"Incident! Aliens on the Teresten!" by Tarquin Segundo

by Richard Goodness writing as The Water Supply writing as Tarquin Segundo profile

Part of The Knot
2020

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A story in three parts, December 21, 2020
by autumnc
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020

This will be about the entire "The Knot" series, as this game contains its conclusion. Overall, I think the games are rather interesting both as a vaguely meta-fictional exercise and as stories in of themselves, and worth playing. It might be best to play them by opening all three games in the browser simultaneously. In general, the presentation is nice, but I am extremely not a fan of the slow auto-advancing text, which is the entirety of the ending sequence.

Spoilers for the ending and for the story overall: (Spoiler - click to show)"The Knot" is a tale about power, storytelling, and alternate worlds. Each story within The Knot contains the same character names and elements in different contexts. They are all about conflicts between two central figures: Chirlu and Ilfane, who are entangled with an artifact called the Knot, supposedly a source of ultimate power. Sometimes Chirlu is presented as a "good" character, other times as an antagonist. In "Terror" he is an evil sorcerer, in "Adventures" he is a Nazi archaeologist, and in "Incident" he is a benevolent scientist. Ilfane is more of a mystical concept than a character; it is a location in "Terror", an ancient autarch in "Adventures", and an evil alien race in "Incident".

(warning: extremely basic and naive analysis ahead - this is like, my opinion only)

Overall, Chirlu and Ilfane represent the conflicting natures of rationality and mysticality/tradition. Neither are totally "good" or "evil; rationality can be put in service of evil as easily as it can be in service of good. However, both figures always seek out the Knot, which is supposed to be the source of their ability to do the ultimate good for the galaxy, or to give themselves ultimate power. Chirlu especially always seeks out the Knot to achieve their ends, conditioned by the societal conditions in which they are raised.

The Knot itself is treated as a representation of power in some way. But the conclusion of the story shows that the Knot does not even exist; it is totally incapable of the feats ascribed to it throughout the course of the stories. This can be interpreted in multiple ways. The Knot is a video game, and the solution to a simple video game puzzle will not give one the power to change the world or to fight Nazis. Similarly, it could be a commentary on the impotence of media in general to bring change. Or on a simplistic, one-off solution to achieve societal goals, sought by progressive revolutionaries and fascists alike. They enter the halls of power, only to find the halls empty.

As a game, the Knot is not particularly challenging: the solutions are given explicitly, and labeled as such. Finding The Knot is not a challenge. But the Knot is ultimately hollow. It is certainly not the ultimate source of power. It might not even exist.