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The Absence of Miriam Lane

by Abigail Corfman

2022

Web Site

(based on 19 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Sometimes people give pieces of themselves away.

Sometimes they give too much and who they are wears thin.

They become an absence. A hole in the world.

And a terrible Light shines through.

Content warning: Loss, Nihilism, Self-harm (mild), Eating disorder (implied)


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: 2glbsr1n5uevrnhs

Awards

2nd Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(6)
4 star:
(11)
3 star:
(2)
2 star:
(0)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful game about finding someone who has lost herself, October 22, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Abigail Corfman has made many high-quality games in the past, so I was excited to play this one.

This is a richly-illustrated Twine game, with black-and-white chiaroscuro images on one side and options on another. The game has background music and sound effects. The screen was too low-positioned for me to click on at first, but going to full-screen made it work better.

This is a combination story-focused and puzzle game. The idea is that a man, Anthony Lane, suspects that he has a wife but can't find her. You have to investigate the house to find out what's missing. Like another game in this comp, A Long Way to the Nearest Star, you have an inventory of thoughts and items that you can select from in each room, providing two-factor puzzles that make for a richer game.

The first half of the game had a lot of narrative momentum for me, with the puzzles being fairly light and forgiving. It bogged down a lot in the second half as it is possible to make irreversibly bad decisions.

But that made me have to think a lot. I had to really stop and imagine this person, what their life might be like. I continued to do poorly, even restarting. But I worked at it more and more. It was compelling to try to really thing about what their life was like, instead of what I wanted it to be like or assumed it would be like. It was like an exercise in empathy.

Overall, I think this is really well done. Love the art, too.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Seemingly gone, name forgotten. But maybe there’s hope., October 2, 2022

You are contacted by a man, Mr. Lane, who explains that his wife is missing. For some reason, no one can remember her name. With more questions than answers, you set out to explore the couple’s house to find a seemingly nameless woman.

Note: Obviously, the player already knows the woman’s name. Miriam Lane. It is in the game’s title. Because of this I will openly use her name in this review without tagging it as a spoiler. But uncovering her name in the game to reach the protagonist’s objective requires some work.

Gameplay
This is a longer Twine game. It feels like there are two halves of gameplay. The first is to (Spoiler - click to show) find Miriam while the second is to revive her to the waking world.

In the first half, the player searches the house for abnormal clues to build an understanding about Miriam's living situation. For the most part, this uses a “you can look but not touch” philosophy as you explore. The main mechanic is to use a list of thoughts that are automatically assembled and testing them in areas that seem relevant. It did feel, at times, a bit stagnant when you lose track of where you should look for clues. You end up going over the list for every possible location until you find something that sticks. A strong point (see below) is that it at least keeps track of which prompts you have already used.

Choose a thought:
Light and shadow is acting strangely. / tried
This is unnaturally aged or faded. / tried
There's something here that I can't see.

At the bottom of the screen is a progress bar that measures your “awareness” level. Once the bar is full, (Spoiler - click to show) you discover that she is lying on the bedroom bed in a somewhat comatose state. However, you can only see her silhouette. Your job is not over yet.

The second half of the gameplay is about (Spoiler - click to show) reviving her identity through personal mementos found in the house and recovering her name. Here, the game gives you more freedom to interact with objects. It retains some of the function from the first half, but its application of mechanics is narrowed down. You focus on (Spoiler - click to show) finding meaningful objects. However, the wrong objects can detract from Miriam’s recovery. Things that seem helpful may cause the opposite effect. I found this part to be more challenging to complete but more immersive in its story.

Generally, the puzzles were interesting and creative. My favorite was the flower puzzle where you (Spoiler - click to show) read about flowers and match their descriptions in the flower bed to locate them. It faintly reminded me of Ghosts Within which has themes about flowers and their symbolism. It too features a puzzle involving a guidebook. Another great thing about this game is that uses free range of movement that lets you explore the house and fiddle about with objects within, sharing some attributes with a parser format. Great example of a puzzle-oriented Twine game.

