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About the Story
Leaving the realm of darkness, you wake up among your peers working towards your first project in assisting the welcome ceremony play. Yet unforeseen circumstances in each one of your attempts bring you back to the beginning, can you find the culprit trapping you in this eternal cycle?
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Dear reader, you donít know me from Adam so youíre going to have to take my word for it, but: I am not especially easy to flummox. That sounds like a boast, and I suppose it is and thereís more boasting to come, but still, Iíve read Joyce and Woolf and Foster Wallace and had some struggles, sure, but modulo Finnegans Wake I feel like I understood and appreciated them. In undergrad I was able to keep straight the astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and advanced classical mechanics I was studying all at the same time, and did fine in law school even when having to unknot the trickiest problems of jurisdiction in my Fed Courts class. My favorite game in last yearís Spring Thing was Queenlash, which is like 80,000 words of superdense metaphor about Cleopatra.
So when I tell you that I spent my playthrough of Abate not having the first clue what on Godís green earth was going on, I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt that itís not because Iím just a big dummy easily confused by nonlinear storytelling. Like, Iím going to summarize the plot, and if you havenít played it youíll read the summary and think ďoh, thatís not so bad, I kind of get it,Ē but trust me, no, you donít.
Thereís definitely something liberating about playing a game so free of the bounds of traditional narrative causality that it could serve as an interactive rebuttal to the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy, and I have to confess that like 25% of the bemused chuckles I emitted during my playthrough were prompted by the anarchic glee here on display. But it gets exhausting not being able to understand whether anything thatís happening is connected to any of the storyís previous events, or will lead to any coherent resolution in the future Ė especially where, as here, the prose doesnít provide sufficient pop to serve as a throughline and the choice the center-align all the text makes reading a bit of a headache.
OK, here comes the summary so you can see what I mean: in this bespoke choice-based game, you play a student stuck in a Groundhog Day style time loop on the day of a big school celebration. Thereís a lot of incident: your best friend is bent on confessing his love to the student council president, who in turn wants to buttonhole you to rope you into helping with the school activities. Meanwhile, youíre trying to avoid a frenemy who doesnít realize that youíre the one who wrote the now-defunct cooking blog thatís inspired their own culinary efforts. Every once in a while, for reasons that remained obscure to me, everything blacks out and you confront the void Ė and a beyond-sketchy tempter figure whose proposed ďyouíll just owe me one, itíll be no biggieĒ deal seemed like an incredibly bad idea Ė and things reset, until they donít.
Again, that sounds wacky but not too far outside the realm of comprehension, so Iíll provide a taste of what Abate is like. This is part of an embedded flashback where you reflect on how you met your best friend:
ď'Why do you even space out so often?' Vysian would always ask you with confusion, and you would make something up but one day you decided that he deserves the answer Ė 'spices' you shout, 'I was thinking about the spices that adds the most value to boiled potatoes, Iím yet to find the one.' 'Onions' Vyusian assures, 'boiled potatoes taste the best with onions'. You felt a spark within your heart that could only be used to light up the dream that one day you may just find the one, and here it was, you rushed to your house, prepared the dish to your satisfaction and take a taste Ė 'this is indeed the one, my dream has been achieved.'"
There has been no groundwork previously laid for the main characters obsession with potatoes, and if youíd expect there to be some like acknowledgment that ďonionsĒ are not a spice, your expectations will go unfulfilled. Itís entertainingly zany to read a little bit of stuff like this, sure, but the whole game is this way, with characters running in and exclaiming about stuff that doesnít seem to connect with anything else before moving on to the next thing. Eventually it ended, after I rejected the deal with the devil and then managed to unite my friend with his crush through the expedient of wandering randomly around the school unsure of what I was doing Ė so I think I won?
I unfortunately canít say it was very satisfying, though; the lack of coherence meant that I felt little sense of agency, and the sheer randomness of everything that was happening meant I couldnít find a consistent set of themes or ideas with which to engage. Maybe thatís the point, and itís all meant to mirror the atomized, discombobulated nature of postmodern life Ė but even if thatís the case, more unified aesthetics and a few concessions to causality would probably have helped the argument land a bit better.
If I had to describe Abate in one word, it would be: potato. Potatoes are, of course, the most important motif in the game, and they pretty much carry the plot forward.
I find potatoes inherently funny, and they also have immense symbolic value. They're these misshapen lumpy things that come from the dirt, and they go on to provide nourishment and enjoyment to people all over the world. The story of a potato is the story of an underdog. You just want to root for the potato.
It is fitting, then, that our potato-appreciating protagonist and his (?) potato-obsessed foil are high school students grappling with love. This struggle alone makes them primo underdogs, even before considering the temporal anomaly and the encounters with the potentially dangerous goddess.
As a player, I also felt like an underdog, because I never knew what the heck was going on. The plot is full of non sequiturs. Everything from the mundane to the metaphysical goes more-or-less unexplained. Even when I was seemingly making progress, I usually had no idea why. Eventually I reached an ending that left me scratching my head: there was no resolution to the ostensibly central conflict, no follow-up on any of the many unfinished plot threads.
But those are subtleties. The important thing is that (Spoiler - click to show)the protagonist got asked on a date by Murphy, the other potato guy. Frankly, I had been shipping them long before this point. The protagonist is a person as balanced and fluid as a finely-chopped hash, satisfying one passion and moving on to the next; whereas Murphy is steady and consistent, every bit as solid as a raw potato. It was virtually inevitable that these two titans of the potato blogosphere would come together in a dialectical synthesis of sorts, and their romantic union made such perfect sense to me that it made up for all the other nonsense. I felt it was the perfect ending - nay, the only appropriate ending - to this odd game which had left me so confused every step of the way.
I definitely think the prose would be much improved by the services of an editor, if only to clean up the grammar and sentence structure.
This game has a great deal of potential but unfortunately doesn't pan out yet in many areas. From reading about the game, I wonder if a lot of time was spent trying out different interactive fiction engines.
You play as a young high school student who goes to school and gets stuck in a time loop. You have to replay over and over to progress.
I had a bit of trouble with figuring out how the game worked. A lot of options seem to send you to a fake-death the first time you go to them, but then they are important later.
The formatting uses centered text and no paragraph breaks. I think it would have been a bit easier to read with left-aligned text and paragraph breaks, and using a serif font and colors with less contrast than pure black and pure white.
The writing has grammar that sounds off, especially with comma use or punctuation around quotations.
Overall, I think the underlying idea is solid and there are some funny moments, but I felt unsatisfied.
ABATE : HIDDEN BEHIND CURTAINS
I have played untill I have died 2 times, after the game works wrong. I havenít found the curtains lol. Well, it is a different game and as it is said in the title " In Abate, each of your decisions lead to a permanent change in the realm, where a redo of several events thus never occur the same way due to your influence.Ē
So I have played several more times and I have found some additional credits.
This game is like a chewing gum in some ways: it has much faces, much different ways to go after taking some choices.
It is easy, short, polished and smart game.