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An Aside About Everything

by Sasha

2021

Web Site

(based on 9 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

A girl has gone missing and He has set out to find her. Join Him on an adventure through fantastical and strange worlds in an effort to find the one closest to Him.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: E2BE3D1E-4C61-402E-A8B8-8EF0E931EA4F
TUID: cewlx8ctnutq572n

Awards

53rd place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)

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Member Reviews

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3 star:
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Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short surreal adventure that lacked something to tie it all together, YMMV, October 5, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

I feel like surreal pieces, perhaps always, but especially in the case of this game, are really more about the author expressing something or working through something important to them in a way that only they fully understand. These kinds of stories are like the songs you hear on the radio with a catchy tune and lyrics that you can sing along with, but when you really listen to the words you have no idea what the song is about.

This is a well enough written and implemented, short choice-based piece, but I didn't think there was enough to me to grab on to in the story for me to come away with a lasting impression. I could easily see the characters and bits of conversation having meaning for the author, but I think the average reader will not know what to do with this. Surreal pieces like this need to have very well-defined themes and/or symbolism, punctuated with moments of clarity, so that even though it seems like you've been tossed in the middle of Wonderland, you can still ascertain what the author is trying to say. Perhaps some lines of angry or poignant dialogue that pull together the last few pages of haziness into some philosophical point. For me this piece was lacking enough of those elements to give me something to get out of it.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal adventure, November 13, 2021

Here is a fairly short story about a man looking for someone who has been missing. He wanders through several dream-like settings and talks to several NPCs to get information. Most of the descriptions and dialogue sound as though they are meant to be symbolic, and that the characterís journey is an allegory. He visits place that have words like ďIndecisionĒ and ďRealizationĒ in their names. At one point, Alice in Wonderland shows up. He has to ask one girl if he can have her essence. Later, one of the girls he has met tells him he must release them from the hold he has on them. At the end of his search, he is finally forced to accept a difficult truth. It is vague and a little surreal at times. I don't believe that just because a piece of writing sounds like it is open to interpretation necessarily indicates that deeper meaning is present. I think that sometimes authors just go from one idea to the next without having thought about how it fits together. I personally did not feel there was anything to gain by thinking about what this story might be saying.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Noir, a shade too obscure, November 10, 2021
by ChrisM (Cambridge, UK)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

A heavily introspective, noir-styled choice-based game about a guy searching for a girl against a backdrop of surreal landscapes (presumably projections of his inner states) while encountering a succession of enigmatic women (presumably the splintered subconscious impressions of the one he is searching for). The story is narrated in the third person present throughout; we witness our reverentially capitalised protagonist (he is a He) from a distance as he works his way through (presumably) whatever persona trauma it is that has led him to retreat into the sanctuary of his mind; the viewpoint seems a deliberate means to dissociate himself from that trauma. Probably.

Thereís a lot of presumption there and thatís because, really, this game invites it: it is, in parts, wilfully obscure. The whole thing feels rich in allegory, but itís never quite clear what the allegory is or what, fundamentally, is going on aside from the central narrative thread of Him seeking the missing Her.

Interesting stuff happens. Characters come and go. One dreamlike location leads to another. The whole thing is divided into acts that shunt us ever onwards, bewilderingly, towards the climax and a denouement, of sorts. There are a number of literary quotations throughout that seem suitably apposite in their place, but, in hindsight, donít cast much light on proceedings. Itís all rather perplexing.

However, in spite of the obscurity there is actually a lot I like about this game. The writing is good throughout: the prose is moody and evocative and just off-kilter enough to lend a slightly unsettling atmosphere to the whole, and the characters are interesting and their differing personalities distinctly drawn. I did enjoy the story overall. The implementation in Twine is effective: an appropriately subdued black and white theme and sporadic sound effects which could be easily missed (I did miss them, before I played with sound on the second time round), as well as an inventory system and continually updating list of Ďpeople of interestí. I found myself engaged and entertained throughout. I found a few minor typos and there are a number of bugs, also reported by others, that meant I became trapped in a loop and had to restart on three occasions (once during conversation at the bar, another at the mine and a third time when looking up things in the inventory followed by consulting the Ďpeople of interest listí). I was also able to seemingly use an object before discovering it on a couple of occasions: ((Spoiler - click to show)the phone and the beer, both of which I could trade for pills before they were in my inventory). I hope these minor wrinkles will be ironed out in a post-comp release.

