Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets

by Naomi Norbez profile and Josh Grams

Slice of life

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not so hidden secrets, April 2, 2024
by manonamora
Related reviews: seedcomp

Hidden Gems, Hidden Secrets is a Twine game set in a Discord server, where members of the Hidden Gems Of Poetry Group interact, led by Dr. Cornelius Harper, a retired professor with a passion for poetry. Prior to the creation of this space, each member had some sort of connection with Cornelius (who calls himself Corn), many seeing him as a mentor. The server is also moderated by his trans grandson.

But on that day, two collisions shock the group: a literal one, leaving the life of Cornelius in the balance waiting for surgery, and a more metaphorical one as a secret threatens the bond of this small community. Obviously, the two events couldn't have come at a worse time...
In between beats of conversation, we are able to see personal exchanges between Corn and each member, during different time periods. These, coupled with the live messages in-chat, allows you to paint a clear picture of the man and his actions. There are hints from the start to what is going to happen, and what has happened (Spoiler - click to show)who knows how many times. The implications are pretty damning.

Honestly, I thought this game was completely linear at first. Before sending the first message, I tried clicking on the side arrows to see what it would do, but since nothing happened, I chalked it off as just "for show" (turns out, not every message has a choice, but the arrows always look the same). So I had, for better or for worse, the "middle ending" right off the bat. I've checked the other two endings, and I'm certainly glad I got this one first. Though none of the path feel "good", one feels realistic but disappointing (in the other members), the other quite uncomfortable (though it could probably lead to a "better" outcome for most).
Though I think most players would favour the more salacious choices, with how they are listed on the screen...

I think it would have driven the point further if we were able to go through previous conversations in the server. From the first live conversation, it is clear the users know each other well by now, and have created strong bonds with one another (and with Corn). But the only channel with potentially substantial discussion also starts with Sorry, older messages can't be loaded, per the settings in this server., which wouldn't make sense if you are a member of a server (why would all the messages be hidden every time someone logs off? especially for the purpose of discussions), but also thwart the possibility of understanding who the users are (what do they like? what kind of writing to they do? etc) and how they usually behave with one another (do they fight and make up? are they always friendly? how does Corn fits into their dynamics). Instead, you end up as an onlooker peering into what is happening right now and also controlling the members as puppets (I mean, you kind of are for the purpose of the story) - kinda weirdly voyeuristic?

On the interface side, I would have preferred if it had been a bit closer to the actual Discord interface, whether it is the palette use (I know you can change it on browser, but it would have been suuuuper unlikely everyone used the same green palette, especially considering how different the characters are) or the placement of elements on the screen. Though it was smart to keep the messages of the "playable" user separate from the rest of the chat, and each user getting their personal pfp.

Definitely a confronting game, thought not completely unrealistic. Interesting mechanic and interface wise, discomforting story wise.

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