Story
At the end of the game (unless you lost prematurely), you are (Spoiler - click to show) presented with some sentences about her life. Some words in these sentences consist of links that you click on to change them. The goal is to use what you learned from the gameplay to piece together her life. There are multiple endings. (Spoiler - click to show) You do not have to get the answers right 100% to reach a positive ending but every word change has an impact.

As the game progressed it becomes clearer that the (Spoiler - click to show) story is not so much about finding a missing person in the literal sense but recovering a personality that had fallen to the wayside. The game does not end when you find her. It ends when you learn her name and affirm the things she loves. The name is the focal point. And with that comes identity.

Characters
There is not too much about the protagonist, Jane. The player can identify themselves as an investigator, researcher, or someone who just wants to help, but Jane is given only a few characteristics, although the game is in first person. She seems to have an affinity for, if not paranormal, the bizarre and unexplainable. I thought that she was going to have more of an occult-oriented profession, but the game only dips its toes this subject. It keeps things subtle which carries its own charm.

There are few NPCs. Only (Spoiler - click to show) Mr. Lane. Miriam as well, but she is unresponsive for most of the game. We learn about her through her home. You nitpick at everything. It is almost like using a lens and zooming in. You examine the sewing room, then the cork board on the wall, and if you look closer there is the (Spoiler - click to show) hidden bird sketch. That bird sketch is a possession with fond memories but it, just like Miriam’s interests, have been overshadowed by obligations in her life.

Visuals
The game sticks to a black and white colour scheme. Black background, white text, and snazzy black and white graphics. Each location has its own artwork, many having more than one. All of this creates a surreal feel. It does mingle with other visual effects such as a change of font for handwriting without diverting from this theme.

Design wise, the game strives to be user friendly. It has links at the bottom of the page that, when clicked on, result in popup boxes containing the player’s thoughts, inventory, and notes. This was nice since you do not have to flip to a different screen every time you feel like viewing this content. For a Twine game with lots of puzzles this was extremely helpful.

Final thoughts
I have been a huge fan of Abigail Corfman's games for a while. The complexity possible in a Twine game seem to be elevated to the next level whenever I play her games. The Absence of Miriam Lane still has the familiar features found in her work. Free range of movement, unique and stylized use of puzzles (such as the flower puzzle), and a complex character-oriented story.

Based on what I have seen, I think this game will do well in the Comp. Speaking of which… this is the first game I have played for this Comp, and I am thrilled! Have you ever been in an art class where the teacher shows you a rainbow of bright and colourful craft paper that look so appealing you do not know which one to pick first? That is how I feel right now.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Giving self to a selfless woman, November 5, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

I love the concept of this game--that a woman has lost her own identity in selfless service. The idea that we should erase our personalities and be a "window to God's love" is one that I strongly disagree with. I'm a Mormon woman and I identified with Miriam's struggle to maintain an identity (although, for me, this is a struggle I feel in the opposite direction, maybe being too much of an individual because I fear losing my identity). This is exactly the kind of concept that I wish more videogames would address! So thank you.

The mood/aesthetic in this game is amazing. The illustrative location art was derived from photos put through filters--and they look great. The music gives a great spooky mood too. I was amazed that this was all done in Twine. I've written some Twine games and clearly still have a lot to learn about the possibilities of this engine.

To get through the first part, I ended up spamming all the options in every room until I found the right things. I could figure out what to give Miriam pretty well, but I wish I had saved my game before trying some things out. I didn't remember anyone's name. I rarely do, even when I'm reading a novel. Sorry Miriam! HOWEVER I really liked the idea of bringing her back to life by caring about the details of her life and noticing what she really liked and how she related to other people in her life. A+ concept, but execution fell a little short for me, an impatient player.


See All 5 Member Reviews

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This is version 2 of this page, edited by Dan Fabulich on 13 October 2022 at 5:42am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item