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About the Story
DISTINGUISH TRUTH AND SCAMS IN OVER 130 UNIQUE EMAILS • PROTECT THE INBOX FROM URBAN LEGENDS • EXCHANGE WITTY REPARTEE WITH YOUR PLUGIN COWORKERS • CROSS SWORDS WITH A DEADLY EMAIL WORM • LEARN WAY TOO MUCH ABOUT YOUR USER'S FRIENDS
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I went into this game not expecting to get out of it as much as I did - its blurb doesn't do it justice. But I found it completely absorbing. It starts off as a cute little story about the secret lives of software plugins - you’re a spam filter, tasked with reading an endless procession of emails and deciding whether or not they’re worthy to pass into the inbox of the human whose computer you inhabit - and then develops into a fascinating journey through time, space, memory and the entangled relationships of sentient beings (both human and artificial).
At its heart, it’s a love story, and a very well-written and frequently very funny one at that; if that wasn’t so then I could imagine the earlier section of the game, in which you read your way through a steady stream of faux emails and simply have to decide whether to ‘zap’ or approve them, would become rapidly quite wearing - but I found that the writing was skilful and entertaining enough to avoid that. After the preliminaries, the game opens out and the story and characters come to the fore, the non-human protagonist and their friends being, for the most part, a far more likeable and interesting bunch than the humans they serve; its their attempts to influence events in the outside world that drives the narrative along but their interactions with one another that provide the lion’s share of the entertainment. It’s a hard task to elicit empathy with a spam filter and the equivalent of Clippy, but somehow this game manages to do it, while offering up a thoroughly entertaining story and a few (very easy) puzzles along the way.
This is an author who knows how to spin a rattling good yarn and keep readers along for the duration; I took me around three hours to get through the game and I felt it was time well spent. Linearity seems quite high and the sense of player agency quite low - that might bother the sorts of players who are inclined to replay choice-based games to explore different branches, but I tend to play games like I play life, largely blind to the paths not taken, so it didn't worry me. The implementation in Twine is carefully done with a few different backgrounds and sparing use of text effects - simple and very effective.
Altogether I found it completely enjoyable. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone looking first and foremost for a good story.
In this game, you are a sentient program in a computer circa 2000. Your goal is to deal with an influx of emails, ZAPping or APPROVing them as you determine.
It cites DIGITAL: A LOVE STORY as an influence, but I've never played that game. It has a feel kind of like Wreck-it-Ralph/Emoji movie/Digimon in the sense that applications 'behind the scenes' are thinking, feeling creatures.
It turns out that one of your human's email friends is in despair because their father is taking away their computer. You have to work together with a crew of other applications to save her.
Here's my breakdown:
+Polish: The game is certainly very polished, with use of changing background images, pop-up boxes, text input, an inbox-managing system, text animations, etc. Could easily be nominated for an XYZZY award of some type for this alone.
+Descriptiveness: The game was very vivid in its writing, and the different email voices were very enjoyable.
+Interactivity: I'll admit, some of the spam emails were kind of long and boring. The simulation of an unpleasant event is still an unpleasant event. But I never felt like things were 'on rails', while simultaneously rarely feeling 'lost'.
+Emotional impact: I found the game funny and the story interesting. Like I said, some parts were boring, but many were not.
+Would I play again? I could see myself revisiting it.
It is the year 2000, and you are a mailbox plugin whose purpose is to eradicate annoying and malicious emails.
Whether an email is annoying or malicious isn't as clear-cut as you might hope. Sure, the unsolicited advertisements and bulk-mail phishing schemes seem obvious enough. What about newsletters your user might have deliberately signed up for, though? What about chain letters or fundraising scams forwarded by your user's less considerate contacts? Dozens of such notorious categories of junk messages await your evaluation.
This would be a fine diversion by itself. Here's your queue of email to review: pick one and read it. Consider the color, context, and comedy provided by your internal monologue. Make your decision. Zap, or Approve? Your choice made, it's on to the next email. The routine is no less enjoyable for its simplicity.
Beyond the routine, though, a narrative emerges. Your protagonist, "Zap", may just be simple mailbox plug-in, but it has personality, opinions, and agency. It has colleagues: even friends. These characters and concepts grow in tandem with the importance of the messages you're reviewing. As the situation develops, actual puzzles appear. (You may brute-force these at your discretion.)
I found myself entertained. Zapping spam was engaging, while the puzzles rewarded attention and intuition. The story took unexpected turns. I worried that the long and sprawling narrative might work against the simple joy of spam elimination, but my fears proved unfounded. Despite playing for minutes shy of two hours, You are SpamZapper 3.1 never wore out its welcome. I recommend this without reservations.
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