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About the Story
We are haunted by the houses of our childhood. How unfamiliar they are, when we return. Yet you never forget, do you? You never really forget. A Southern Gothic horror story. Remember, of all the masks we wear, it's the final one that matters.
Nominee, Best Use of Multimedia - 2020 XYZZY Awards
31st Place (tie) - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
Number of Reviews: 8
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I struggled with how to rate this game. It is note perfect in so many aspects, from the prose, to the sound, to the pictures, to the interactive elements, and yes, to even the timed text, which I usually hate. My biggest complaint was that (Spoiler - click to show)the plot didn't have enough payoff. But then I decided that wasn't the goal of this piece, that it was mostly about mood and feel, and it absolutely nailed those aspects. So 4-stars instead of three. Bravo!
This is a choice-based piece, with very limited choice. It is pretty much a short story presented with a modicum of interactivity, but it makes the absolute most of those interactive elements. Text changes after you click on it (similar to Will Not Let Me Go). A few pictures and a creepy soundtrack. Even timed text, as I mentioned before, that was timed so well as to leave me in a legitimate state of suspense, but only for a second or two before the story spilled its next secret.
And the writing! Each word is measured to fit its part in the story. Again, other than my one minor complaint above, which is a bit unfair for a story of this length, this is a master class in writing and production.
I don't want to say more as I don't want to spoil anything. I will just say go play this game, it is well worth your time.
There are many types of games that can be made with Twine, but seemingly the most common and to this reviewer's opinion the most frustrating is the game on rails that pretends it's not on rails. The last thing I want to do after spending an hour playing a game is to replay it with all the different choices and discover that other than some flavor text, nothing has changed.
Babyface never pretends that it is a game or that the player has any agency. It's simply a short horror story that uses Twine to enhance the player experience by using inventive visuals, frequent changes in pacing, and opportune music and sound effects. I'm reminded of House of Leaves, a landmark horror novel that used vivid stylings with text to immerse the reader. Similarly, first person perspective here works as we're just along for the ride.
While the story itself is derivative of horror I've read in the past, and there are some loose threads at the end I wish had been tidied up, I was nevertheless engrossed and experienced the tension the author was going for. Good horror is incredibly difficult and I'm excited if Mark Sample continues with this genre.
Babyface uses interaction and multimedia effects to craft a bone-chilling horror story about someone returning to their hometown to investigate family secrets.
The game has very high production values with fades, music, photos, link replacements, and design that all helped to create a foreboding feeling. There is also solid pacing and build up in tension throughout the beginning and middle of the story.
On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed because while the build up is great, the climax/ending is more confusing than scary to me; it isnít clear whatís happening, why itís happening, or what really connects the protagonist to the final events. Also, the forced wait times between passages are a cool idea but occasionally slowed things down too much for me, to frustrating effect.
(This review is of the Comp release)
There is nothing creepier than a creepy dream. Conversely, there is often nothing less creepy than that same dream when youíre trying to explain it to others. Plaudits to the author, then, for taking inspiration from one such creepy dream and transforming it into a very unsettling and compelling piece of IF!
The great use of multimedia is part of what makes Babyface so effective. There are judiciously-chosen polaroids, links are highlighted in an ominous red aura, and thereís an amazingly effective jump-scare thatís not at all cheap and that I donít want to spoil.
But in addition to those (great!) bells and whistles, Babyface has great prose, and Ė even more importantly for horror Ė great pacing. The narrative is very canny about revealing some tantalizing hints, and then deferring exploration as the playerís dad calls it a night, or the player wakes up from a dream, or theyíre interrupted by a passing police officer. This helps wind up the tension, but also makes the player lean forward in their seat, eager to see what comes next. Itís also set in the here and now, during the COVID pandemic (itís not stated openly, but itís possible the main characterís mother has just died of the disease), which as it turns out is a great setting for horror, since it alienates us from the everyday. I suspect weíll be seeing a lot of horror fiction set in 2020 in years to come.
There isnít much interactivity in the sense of meaningful choices or puzzles. I did have fun attempting to translate the mysterious Latin on the photos (fair warning that thereís one bit that isnít really LatinÖ) but this is mostly a roller coaster where youíre along for the ride. With that said, thereís definitely some elegance in how links are deployed Ė thereís one particular sequence where the mechanics of choice effectively communicate a sense of being compelled (Spoiler - click to show)(I mean the bit where the player is entering the house, with ďI find myselfĒ the link at the beginning of a sentence that repeatedly changes when you click it. Your cursor isnít moving, but the character is as the sentence shifts, making it feel like youíre moving forward while remaining inert).
Babyface is definitely worth a play Ė especially if you give it a spin close to Halloween!
In this Twine short story, a great sense of atmosphere and suspense is created, not just by the use of images and sound, excellent as those are, but by thoughtful use of links: links that change text when you click on them, links that trigger a time delay, and changes of layout. I would have liked the plot to have developed more - it felt like reading the first half of a story.
Nevertheless, this is a good example of what I would consider multimedia fiction, where the interactivity provided by Twine is used not to give the reader a choice of narratives, but to provide atmosphere and to move the story onwards.