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Another Twine-ized parser, April 6, 2023
The Mamertine is a Twine-ized parser game supposedly about you (the player) escaping a cult. I say "supposedly" because I barely saw any hints of such a story when I was playing.
I imagine there's a lot of debate on "Twine" parsers / and a wide spectrum of them besides. Some of them are done so well that you forget that there's any distinction between the two — Twine and parsers — and they rightfully 'escape' into having a whole new genre of their own's. Some of them flounder, a little bit. The Mamertine was somewhere in the middle for me. The controls made the 'parsing' part of a parser easy — but at the same time, they prevented the player (me, at the very least) from feeling fully immersed in the game — this I could tell because I kept wondering during play if this and that 'action' or this and that 'command' might work better in a traditional parser format, instead of focusing on what I was doing and how I was supposed to solve the puzzles.
The puzzles and the endings were very confusing in this game. I couldn't help but wonder what, exactly, was the point for some of them at several points throughout my playthrough. The problem is that the game lacks logical flow in many of its departments. (Spoiler - click to show)e.g. The puzzles — you pull the lever? To make someone scream? What for? I thought you were trying to escape? There was also the sitting skeleton in the room you return to near the end of the game — is that the old man, and if so, how did he wither down to just his bones during the short period of time that we were gone? Is the implication that something happened during our brief sojourn into the outer walls to influence our perception of time or otherwise just make time go faster? But again, I ask, what for? There's just too many questions and not enough answers. The ending, when it came, was just as abrupt and as nonsensical as many of the events that happened before. (Spoiler - click to show)I've only managed to get one ending, with the variation of how many times or whether you managed to pull the lever at all. Let me know if there's anyone out there who's managed to get something different. But the author did describe their game as being "rather confusing" in the game description, so I suppose all of this should've been expected, anyways.
I looked up the title out of curiosity. Surprisingly, "The Mamertine" is a real place — an ancient prison used in Roman times — located in Rome, Italy. It's obviously fallen out of use now, and was in fact used by the Christians for worship since medieval times (the site, at least, apparently not the prison itself), so I'm having a fun time trying to place the "cult" that the player escaped from (Spoiler - click to show)— and, assumedly, been brought back into — in history and recognize its historical significance, if there's any to speak of in the first place ((Spoiler - click to show)and though some of the tools that appeared throughout this game gave off the feeling that the game is based in if not modern, at least very recent times). I'm now just curious why the author decided to choose the Mamertine as the setting at all (assuming it's even eponymous in the first place?). It just seems rather niche and sort of out-of-the-way, not an obvious choice for any author.
This game did make me think of other games with similar fuzzy categories — A Long Way to the Nearest Star or JELLY (my personal favorite), for games that also kind of attempted to destroy, merge, blend (I don't know, okay) the boundaries between Twine/hypertext and parsers, and even The Master of the Land, though that one's more of a conversation puzzle game than parser and a bit more far-off than the others. Anyways, what I'm mostly saying is that these types of games are an interesting developmental direction that should be further explored. (Cue tiny me cheering in a tinny voice at the back: Yeah! Break the boundaries, baby! Okay, that was embarassing. Ignore that.)
As afternotes — I liked the signage of the 'cult' in the story, as well as the background music, which is definitely not for everyone, but I personally found it suited the progression of the game very well — though it stopped quarterway during play for me. Visual design was okay; the fonts could have been done better. Some proofreading and work on sentence structure might be in order to fix a couple obvious mistakes (e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)"You are you don't think ..." right in the beginning few pages) and to break up run-on sentences.