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About the Story
Welcome to the Twine Fishing Simulator, a dreamlike, text-based fishing sim.
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Number of Reviews: 1
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Gone fishing… Yes. Gone fishing.
You find yourself standing before a serene lake with a fishing pole in your hand.
First things first, you are introduced to June, a friendly woman fishing. She can give you help or chat, but your main activity here is to fish and catch all six species.
The fishing mechanics are a creative one. The word "nibble..." flashes onscreen, and at one point quickly changes into a link that says "BITE," before changing back. If you clicked on the link in time, you reel in your fish. To keep it, you answer three multiple choice questions (with two possible answers each). The catch (!!) is that you have five seconds to solve each one. If you fail to answer or get one incorrect, the fish escapes and you try again.
At first you think, "this is fun, but will I seriously be doing this for the entire game?" (Answer: no) Then you see that each area has its own fishing challenge. That’s right, there is more than one area. Then you realize that (Spoiler - click to show) it is about more than just fishing. Simulator? More like (Spoiler - click to show) simulation. Which does not take long to figure out.
The fish you catch may come with a surprise. Sometimes your fishing gear catches an (Spoiler - click to show) audio log that provide a glimpse into the NPCs’ identities while raising doubts about how real your surroundings are. I have a bit of a request: (Spoiler - click to show) How many audio tapes has anyone found? They were fun to discover and enhanced the story. I found three at the lake, one at the ocean, and none at the third location. I would love to find more.
Zooming out, the overarching goal is to (Spoiler - click to show) acquire three fish spines that you receive as rewards from an NPC in each area, the lake being the first. The lake and the ocean seem harmless enough, but once you make it to the location after that, you will have an entirely different view of the game than the one you had when you first started playing. Which is perfect.
I found two broken links and an error that halted the gameplay, perhaps even making it unwinnable in the sense where you are stuck in an obvious loop. It is otherwise a Merciful/Polite game through and through. Here it is:
(Spoiler - click to show)
I got the dreaded “Double-click this passage to edit it,” message after pressuring June about her means of transportation to the lake. The other instance was during the battle scene with Horace. I don’t know what I did, but the game suddenly said, "Horace Breem of the Black Water attacks for 150 damage!" But there was no link on the screen to move forward. It was a dead end.
The error occurred with June. It had to do with catching all six types of fish at the lake and then talking to June about moving to the next area. She lets you choose between leaving right away or staying at the lake a little longer. When I choose the former, I would be sent back to the location menu page where the ocean would be unlocked.
"You can now progress to the next area."
1. I'm ready.
2. I'd like to stay here longer.
However, when I chose to stay and then later asked to leave (see below), I would be sent back to the location menu, but the ocean location would NOT be unlocked. Maybe someone can find a way around it, but I was stuck.
"You've still caught all six species! Feel free to leave here anytime."
1. Move onto the next location.
But if you are mindful about these parts, you’ll be fine.
Generally, it is not always possible to access the link that opens your saves. In the first two encounters I could not access my saves. Refreshing the page would not bring it back to the menu so I had to close out the window, access the game again on IFDB and then go to my saves when the menu appeared. Not too much of a hassle, but still a hassle when it came to hiccups.
Really, you’ll be fine.
The Twine Fishing Simulator has prominent surreal elements in the story and how it is told. It is a fairly linear game. You can hop between the (Spoiler - click to show) lake and the ocean areas, but when you (Spoiler - click to show) reach the third location, there’s no going back. We already know that (Spoiler - click to show) we are trapped in a simulation of fishing minigames. That’s the story in a nutshell. It’s partly told by seeding out-of-place indicators that provide insights about “what’s really going on.” That’s what I want to focus on. Spoilers ahead. (Spoiler - click to show)
In the third location (called "???") the surroundings are less cohesive, almost… like a half-baked simulation. The fact that you had to punch in an administrative code before proceeding was a major indicator. It’s also the only area that allows you to explore the terrain a little more.
I thought it was cool how you end up on this chill half-formed island with some knight in armor catching fish and meanwhile you can just wander down an overgrown beach path to a dingy shack with a computer in it. And that computer is your portal to answers. This scene captures a certain kind of atmosphere that I love in interactive fiction games. Often in games about simulations, but not exclusively. How do I describe it…?
It’s that idea of finding a small but insistent clue that whispers none of this is real, as you stand there waist deep in the gameplay. Or in this case, since we know this is a simulation, it would be not everything is as it seems. That, too, is obvious, I know, but that moment of realization comes off smoothly in The Twine Fishing Simulator. I had the exact same zing feeling when I saw this:
And what's this? Something else is caught in your line. It appears to be an audio log.
You’re hanging out with June at the lake and catch an audio log that reveals more about her- and the place- than we learn through casual inconspicuous conversation. The wording and placement in the gameplay are excellent.
Anyway, the player has a lot of questions about what’s going on, the extent of which is hard to gauge. Fact is, Alireza and the audio logs can only tell you so much. Just how deep does this go? You need answers. This computer had the answers.
But not as many answers as I was hoping for. I'm going to be diving into the deep end with spoilers.