One wonders, with something like this, if the obscurity is explained by the private nature of the work (this is a personal story that only the author could truly understand), or if it is merely affected (itís just an authorial device to make a more interesting story). The latter seems less forgivable and, I suspect, it the case here Ė it feels like a deliberate stylistic decision to make the story difficult to decipher in this sort of way and, I think, it is only a partially successful one. Ambiguity and allegory are fine but only if the reader can have some confidence that, overall, they know what is going on; a little more exposition is generally required before an audience becomes sufficiently engaged to fill in the detail for themselves rather than letting it simply wash over them as most players would with this (and as, ultimately, I did).

As it stands, An Aside About Everything feels as though it is about everything and nothing. Thatís a pity, as some considerable skill has gone into this piece, and it is worthy of a playerís attention. But it would benefit from a layer of enigma being stripped away; a shade less obscure and it would be a solid four-star game. As it stands, itís a respectable if slightly disappointing three stars from me.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Dense allegory in a symbolic world, October 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This is a Twine game with multiple worlds that all seem to represent the same allegory. Each world contains 4 women, who travel with you, and the worlds have symbolic meaning.

Simultaneously, you're searching for a woman, with an inventory of items and a mental retreat called 'the void'. Your character's name is He, and her name is She.

The game is not too long, but it is quite dense allegorically. One gets the sense that everything has deep inner meaning. However, I had difficulty teasing it out. Given the names and the quotations, the game seems to have originally been in Italian, and while the translation is generally good, it can be difficult to get 'vague but powerful prose' to work right across language barriers, and in this game I wasn't drawn in emotionally by the prose.

Overall:
+Polish: It had a few cool systems. I was able to create a bug early on that I think exists in some of my own Twine games where clicking on the inventory when you're already in a sub-routine with its own 'return' link will trap you in a loop forever, but besides that it seemed generally smooth.
+Descriptiveness: While the characters are vague, the description of the strange smog and the computers was vivid.
-Interactivity: It was hard to grasp what to do or what mattered. I went to the void a lot, but did it matter? I bought three pills and took one, but did it change anything?
-Emotional impact: Like I said earlier, I wasn't really drawn into this game.
+Would I play again? There are a few key points I'd like to revisit and understand better.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Too much abstraction, November 24, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

Allegory is deceptively tricky business. At first blush it seems easy enough: take a situation, abstract it to its generalities to make it more universal, heighten the key elements and emotional dynamics, and maybe add a supernatural element or two that works as a slightly-too-on-the-nose metaphor, and there you are. But that second bit's where the trap-door lies: pretty much any human predicament, no matter how poignant, can sound trite when you state it as a general proposition. Most of the time itís the specifics that ground a story and allow others to empathize with it. This is where An Aside About Everything didnít work for me: while this a choice-based investigation boasts some evocative atmosphere and satisfying interactivity, the characters and emotional dynamics didnít succeed in getting their hooks into me.

Plotwise, the player character Ė a sort of metaphysical detective who goes by Him Ė sets out on a missing-persons case looking for a woman with whom heís got some sort of history, then proceeds through various descents and ascents before slipping to an other-worldly backstage, his steps dogged all the way by a trio of cryptic women who help him surmount the surreal obstacles in his path. Itís all as existentialist-chic as you please (in the movie version, everyoneís always smoking) and there are some interesting choices on offer, as you can lean on different women to help you get through each barrier.

But it all feels bloodless Ė I had a hard time keeping the three helper-ladies distinct, and none of them seemed to have much subjectivity or for that matter an agenda of their own, besides helping Him on His quest. The different areas you visit are suggestive, but you rattle through them before any has much chance to make an impression. And when you crack the case, the ultimate revelations arenít especially novel (Spoiler - click to show)(my sense of the story is that itís ultimately about not being able to let an ex go after a break up)</spoi.er> Ė sure, there are stories there, but you need to tell them for them to have impact, not just gesture in their direction. Too often, An Aside About Everything feels like itís holding itself back and contenting itself with allusion rather than committing to something specific.

Highlight: The second sequence, set on an airship, boasts some strong atmosphere and the gameís most resonant choices.

Lowlight: In my first playthrough, I got stuck in the mine area, unable either to proceed or go back to where I came from, and once I realized this wasnít a statement about the main characterís emotional paralysis, I had to restart (I think I ran into the bug because I went to the mine, listed third in the navigation menu, before the first-listed bar. When I ran through the locations in order, I was able to progress).

How I failed the author: I played the gameís three main sequences in three separate sessions, each separated by several hours as I tended to Henry-related stuff, so that probably contributed to me not being able to keep the characters straight or identify too many clear thematic throughlines.





This is version 3 of this page, edited by Zape on 21 November 2021 at 5:22am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item