Known Unknowns

by Brendan Patrick Hennessy profile

Episode 4 of Bell Park
Ghost Investigation (High School)
2016

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Number of Reviews: 5
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1-5 of 5


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
High school ghost investigation with teen romance, September 22, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

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.


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
a capstone to loose trilogy and a major achievement in interactive fiction, December 13, 2017
by Anya Johanna DeNiro (Minnesota)

(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.


2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written but unfinished, January 23, 2017

Well-written characters and relationships that make me want to find out where things are going. Its main weakness is its unfinished nature: there's a lot of setup but without payoff, and this contributes to it feeling linear and like my choices don't matter. Also, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the mysterious conversation, but without payoff that justifies it it seems arbitrary and gimmicky. But the writing is solid and the character interactions are fun, and I hope the remainder emerges because I'm curious to see where it goes.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Another strong entry from Hennessy, November 15, 2016
by streever (America)

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.


2 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Not terrible, but definitely lacking, November 10, 2016
by macabremobster2 (Frederick, Colorado)

I'll admit, when I first booted up the game I was enjoying myself. The uneasy mode the first part creates is perfect for what's happening in the story. After that sequence, you're presented with a well designed game screen with *gasp* headshot drawings of the characters. While I don't like the script style of writing it used, mostly because I see it as a way of getting out of writing actual descriptions of things, it was overall good. I would've given the game four stars, but then (Spoiler - click to show)I met the raccoon. I don't know if the author thought he was being creative or original or interesting with creating a conversation with emojis, but he wasn't. If anything it was just annoying, confusing, and didn't end up getting across any information at all. Emojis are something I rarely accept the use of, even in texts, but in a piece of writing it's a terrible and lazy choice. Why would a dead raccoon even speak in emojis anyways? It's dumb, and the story didn't need it. Hell, it would've been way better without it.



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