The computer contains data entries from 2011 and 2037. The ones from 2011 mention craters, meteors, and scrap metal falling from the sky, but then the September 29th entry says that nothing was falling from the sky, that it was just it… rain? I’m not sure of what to make of that. Jackie does get a mention. The logs are written by someone named “-J,” which I assume is June. The only takeaway is that Jackie found a metal substance that causes dreams.
The entries from 2037 discuss a simulation. My mind wanders back to something Alireza said. He explains that the simulation is decaying but has gained sentience. For whatever reason, the simulation simply generates "fishing minigames.” An AI, maybe? We hear mention of an AI in the computer log for June 17th, 2037: Partial construction of the Simulator AI has begun. Estimated trial date: somewhere in the next few months.
Why was a simulator built in 2037? Why do to the logs only have the years 2011 and 2037? If the simulation has started to deteriorate, does that mean something went wrong? Was Earth undergoing some disaster with falling meteors (or other objects) leaving craters? This is my point: I only have more questions.
I figured the ending would clarify some of these questions, but not really. It was clever, though. After you eat the three fish spines you unlock the ending (the final location) where you wake up in a metal chair in a room. Reveals like this are awesome. One wall reveals a large empty glass aquarium. The game suggests that its emptiness is your fault. You then fall back to an unconscious dream state.
Next thing you know, you are standing by a gorgeous lake with a fishing rod. Though you may be living in a simulation, you decide that it is a better means of existence than whatever is going on outside. This was an excellent surreal moment. However, I still had tons of unanswered questions from the computer. And questions about the ending. Is the whole empty aquarium scene a message about overfishing or humanity ravaging the aquatic ecosystem? Or am I overthinking it?
All I want is just a few more tidbits to fill in the gaps. That’s all. Ultimately, finding the (Spoiler - click to show) computer was still my favorite part, especially since it adds a layer of sci-fi into the surreal mix.
I’m going to ask straight out: (Spoiler - click to show) Who is Volunteer One? Is it Jackie? The player? Probably not the player due to the timeframe. Or maybe it is the player since June is clearly expecting you and mentions a newcomer in one of the audio logs you find at the lake. All I know is that I have a feeling that something happened to Jackie.
This is just a section where I am going to share some ramblings about the characters. You can skip this part.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Somehow, Alireza, June, and Horace ended up in the simulation. My guess (I’ll be making a lot of guesses) is that something happened to Jackie which meant he failed to make it into the simulation. June and Jackie definitely knew each other. Interrogating the NPCs will do little since the simulation saps people of memories. Most assume the simulation is a dream, like June. This means the player must dig for answers.
Of the three NPCs we meet, only Alireza has a faint idea of what’s going on, and there’s a reason. At least two years prior, he was once an administrator for the simulation. We know this from an audio log. It explains that a volunteer entered the simulation for an hour-long excursion but had gone missing, prompting Alireza to complain to management. He also mentions that his career is over. I wonder, did it end because of the missing volunteer, or because he spoke out? My guess is that he was thrown into the simulation in response, but it’s a wild, wild guess.
I really liked the subtle foreshadowing/story building that occurs when you pester Alireza for “fun facts,” which only become meaningful once you’ve played the game and know what to look for. He foreshadows Harold by saying, “'One time this dude in a full suit of armor came through here. I taught him how to fish, he was really nice.'" You find yourself agreeing and thinking, yep, I know who you’re talking about.
The one that really caught my attention is when he says, “'My mom was a scientist up in orbit. Studying those meteors.'" That connects back to the mentions of meteors in the computer logs. There is some truth them… this kind clue dropping is the stuff I play for. It does not answer my (excessive) questions, but it does add context that only encourages the player to look deeper for things they missed.
Where does this leave us? I take it something happens in the gap between 2011 and 2037 that was the catalyst for creating the simulation. A corporate theme has surfaced once or twice but only vaguely. Whoever ran the show was rushing since volunteers were being processed while it still had rough areas. Another wild guess: The computer logs mention a metal material that puts you in a dream state coma for the simulation. Isn’t the chair you wake up in at the end made of metal? Perhaps made of the special metal to put the user into the simulation? That’s all I have.
Comment if you want you share your own speculations for the story.
The game’s visuals stay basic without abandoning stylization. Black backdrop. Text is white with blue links and is placed in a teal bordered box. Beneath it is a shot of the game's cover art. It uses a pixelated font that can be changed in the settings. That is always appreciated. It’s a good look for the game.
The Twine Fishing Simulator is a clever and unique piece of surreal interactive fiction. I enjoyed it and would recommend it for surreal fans. Or lovers of fishing minigames.
There are some bug issues that dull the polish, but the gameplay is generally smooth sailing. I do feel like it leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions, particularly with linking character dialog to other story related discoveries in the gameplay. Some subjects were mentioned once and forgotten. I would have loved to see a little more cohesion there.
Regardless, the story shows creativity and thoughtfulness that leaves a lasting impression. The author has a skill at leading the player down an unexpected story trajectory. You thought you were going to be playing a realistic resource management fishing game. Well, think twice. It plays with reality and combines it with interesting characters. By the time I reached the ending sequence, I really felt like the PC.
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Outstanding Surreal Game of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best surreal game of 2022. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...