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Number of Reviews: 12
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2 people found the following review helpful:
Twine pseudo-puzzler with engaging characters, February 1, 2021
this one's a real gem -- it's IF in the "existential crisis/surreal location" genre, but for once, the location isn't deserted. the characters in Cactus Blue Motel are interesting people, most of whom one might actually want to get to know, and despite the Twine structure and limited interactivity they come off as nuanced and deep.
there are no mysterious machines, trophy cases to fill, and so on. the "puzzles" in Cactus Blue Motel are generally explorative in nature; where do you go, in what order, and what decisions do you make? they lead carefully and organically towards a single dilemma, and while i feel like the author has a solution in mind, i'm not actually convinced it's the one i'd choose.
just overall fantastic. great writing and pushes Twine to its limits.
4 people found the following review helpful:
Some places are like people: some shine and some don't, September 7, 2020
When I played Night Guard / Morning Star last year I noted that I was captivated by the writing and atmosphere and turned off by the multitude of endings. I feel similarly after playing Dalmady's Cactus Blue Motel and I'll dive further into the reasons why.
The general conceit of interactive fiction is that you are the primary character. The playing character may be a cipher, such as in Zork, or a specific character, such as Maria Elena here. Regardless, you are making decisions for that person.
In a pure puzzler, the author hopes to engage the player in the game's objective. In a comedy, the author hopes to make the player laugh, and character development may or may not be necessary. Drama, I suspect, is the hardest genre for IF authors, as they must make the player care about the characters, unwaveringly, for the entire game. The CYOA format highlights this difficult task, as there are no real puzzles to distract the player.
Dalmady succeeds, as usual, in building a fun atmosphere with compelling characters. A mystical desert motel where time is squishy is ripe for intrigue. But the game's format, unfortunately, usurps the development of Maria Elena. Eight endings are written for Maria Elena and the decisions that impact those endings are based on how you interact with her two friends, Lex and Becky, throughout the game. There are no puzzles and nothing to deduce, so all of the game's real choices are impacted by Maria Elena herself.
For my first playthrough, I made choices for Maria Elena by projecting my desires for her character. Subsequent playthroughs to find different endings required me to project different desires onto her. This requires me, essentially, to divorce myself from how I feel about our protagonist. I am no longer rooting for her, but rooting for myself to find different endings. Dalmady sidesteps the awkwardness a bit by making these choices not impact the course of the plot or even much of the game's dialogue; however, this in turn has the side effect of the eight endings feeling somewhat arbitrary (not to mention a chore to find via repetitive restarts), and Maria Elena's relationships wind up seeming so fragile that a couple of fairly innocuous comments drastically changes the course of their lives.
In the end, the focus on these three characters and their fates detracted from the game's best character, the motel. Such is the bane of CYOA: the focus dedicated to plot branches necessarily gives everything else less importance.
5 people found the following review helpful:
Beautifully presented, but could have been better written, September 3, 2018
This game left me feeling a little unsatisfied.
There were strong horror vibes that I felt could have been emphasised a little more, which would have added greatly to the atmosphere, even if the piece as a whole was not aiming to be a horror story.
Dialogue felt somewhat canned, and at times melodramatic, punctuated with grammatical inconsistencies. The conclusion also felt simplistic, with the tensions between the protagonist and each of her two friends left unaddressed. While another outburst wouldn't have been desirable, I think a little more resistance from Lex and Becky, and from the protagonist herself, wouldn't have been amiss. (Glancing through the other reviews, however, which praise the game's writing, I seem to be in the minority here.)
I think a large part of my disappointment with the game can be attributed to how much promise it showed. The cover art is gorgeous, as are the title screen and the neon text prevalent throughout the game. Given the coherence of this theme, I was expecting an equally high level of crispness for the story, which unfortunately fell short, in my opinion.
1 people found the following review helpful:
Welcome to the Cactus Blue Motel: you wont ever want to leave!, July 15, 2018
Please bear with me as this is my first review ever!
Not much of a game, exquisitely written, July 12, 2018
Cactus Blue Motel feels a bit like a "walking game" (Dear Esther or Edith Finch). And as such, it is pretty easy. BUT that doesn't mean it isn't fun or engaging. It avoids soooo many pitfalls common to these types of games. Dalmady manages to paint a vibrant world without being overly verbose. More specifically, I feel that Dalmady manages to walk that fine line between describing the world of the Cactus Blue Motel and giving us as players something to do. Finally, (without giving away too many spoilers) Dalmady inserts so many symbolic characters and objects that you cannot help but to "get the point(s)" of the story eventually.
The dialogue is fine as well, but God help all budding Interactive Fiction writers if Dalmady ever studies script writing!
I do sort of wish some of my choices had a bit more of an impact on the game world, but really this is a minor complaint in what otherwise is a fantastic game.
I encourage you to play this Twine: despite being quite light on the "gaming" part, it is expertly written and touching.
The game sports "multiple ending", but I was satisfied with just one walkthrough.
It is quite short (say: half an hour to an hour).
6 people found the following review helpful:
A Very High Recommendation From A Die-Hard Parser Guy, July 12, 2018
I'm a parser guy. I once believed that I'd never be able to give five stars to a Twine game for various parser-bias reasons. Then I played Cactus Blue Motel. And then I subsequently redefined my IF schema. Intriguing, Engaging, Inspiring, Thought Provoking. Life-Changing? Perhaps. This is an interactive story; this is a game; this is literature; this is art. Do yourself a favor and experience it for yourself.
Beautiful and simple, July 7, 2017
The writing, the design and simple mechanics all worked really well together here. It made it easy to just enjoy the story. Very nice.
3 people found the following review helpful:
A heavily location-based long Twine with excellent styling, May 23, 2017
It took me 209 choices to complete this game on my third playthrough.
This game took third in IfComp 2016, but as of this writing, it has the highest rating and number of ratings on IFDB.
In this game, you arrive at and explore a mysterious old motel with a supernatural flair. The game uses two main types of links: mostly-static location-based links for movement, and then conversation/emotion links for small scenes that play out as you move.
The two kinds of links are very consistent, making for some great gameplay. The styling is also good, with some nice animations and fonts and colors.
1 people found the following review helpful:
Evocative surreal atmosphere, January 29, 2017
I found the writing and the world created here to be unique and very intriguing. There's a lot of uncertainty here: what's really happening, how characters relate, what the consequences are of your actions, some of what's really going on with your character. This works well both for the uncertainty of a teenager whose life is about to completely change and for the surreal, uncanny environment. All in all, while it's not as game-y as some, it's a well-done literary/existential twine game.
5 people found the following review helpful:
I was there, November 7, 2016
This piece transported me to my own confused teenage years. Trying to sort out my future, scared of adulthood, pushed by forces beyond my control, I desperately could have used two close friends, a road trip, and a magical motel.
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Strengths include fantastic writing throughout, a sense of place, strong characters, and a powerful voice from a talented writer.
Weaknesses: Where is my soundtrack? What is the url for the motel website? How can I visit here? Why isn't there more? Will you write more? Can I subscribe to your email list?
OK, so maybe those aren't actually 'weaknesses' in the commonly accepted meaning of the word, but come on, let me visit the Cactus Blue! :)