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About the Story
The sea is calling you. Its voice is getting louder.
Content warning: This game touches on themes of death, grief, implied child neglect, implied child abuse, possession, monsters, deep water, wrongful imprisonment, and wrongful execution
38th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This is a Texture game, a system that uses a drag and drop of verbs to pull over nouns. The text was small on the buttons, which is a bug Iíve seen before thatís due to the system, not the author, I think.
I really liked this game. Iím into weird short horror/terror and the author has an excellent command of character and setting and is able to effectively spin a tale that drew me in.
The main commands are APPROACH, REFLECT, and TAKE, and I loved how each of these took on different meaning throughout the game. I also felt like I had real agency; there was an interesting object early on I intended to look at but lost the chance as I progressed; yet there were still interesting things to do. It made me feel like the game was replayable.
I found one ending (The Captain, I guess you could call it). It seems like there are more, but I felt satisfied with my playthrough.
I would definitely read more by this author, good work. It suits my particular reading tastes, and I canít guarantee that others would have the same experience.
I'm still not sold on Texture. There's the weird bug with the extremely small button text, but let's ignore that. Then there's still the problem that the affordances of the text are hidden; that is, you cannot see at a glance how you can interact with the screen; you have to grab each button in turn just to find out what your choices are, then go back to grab the button you want and go to the place where you can drop it. It's so much more laborious than link clicking, that there should be a large upside to make it worth it. But I'm not yet seeing it. All Hands, for instance, could just as well have been done in Twine.
Now we'll talk about the game itself. No, I'm lying! I first want to make a completely random comment about the blurb. This is the entire blurb: "The sea is calling you. Its voice is getting louder." And that is such pitch perfect Fallen London / Sunless Sea prose that I was surprised to find out that the game is not Failbetter Games fan fiction! But it's really not.
So let's finally talk about All Hands. It's a short story about someone who enters what it for all intents and purposes a ghost ship. They've always been drawn to the sea, but their farmer father forbade them to so much as think about anything nautical. And perhaps with good reason, because their sister drowned in the sea; more than that, was pulled under by waves that seemed hungry for her. Now the mysterious ship that has been sailing in this neighbourhood has come to shore, and of course you enter it, drawn in by the fascinating woman who owns it. Once you're on board, there's a geographically organised exploration section in which you can find several songs. When you are finished, you return to the woman in charge, dance with her, choose a song to sing... and depending on that song, you get one of several endings.
All Hands is nicely atmospheric. (Spoiler - click to show)I think it might not have been a great design decision to hide the room which explains the backstory most behind a lock that can only be opened if one has picked up the compass in the beginning; especially because it is extremely easy to miss this compass. After my first playthrough, I thought the story made no sense. Only on my second playthrough, when I got the compass, did things click. (I especially enjoyed the fact that you get a puzzle and then the protagonist just solves it without your input.) The 'good' ending, where the magic is dispelled and the characters embrace each other, was a fairly nice surprise.
I enjoyed this snack sized game, and would gladly play something more substantial by the author.
All Hands is a short horror-y interactive piece set on a ship, one you can explore, and maybe find its secrets. Its prose is atmospheric horror, with a hint of lovecraftian. In each screen, the game offers up to three actions (Regard/Approach/Take) to interact with the text or the environment. There are multiple endings, but found just one.
Due to the vagueness of the prose on what is truly happening or even your own backstory, the entry leaves quite a bit to the player's interpretation. Called to the sea, but always forbidden to sail, you find your way to the Devil's Delight, a singular type of ship. Aboard, almost pulled in by a strange tune (music? voice?), you can explore the different rooms of the ship, or interact with the Captain's. At the end, I found myself back on the shore, believing Albertina was some sort of a mermaid, and I was her prey; and the ship itself felt a bit ghost-like.
I quite enjoyed the interactivity of this texture game, with the different actions (almost parser-like kind), how you could explore the ship and interact with different element (the books made me giggle). The few available actions give the illusion of restricted agency for the character, as if the PC was restricted in their movement or abilities on this strange ship. That and the imageries from the text really gives a creepy and almost suffocating vibe to the game.
But I wonder if Texture was the best engine to use for that, due to the lengthy hidden content shifting the text formatting (I liked the content a lot! Texture formatting it less so).
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