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Repression, March 14, 2022
General Recommendation: I definitely recommend this game, in addition to the usual elements of humor in EndMaster’s works, this one has an additional layer of depth.
Preview: Can you break out of the cycle of emotional repression you’re stuck in in a way that improves your life?
I think this work is best read after one has already read a number of EndMaster’s other games and has a sense of what to expect from them. The way this game subverts player expectations means more when you fully understand how different this game could easily have been.
In a lot of ways, I see this game as a companioin piece to “A very special choose your story” (hereafter called AVSCYS). Both focus on the misadventures of a high school loser, and both are incredibly clever in their own ways. However, while AVSCYS focuses on the powerlessness of the narrator to change things, this game does the opposite: It focuses on the incredible power and agency the narrator has to affect the world around him.
Whereas in AVSCYS, no matter what you do you wind up dead or otherwise humiliated, in this game all of your actions are charged with consequence and meaning. Every action you take has an effect on your mental health and the lives of others. The wide variety of endings is where this game really shines. This, more than anything shows the power the narrator has to turn his life in a multitude of different directions.
This game also deserves praise for the complexity and nuance of its moral lessons. Too many similar stories seem to be trying to deliver a message that can be boiled down to a neat pithy phrase (as done humorously in AVSCYS). However, these pithy phrases can never be applied in all cases in real life. By instead showing how different actions have different outcomes in different situations, this game potrays a much more powerful statement about the complexity and difficulty of navigating of the real world.
-The repeated refrain of “you feel nothing”, echoed across many of the bad endings really hammers in the bleakness of the narrator’s life. He has no hopes, no connections, nothing to live for, and can’t see any way to change his situation. The fact that this refrain is repeated multiple times helps to make this sense much more powerful. The wide variety of nothing endings makes the endings where you do succeed more powerful.
-Most of the “you feel nothing” endings do this, but the catatonia ending in particular shows just how detached and hopeless the protagonist of this story is.
-The sequence where you kill your mom and go on a shooting/try to cover it up with your sister is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the story, but nevertheless plays an important role. Covering up the murder shows the sense of panic and disorientation that prevades the narrator’s life; after having killed his mother, he’s more shocked and surprised than anything else.
-This game really gives the player two kinds of choices: You decide what to do, and then you decide how to feel about it. After killing your mom, you can panic, or you can keep your head. After deciding to go on a killing spree, you can decide if you care about revenge, or just causing chaos. This game is more than just events happening one after another, it’s an exploration of the ways the narrator’s emotional reactions affect himself and the world around him.
-I like that characters appear across multiple branches, and that events remain consistent. Henry is bullying Aaron when you arrive at school no matter what, but depending on your earlier choices, your reaction to this event can be very different. At the same time, the player is allowed to get different information about the characters depending on which path they encounter them on. On the shooting path, you don’t learn much about Jessica, but what you do learn adds depth and groundwork to her appearances in other pathes.
-Again, I’d like to draw a contrast between the shooting in this game and the one in AVSCYS. While that game focuses (very effectively) on the dark humor of the situation, this one takes a much more introspective look at the narrator’s decisions. EndMaster is capable of approaching the subject from a variety of different angles, each of which have their own value.
-If you do choose to follow the school shooting path, it’s fitting that you can’t get any endings where you feel something. You can die and find a kind of peace, but no outcome leads to any kind of emotional resolution. This isn’t the way for the narrator to find answers.
-The narrator finds relief in some of the “you feel nothing” endings, which is fitting. Many people in depressive states like this one are reluctant to leave them because of the emotional vulnerability they’ll be opening themselves up to.
-It’s interesting the wide range of interaction the narrator can have with the mother. There’s the incest, obviously, but there’s also murder, alleigance, hate, compassion, and disgust. It can be tough to have such a wide range of character interactions while keeping all personalities consistent, but neither the narrator nor the mother ever seem to deviate from their base personalities. The wide variety of interactions sheds light on the complex relationship the characters have, rather than feeling like disparate stories.
-You can get positive endings by choosing to side with your mother or sister, as doing this is at least expressing some kind of emotion. However, dividing your family means you can’t get the best ending of making peace in your family, you can only improve your own personal situation.
-After siding with your sister, the game has a nice progression where you can choose whether to interfere or not in a variety or disputes. In some cases your help is appreciated, in others, it’s obnoxious or unwelcome. The game does a good job of showing how the context of the situation matters, and that good ideas and principles can’t be applied unanimously to every situation. Trying to get too big too fast is just as depressing as doing nothing, and ultimately drags the narrator back down into his depression.
-The game also shows well that choosing to change and rebel isn’t enough, you have to do so thoughtfully and effectively, otherwise you’re just trading one bad situation for another. You can end up becoming just like your sister, or just like your mom, who are each dysfunctional in their own ways. Or, you can get a lifestyle that seems superficially satisfying, but doesn’t resolve any of your internal doubts.
-I like that the game allows some endings to be mediocre, like the one where “you feel normal”. There’s no real victory here, but things have changed a little, in a way that is mostly positive. This reflects real life, most of the time outcomes aren’t clear cut.
-All of the arcs in this game are about power, but the arc where you side with your sister is about aggressive power. You are not a peacemaker, but you can be a victor, a bully, a rebel, a defender, or any number of active roles. This is a good contrast to the arc where you side with your mom and never get access to the same kind of power, and to the arc where you side with neither, and develop the power to affect positive change in more subtle ways.
-Again, reaching out to your mom works, reaching out to Henry doesn’t. Different approaches are needed for different people.
There are a few grammatical errors in the game.
Mastery of Language
Sentence structure is mostly good, though there are issues in places.
Quite good, there’s a lot of different ways this game can go. The wide variety of different possibilities adds to the game’s theme.
Player Options/fair choice
Not great, certain actions lead to choices the player doesn’t really have control over. But that’s not really the point of this game, so it doesn’t create any problems.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Playing this game a few years ago, the very first ending I got was group hug.
CONCLUSION: An entertaining, well written, and surprsingly thoughtful look at the life of a repressed teenager.