Number of Reviews: 4
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Magical, January 5, 2018
Besides being amusing, absorbing, excellently written, cozy and generally making you warm inside, the games by S. Woodson also demonstrate an interesting approach to branching in an interactive story.
There's a sort of contradiction in choice-based puzzleless IF. On one hand, linearity is usually considered a drawback; most players want to feel that their choices really matter and substantially affect what happens, want the game to be truly interactive. On the other hand, in a significantly branching story the player will only see a small part of what's written by the author, can easily miss the best bits; the ratio of the player's enjoyment to the author's labor is low.
It would be great to make the players restart the game and explore all the various plot paths; but motivating them to replay many times and read different variations of the same story requires some serious stimulation.
In the games by S. Woodson - this one, ♥Magical Makover♥ and Beautiful Dreamer - different story branches entwine and interact with each other to form a kind of higher unity; some paths throw light on enigmatic elements of the other paths, make you see your previous game sessions in a new way - and even revisit them because, as it turns out, you didn't pay proper attention to something curious. They are all different elements of the same picture, and you want to see the picture whole.
(Narcolepsy by Adam Cadre utilized the same idea, though less effectively: the crazy guy in the university plaza always gives you hints referring to other storylines.)
In both ♥Magical Makover♥ and Beautiful Dreamer, there's one "main" branch - the one which is central to the picture and which the player is most likely to find first.
In ♥Magical Makover♥, it's the one featured on the cover art - the only one where the protagonist's initial goal is reached. If, say, the player tries three different random products on their first playthrough, they get this branch with the probability of 60%.
In Beautiful Dreamer, it's talking to Cephiros about the moth - which has the highest priority among all the topics the protagonist may discover.
Get Lost!, which is much smaller than the former two games, lacks the "main" branch: all the paths are of equal importance.