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About the Story
Better than Alone is an interactive novella about repetition and death. It is set in the midst of Melbourne's 2020 lockdown.
5th Place, Le Grand Guignol - English - ECTOCOMP 2020
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Wow, powerful stuff. A post-Covid Twine game (with clay figure illustrations) in which you are a live-in carer for a dementia sufferer in his last days. Choice-based conversations with your patient and reminiscences about your own life and relationships are interspersed with a deliberately grindy series of repetitive tasks (cooking, cleaning, counting medicine, reading Pride & Prejudice) that make excellent use of mouse-over effects to dynamically modify the links, cleverly representing the ghost of the house messing with you (or are you just losing your mind during the lockdown?).
Characterization of the player-character and NPCs feels very real, full of flaws and conflicting emotions, thoroughly multi-dimensional, sometimes beautiful, sometimes chilling: "Mark these words: there is no hope of escape. Lockdown will not end soon, and there will always be more. This is only the beginning." There's lots to process in this one, lots of levels to analyse, the Jane Austen quotes being just the beginning.
I did not experience this as a horror IF at all, but rather as a sad and personal story, a story that is depressingly relevant for many of us during the current pandemic. It is really well written, very emotional, and feels very real. The author provides the choice between playing a truncated or an extended version of the novella. I started out with the extended version but found it excruciatingly frustrating and changed to the truncated version after some minutes. Iím glad I tried the extended version first though; the frustration is indeed intended, and it does drive an important point across. While not exactly interactive in terms of choices, Better than Alone does use the medium of choice IF in an unexpected and elegant way.
Like Will Not Let Me Go, this story is a well-written long Twine game about the effects of old age and Alzheimer's/dementia on an elderly man and those around him.
It plays out over ten days and ten nights. You struggle as a young at-home attendant for an elderly man named Carl who wavers between lucidity and violent forgetfulness.
At night, you have 4 tasks, the same every night. On the fast version, you do these once, but miss out on some important plot points. On the slow version, you do them 10 times every night, but they're tricky and shift around in very plot-relevant ways.
The 10-times version is hard but rewarding the first night. By the third night, though, I misclicked five times in a row (which restarts the night) and had to stop. It's hard because the image pushes all the text below the screen, so I had to scroll down for each image on a trackpad laptop.
The images are gorgeous and really contribute to the game. I wonder if, for the nights at least, it could have helped to put the image to one side and the text to another.
In any case, the story was meaningful to me, especially talking about divorce and changing relationships with one's spouse. I loved it, and appreciate the author writing it.
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