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An absurd distress, May 6, 2015
This game will make many people wrinkle their noses. That's just a fact. It doesn't have a coherent story, doesn't have coherent characters, and its writing style shifts from passage to passage -- from unintelligible legalese to fairy-tale to script format, and more. Whether you're willing to play along is entirely dependent on your personality, and the game does warn you upfront that it will be "a trial."
With that said, this game made me laugh out loud more than almost any other interactive fiction I've played, and that counts for a lot. And even though the writing style shifts (which I don't perceive as negative, but which others might), it always flows, streaming along with words that simply sound good. Consider this example:
I come from the pen/feather that leaks ink. I come from the brush, that brief blush when we hold hands. I come from the bottle, the blotter the stopper. The well. I do not come well but I come as I am I suppose.
I feel this is a good representation of the game. Perhaps it sounds like nonsense at first, but it's not. We're in some government hellhole where the player-character's identity will be "approved" with a scrawl from a bureaucrat's pen, similarly to how the author's own pen granted this game its identity. The text quoted above is from an answer to a questionnaire's prompt: "Where did you come from?"
Not all the game's text is original. A Trial, in certain respects, is a collage. I'm interested in narratives cobbled together from disparate sources, so I enjoyed what was going on here, with the player-character being cobbled into some rough form as the game cobbles itself together from its influences. Whether this is a valid process to create something is what the game is (at least partially) about. How does one form an identity, anyway?
My favorite sequence was probably a walk down a hallway where the player is obstructed by three uncles, three fathers, three brothers, and three agents. A few lines recited to drive them away are great:
I know many tongues; I have grown many tongues and had many cut out. I know how to speak around you.
I will tie my hands into two thousand knots before I open the door to return to you.
Another sequence involves playing a game-within-a-game when the player loads a save file in a Pokemon parody, only to discover that an old friend corrupted the file with sinister intentions. This would've been right at home in the uncle who works for nintendo.
By now, anyone reading this has probably been able to decide if the game is something they'd be interested in experimenting with or not. It has thirteen endings by its own count, and its opening menu checks each ending off whenever you reach a new one, but I only found eight. In another game, I still probably wouldn't have found them all, just because I don't like replaying games over and over if that's what it takes to get a "perfect" score. In this case, I also feel like breaking away and refusing to satisfy the system is something the story would encourage.