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About the Story
After your estranged sister's death, you face difficulty sorting through her personal belongings. As you navigate your grief through these objects, you begin to reminisce about old times and learn about her life years after she left. Where can you find your sister? Who was she through all those years?
(The game contains topics such as grief and death)
53rd Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).
My wife has a sweatshirt that used to belong to my sister. We live in California, and she lived in Maryland, so one September when we were visiting and it got cold, she noticed that my wife was shivering in her SoCal-appropriate outfit, and lent her a hoody. I forgot to give it back before we left, and a month later we found out Lizís cancer had come back, so returning a sweatshirt wasnít ever a priority in the time we had left. And now that sweatshirt isnít just a sweatshirt.
There can be an unbearable poignancy to the artifacts our loved ones leave behind when they die; the books they read and wrote in, the glasses that let them see, the tchotchkes theyíd look at and smile. Trivial, everyday objects that were barely worth a second of thought are transmuted to relics, bearing the last impress of someoneís now-finished time in the world.
Lonehouse engages with that poignancy, in ways that were occasionally quite arresting for me to encounter Ė the protagonist is visiting the apartment of her recently-deceased sister, named Liv, to help clean it out and take away some keepsakes. As you explore using Textureís drag-verbs-to-nouns interface, you get snatches of the history between them Ė itís not fully explained, but it seems like the sisters hadnít been in touch, and perhaps thereíd been a falling out Ė and identify the things that seem to have the most Liv-ness to them: a jacket, a favored plushie, a photo.
Despite the strong personal resonance of the premise, though, I didnít wind up feeling like Lonehouse was truly compelling. Partially this is because the writing is often awkward. The style is generally unadorned and matter-of-fact, which I think is appropriate to communicating grief, but some of the authorís word choices undermine the simple power of this approach. Partially though itís because the writing never gets especially specific. The general experience of death is one weíve all had or will have, of course, but itís unique details that turn this from a vague sense of loss to heart-rending tragedy, and Lonehouse doesnít usually try to work in this register. Upon seeing that Liv saved an old Christmas gift that the protagonist made her, for example, weíre told that ď[a] complicated feeling stirs in youĒ Ė but what feeling is that? Again, we arenít given much detail of the prior relationship between the two, so itís hard to place this in context.
The Texture engine also makes experiencing the story less engaging than I would have liked. I ran into what appears to be a bug with the system, since I came across it in another game too, where the buttons holding each sceneís verbs displayed their text in a tiny font Ė thatís not the authorís fault, but it did mean that I was often taken out of the story as I tried to decode my options. The interface also made it challenging to figure out which actions would allow me to explore or get more detail, and which would progress to the next sequence; several times in this short game, I wound up accidentally speeding through rooms Iím not sure I was finished with.
This is a short game that takes on some compelling issues; Iím not sure whether itís the authorís debut, but if so I think itís a more than respectable start. My key feedback for next time (and hopefully thereíll be a next time!) is to lean into the concrete, grounded style displayed here, but not to sacrifice the particular in the vain hope of making a piece of writing universal: otherwise, a sweatshirt will remain just a sweatshirt.
This is a brief Texture game, one where you drag actions over verbs. It looks like several of the Texture games in this comp were written by authors who supported each other, as they retweet each other on twitter, use similar verbs in their games (like THINK and INSPECT) and one mentioned a writing circle. If itís true, then thatís cool, because having people to bounce ideas off of can make for much stronger games.
This is a compelling game about someone receiving a text about a sister who died. You must go to your sisterís apartment and inspect her things, deciding what to do with them.
While they are unrelated, I kind of saw this as a counterpoint to My Brother, the Parasite. That was a dark and unpleasant game about a brother who was very close to the protagonist but also very violent. This is a bittersweet game about a sister who is distant from the protagonist yet left behind a lot of sweet memories. While you canít see everything on one playthrough, I most enjoyed the moments about the big red jacket, as it was a striking visual and a sweet way to remember someone.
Lonehouse is an emotionally charged piece about facings reality, processing one's grief, and finding ways to remember passed loved ones. The entry feels very personal albeit short. Following the passing of your estranged sister, you find yourself sorting through her belonging, reminiscing about the past, and learning new things about the time spent apart.
The entry takes you through different rooms of your sister's place, each giving the player the same actions (inspect, move, thing). It feels methodical, as if you had to force yourself going through the things your sister left behind. But, in each room, you discover a special item, triggering a memory or thought - each showing a different facet of the person you (thought you) once knew.
Grief can be a heart breaking and complex feeling, rendered even more complicated when the situation is itself a complicated thing (there's a lot of unsaid things in the entry about how it got to this point). I felt like this entry showed maybe a more detached look to that feeling.