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All Hands

by Natasha Ramoutar

Horror, Mystery

(based on 15 ratings)
6 reviews

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

Game Details


38th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Winner, Outstanding Texture Game of 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Well-textured sea adventure, December 19, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

Thereíve been a goodly number of short Texture games this Comp and last, and call me jaded but by now Iíve got a pretty solid sense of what to expect when I see one coming up next: a personal narrative with a reasonable albeit clunky metaphor, confusing use of the drag-and-drop interface, interestingly flawed writing, and minimal branching. Leave it for the last such game in my queue to leave me spluttering and unsure of what Iíve just seen: All Hands is, I swear to yíall, a limited-parser game in Texture form. I didnít know you could do such a thing, but now that I have, I think the system might be almost perfect for it?

In retrospect, this maybe should have been obvious to me. The drag-verbs-onto-nouns interface is quite similar to how classic graphic adventures were set up, but since most games tend to change the verbs on offer with each passage, the resemblance is typically obscured. Here, the player gets a consistent trio that map cleanly to traditional IF actions Ė reflect/examine, take, and approach/go Ė and the authorís also set things up so that after an introductory section, youíre able to wander around different areas of a ship and even revisit places youíve been before. And while I wasnít even aware Texture could do much in the way of state-tracking, there are obstacles that are clearly puzzles, and which respond in different ways if youíve acquired the right tool or piece of information. I wouldnít say any of them are challenging Ė this is very much an exploration-focused game Ė but this is a sturdy formula to drive player engagement, and itís well-realized here.

Uncharacteristically, Iím three paragraphs in and I havenít said anything about the gameís plot or themes; itís time to remedy that, but take the omission as an indication of just how much the structure bowled me over. So youíre a young person living in a fantasy version of the real world whoís always been fascinated by the sea, and as part of your backstory, your sister killed by sea monsters, so this fascination has a dark, obsessive element to it too. One night while wandering the coast, you come across an unearthly vessel that plays host to a strange, ocean-going carnival. The ringmistress invites you aboard and gives you a chance to explore before the show begins, and as you poke around belowdecks, you can uncover the shipís secrets, some of which are uncannily personalÖ

The premise is over the top, in other words, and the writing sometimes doesnít sell it as effectively as it could Ė as you climb the ladder onto the ship, for example, youíre told that thereís a bunch of dust on each rung, indicating that itís been a long time since thereíve been any visitors coming aboard. Itís presumably meant to be a spooky touch, but itís rendered ridiculous by the fact that youíre scaling the ladder in the middle of a storm, a detail that this very passage takes pains to remind you of. But there are some authentically eerie notes too, like the observation that the shipís larder seems to stock only root vegetables, which is bizarre and oddly specific. Overall, despite its moments of weakness, I liked the prose; unfortunately, youíll need to trust me on that because I played the game on mobile which meant that whenever I tried to copy and paste any excerpts into my notes, it crashed (Texture gonna Texture).

The gameís climax is a nice capstone too, snapping into focus some thematic elements whose presence earlier in the narrative seemed slightly off. It seems like there were several different endings the player can choose between, based on how deeply they plumbed the shipís mysteries, which was a pleasant way to make the parserlike gameplay relevant to the story, though once again one of Textureís foibles reduced my enjoyment; I wanted to go back and try out some of the other options, but without an undo or save/load option, that would have meant replaying the whole game from the beginning.

I guess I canít help banging on about Texture even when reviewing a game I enjoyed; itís a frustrating piece of technology. But for a change, I can actually see how it supports what a game is trying to accomplish, and the tweaks Iíd want to see to make the system work better are just tweaks, not fundamental reimaginings. Thatís an exciting place to leave my journey with Texture for the year, so nice work, All Hands; your weirdo creepy circus and this weirdo creepy engine are a surprisingly good fit.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dreamlike Texture game about a horrifying nautical situation, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

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.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beware of the melody..., November 22, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

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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All Hands on IFDB


The following polls include votes for All Hands:

Outstanding Texture Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Texture game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

Outstanding Mystery Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best mystery game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested...

Outstanding Debut 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 by a new author. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

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