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About the Story
Nadia Nazari has a lot of unknowns to contend with in her Grade 12 year. Like how can she run an entire school newspaper with only one employee? Why has her estranged ex best friend suddenly come back into her life? How is her long-term boyfriend going to react when he finds out she's bisexual? And oh yeah ó WHAT'S UP WITH ALL THE FREAKY GHOST RACCOONS HAUNTING HER HIGH SCHOOL??
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee - Olivia Kwon, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - Kaz Kaczmarek, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - Anja Kaczmarek, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - Nadia Nazari, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Use of Multimedia - 2017 XYZZY Awards
Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
Like Birdland, this is Y/A queer romance ó but this time the choices are less about self-characterization and more about how youíre going to interact with the side characters. (And, as in Birdland, the core plot remains the same regardless. This is not as far as I can tell a heavily branching story, but the interpretation of individual scenes can vary a good bit.) Known Unknowns is immensely charming and accessible, solidly structured and well paced ó and as itís now available in its complete form, thereís no waiting between episodes.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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(I had IFDB erase a nice long review--thanks!--so this is much abbreviated).
I played all four parts of Known Unknowns in one fell swoop and was to put it frankly blown away by it. I could see how it might seem a bit underwhelming serially but if you haven't had the chance to lose yourself in this richly imagined world, I highly recommend it. Set in the same universe as Bell Park Girl Detective and Birdland, I would say that Known Unknowns is the equal to Birdland, downplaying the supernatural elements to an extend and going deeper into the characterizations.
And the characters are amazing. A game like this lives and dies by the strength of its writing and it's probably not much of a surprise that Known Unknowns is running on all cylinders, with a gut-wrenching range of emotions with a HUGE cast. I'm sure you will find your favorites (shout out to my pal Olivia).
The game expertly switches from dialogue/conversation mode to exploration mode, as the two feed off each other.
Finally, this game is really really queer, and the range of people in this high school trying to figure their own identities out is tender, hilarious, melancholic, and ultimately human. And the choices you are given reflect that high school rollercoaster at every turn.
This game is a treasure and you should play it. It's one of the most affecting works of IF I have ever played, in fact.
I had this game mixed up with the short Birdland sequel Open Up, and so I never got around to playing this until after the XYZZY Nominations. Then I had to see what it was all about.
Brendanís writing is what I wish I could write like. Characters are so vivid, and the text takes startling turns of phrase that you canít help from laughing at. The characters felt alive to me.
Part of that left me with a bad aftertaste in a way that a lesser artist couldnít do. The events in the game are the kind of thing I was terrified of growing up. My area had a lot of teen pregnancies and deaths from alcohol and drugs that affected people I knew. The idea of going to parties where all the highschoolers are getting drunk, watching each other have sexual experiences, using drugs, and having young men who wonít listen to Ďnoí (like Jayden) wander around seems like a reminder of personal nightmares.
But I donít believe thatís what the author intended. Games are a Rohrschach test that brings out whatever the reader is thinking. I wouldnít have had such a strong reaction to the game if Brendan hadnít written such strong characters.
The rest of the game is wonderful. The use of emoji is like a comedy version of 10pm, and the overall mystery and romance were well done. I liked the use of red options to distinguish paths that were very different from the others. It made choices feel more significant.
I also found the structure really interesting, with conversations like multi lane highways and exploration segments like city streets.
This gameís craft level is very high, and Iíve found myself thinking of it frequently in the last few days as Iíve been working on my own games.
Hennessy writes with a strong voice and distinct characters, representing a broad spectrum of sexuality and identity, interwoven with contemporary themes and a strong vein of magical realism.
If you played Birdland, you're familiar with Hennessy's oeuvre: unrequited or unrealized young love, the surreal and supernatural, and a free mixing of reality and fantasy.
Anime conventions, hyperbole, self-awareness, and irony run throughout the dialogues and settings, and a memorable scene includes the use of emoji instead of words.
This piece could stand on its own, although the ending would be unsatisfying as the finale. Thankfully it's part one of a planned four part series. I'm interested to see where it goes, and am looking forward to the next installment.
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