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About the Story
Something is bothering Hana. Can you work out what it is? Take the part of four important people in her life and guide their conversations. After each scene, peek at Hana's journal and find out how she felt about the things you said.
Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 2015 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 6
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I'm always reluctant to play altgames. For my purposes, an an "altgame" is an interactive experience which has an active purpose to illustrate a alternate point of view or teach the player about a a problem, often using a type of gameplay as metaphor. The point of the this is almost never to entertain, but hopefully promote understanding and illuminate an uncomfortable situation the player might not be completely familiar with. Depression Quest is probably the most famous altgame.
Altgames are hard to write, as it is so completely easy to step over one of the many intricate narrow lines and overdo pathos, or reduce a situation to complete absurdity. Absurdity can work in a game's favor, but is its own delicate balancing act.
Hana Feels sidesteps much standard awkwardness with solid, honest writing, and by not casting the reader as the protagonist. Instead, the reader has several conversations with Hana, reacting as different people in her life. Hana then spells out her own reaction to the encounter in her journal based on the choices made.
I was moved, and I was compelled to replay four times to get the best ending. The thing I learned is (Spoiler - click to show)sometimes the worst thing you can do for a person in turmoil is to actively try to solve their problem for them. Listening without judgement is often the best course of action. I found the friend very hard to roleplay because there isn't a way for her not to get angry and push Hana too hard. (Game-wise, it seems you need to play the previous conversations leading up to this one well enough so Hana has enough positive reinforcement not to take the bad experience so poorly.)
Often a person is too close to another person to act successfully as their pseudo psychiatrist, and accepting that one can not always be a white knight is hard for any friend to swallow.
[This game contains discussions of self-harm/self-mutilation. Please exercise discretion. Time to completion: 15-25 minutes]
Hana has been acting unlike herself lately. Can you find out why?
We, the player, see Hana's feelings through the eyes of four different people. Each is meant to play a supportive role in her life, but their different personalities means that their support can express itself in very different ways. The catch: the only thing you can control is what other people say to Hana. Some of the NPCs would have been self-centred had we only been able to see from Hana's point of view, but being able to play through their perspectives - and seeing their doubts and awkwardness - made them much more sympathetic, even when they say things which would be frankly hurtful.
Hana's journal entries provide immediate feedback about your conversational choices. I found myself wondering how I could optimise outcomes for Hana - or, indeed, if it was even possible. But there's something to this, isn't there? No matter our intentions, our words of comfort can so easily be interpreted in the exact opposite of what we mean.
Depending on the branch you end up getting, the overall tone of Hana Feels could be either cautiously optimistic or achingly sad. Despite occasionally getting to experience Hana's perspective, she remains distant; we can only ever reach her indirectly, through the filter of other people.
Hana has been nominated for Best NPC in the XYZZY awards, a fact which delights me, even if I'm never really sure what makes an NPC 'good'. The most I can say, though, is that the emotional investment the PCs pay into their interactions with Hana pays off. Each character reacts believably and sensitively to what the other says. A comparable game would be Hannah Powell-Smith's Thanksgiving or Aquarium, in which conversation is fraught and intricate as a dance.
Hana Feels ultimately deals with some weighty stuff - Hana, after all, has to deal with a lot and she doesn't always do this in a healthy way - but there are areas of levity, and perhaps even hope.
I was skeptical of this game at first, as I am not into games that push a particular viewpoint. But the conversation style, graphics, and options really spoke to me. To try and get the best ending, I put myself in Hana's shoes, thinking, "What would I need to hear right now"? I especially enjoyed trying to think like Ernie.
I got what I assume is the best ending, but I have no desire to try and find the worst ending, because the author really helped me empathize with the character.
For those who know what the topic of the game is: (Spoiler - click to show) I am usually wary of people writing about cutting, as so many people glorify it, saying for instance that all cutters are heros and their scars are from struggling with demons. I was taken aback by this games approach, which emphasizedthat cutters are just ordinary people with an unhealthy habit, just like drinking or gambling. I've overcome some unhealthy habits in my life, and this game was very close to my real-life experience. It really touched me.
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