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About the Story
You wake up. You're falling. A ceaseless sky and a never ending cyclone greets you. Others fall all around you. No where else to go but down.
Content warning: Profanity
62nd Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
Number of Reviews: 6
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This game has a really interesting premise -- you wake up and you're falling toward a void in the middle of cyclone, and you make sense of your predicament by grabbing onto a Fellow Faller and chatting about life, the afterlife (?), and your regrets. The game begins with the promise of a surreal short interactive story, but the interesting bits flatten out pretty quickly.
There are two aspects that could have been addressed that would have really livened up this game to make it the weird and engaging experience that I was hoping for. First, there's very little in the way of interesting characterization of either the protagonist or the Fellow Faller. This FF is described as Rock Star, and fits the bill pretty stereotypically (leather jacket, etc.). There's really just one time that the protagonist shares something about themself, and it's a memory without concrete details. We learn something about the Rock Star's regrets and his motivations for wanting to escape the terminal fall, but this (Spoiler - click to show)(feeling bad about leaving his partner) is also kind of bland and not developed with any specificity. Some distinctive characterization through interesting conversations that push beyond cliches would have made me care much more about these characters and their fates.
The other aspect that could have been addressed was the limited range of interactions and branching options. For most passages, there are a couple of the same interactions: to grab (onto your Fellow Faller), to dive, or to look. In most cases, these actions have the same kind of results. I get that the point of the game is to (Spoiler - click to show)dive into the unknown of the cyclone-void, perhaps dying or perhaps escaping back into life but these actions felt constrained and without real stakes. A game with a limited set of actions or a mostly linear trajectory can work well, but only if other aspects of the game are sufficiently robust to motivate the player -- perhaps if sometimes these actions led to unexpected results, or if the 'morale of the story' was not telegraphed so early on.
We All Fall Together is a short surrealist game about "taking the plunge" and facing things head on. Made in Texture, you click-n-drag actions towards specific block of words to affect the displayed text or move the story along. There is only one ending.
With its fantastical setting (you falling towards the eye of a storm, falling with others), WAFT proposes a very simple and silly game. Yet, intertwined the silliness, the game discusses a very human trait: the fear of just... doing things. Of diving head forwards into things. Of avoiding situations for fear it will end badly...
It was a fine small entry. Though I wished it had dived maybe a bit more into your fears.
Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review
Over time I have developed a love/hate relationship with Texture as an IF platform. There are a few things it does uniquely well. I am super enamored of the drag and drop paradigm. It suggests connecting thoughts in an organic way that is appealing to me. Because the connecting words are highlighted only after selecting a command, it can create intriguing surprises about the connections the author is offering. The text bubbles that appear when you connect words can similarly be used to great effect, refining the nature of the connection you just made. For me, it adds up to a powerful and unique authoring opportunity.
As much as I love those things though, there are two things I hate. Actually one I hate and another I HATE HATE HATE OMIGOD WHO DO I BLAME AND HOW DO I BRING THEM TO A DIRE RECKONING HATE. The former is that making those connections allows inline (rather than appended) text changes. On dense pages it creates a ‘hunt the new text’ problem, where new text probably but not necessarily shows up where you just clicked. Because it is most buried in large blocks of text it also means often REREADING large blocks of text desperately searching for the New Thing.
That’s bad, but the factor that aggrieves me beyond all rational thought is the font-resize problem. Texture dynamically resizes font, based on text volume and window size. You’re not getting it? Every page potentially changes its font size during play as text is added, sometimes multiple times and WILDLY so. Then all over again with a new page. How are you not as mad as me now? My hands are trembling in fury and/or PTSD just typing about it. It is maybe the worst reading experience since Catholic Grade School where nuns whack you with rulers on mispronunciations.
So, this is a Texture piece. Like most, it will live and die by how it maximizes its platform’s strengths and minimizes its… challenges. Let me say that differently. A Texture piece that does NOTHING on either front is going to default to infuriating, without counterbalancing merits. That is an unfair burden to place on even the strongest narrative. Fall may not recognize that peril and is brought down (heh) by it.
Fall is a surreal, metaphorical story about connections and fear while navigating a life we have little control over. It is about perfectly sized for what it is, though maybe the narrative balance is a bit off. We spend what feels like 1/3 of the time getting to know our two mains vs 2/3 describing the weird environment they are in. That feels imbalanced, though I didn’t count words and maybe my impression is off. If it is, then I would say the time could be better used, as at the end I had only the vaguest sympathy for the pair. The details were a little too generic to enthrall me, which is a weird thing to say about a person in a spiked leather jacket. The message of the piece was well taken, but lacked emotional punch.
To leveraging Texture’s strengths, I consistently (and painfully) felt missed opportunities abounded. Most word connections were exactly what you thought they would be, and the connection-bubbles basically concatenated the two words rather than offering any surprising insight or nuance. That reduced the drag and drop to a nifty variation on Twine/Choicescript “click the options.” In some cases, connection choices remained on the page even when there were no further connections to be made.
And those Texture-Cons? Hoobidy, they were present in spades. Font Dancing was my persistent companion, made worse when Text Hunting revealed the connection I made was say an eye color and nothing more. I think maybe Texture is the Arc Welder of IF authoring tools. Insanely powerful in practiced hands, guaranteed to severely injure the enthusiastic novice. I’m going to inaugurate another review sub-series here, “Playing With Matches,” to tie the IFComp23 Texture reviews together!
Playtime: 20min, 2 playthroughs, different choices changing nothing
Artistic/Technical ratings: Mechanical, Notably buggy. Why not Intrusive? Honestly, because 1. it is short and 2. Its page length sometimes dodged resizing which elicited actual sighs of relief during gameplay.
Would Play After Comp?: No, experience feels complete
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless