices here is a date that was not referenced in ANY of your initial conversations so you kind of have to deduce who itís referring to. Did I mention one of the interactions has a weird sexual harassment vibe?
Selecting the date presents an end screen. Thatís it. No time to build Sparks of Joy let alone Engagement, though the text was really too awkward to supply either of those anyway. Besides its really rushed presentation, the thing that sticks out most is the amped up Bro tone of the thing.
Bear with me while I expand a bit on the genus and phylum of Bro-tone. All Bro-tone comes from the same extended lineage that culminated in the 80s/90s teen sex farces. Its key hallmarks were 1) faintly knuckleheaded cis dumbasses 2) carefree good humor 3) treating women as sex objects to achieve and 4) inhabiting narratives where the world happily rewarded all of those. (There was another gene, 5) Gay Panic, that is not relevant here.) And it was toxic as hell, once we looked at it close enough. Prominent in movies like Porkies, and I donít know Joy Sticks (deep cut!), but really you couldnít swing a dead cat in a cineplex and not hit one back then. Nowadays it is most readily identified by its excessive, prejorative use of the word Ďwoke.í
There was a key mutation in the late 80ís that forked the line. Iím speaking of course of Bill and Tedís Excellent Adventure. This mutation dramatically diluted gene #3 above, and somehow made the species stronger. Suddenly, knuckleheaded amiability could rise unfettered by toxicity. Subsequent mutations actually flipped the gene to engage women as people, and even modified #5. At first haltingly in supporting characters in American Pie, then fully-fledged in Neighbors or its Final Boss form, Josh Segarra in his roles in She-Hulk and The Other Two. Spoiler alert, this is NOT the Bro-tone phylum 4E+2N showcases.
The Bro-tone main line had another mutation in the last 4-7 years - a new gene of mocking self-awareness. Where the joke is how awful the main line is by subtly amplifying the meanness of the worst if its excesses. A great example of this line is Michael Cheí on SNLís Weekend Update. He deadpan advocates the most insane, exaggerated Bro-tone behaviors for laughs. Colin Jostís role here is indispensable - his comedically beleaguered disapproval is vital to the identification of this strain. Superficially it is so similar to the main branch they can easily be mistaken for each other.
And these separate-but-similar Bro-tones are where we are in 4E+2N. My first ending I was presented with (Spoiler - click to show)"Over the years, you realize that she's a little hysterical, but which woman isn't."
My impulse was to hear it in Michael Cheís voice and snorted in amusement. My second ending had a less over-the-top but clearly still Bro-tone blurb that made me question what I was looking at. As I contemplated a third run, I realized I was holding a Schroedingerís cat box. At this point, the game was in superposition between the two Bro-tone lines. If I opened the box with a third run, it was going to concretize into one or the other. I donít think I want that.
Playtime: Less than 10min, two runthroughs.
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Intrusive
Would Play Again? I dare not trifle with the quantum superposition.
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless