Unbeknown

by A. DeNiro profile

2015

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Number of Reviews: 2
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A great sci-fi short story, March 14, 2021

I first played this game during IFComp 2015, and recently just re-played it. I think it holds up pretty well, especially when seen as a part of Anya DeNiro's greater body of work.

Compared to the author's other works, I feel like this story is more straightforward, less literary for the sake of being literary. And that's really saying something, because this story is plenty complicated, at least at first. It starts out taking place within a (Spoiler - click to show)VR video game, a survival game kind of reminiscent of Rust. And then things gradually get weirder. Your identity is called into question. Until it ends with a scene explaining the entirety of the premise.

People have said that the game has very limited interactivity, and that's basically accurate. But compared to DeNiro's previous stories, this story has greater agency in terms of embodying the player character. Solarium and We Are the Firewall are basically hypertext fiction, with no player-embodiment agency to speak of, but they seem more interactive because there are more links, more bells and whistles on the page to play with. This game follows more of an adventure format. For most of the story, the player character is deliberately disempowered; they don't have much control over their own life or actions due to outside forces and being placed in an unknown situation. This at least gives some justification for the lack of choice.

I really enjoyed the writing. Some of its cyberpunk-esque story elements are kind of reminiscent of We Are the Firewall, but here they're presented in a much more straightforward way. There's a meditation on personal identity and even some nods to trans-ness.

At the end, a character basically tells the entire backstory to the player (on ending 2). I'm not sure if this was the right decision, as I would have preferred for some sense of mystery to be preserved, or to have the chance to figure out the mystery on my own (which is part of what I loved about Solarium and Firewall).


Comments on this review

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Anya Johanna DeNiro, March 21, 2021 - Reply
Sorry--I need to fix this. The hosting shifted around for the files. I can mention here when the story is up somewhere else. And thank you for the thoughtful review!
autumnc, March 25, 2021 - Reply
Thank you for everything you've written! Your stories have really helped me through some dark times...
MathBrush, March 14, 2021 - Reply
Have you played Feu de Joie? I thought it was very interesting, but haven't seen many people discuss it
autumnc, March 15, 2021 - Reply
I haven't played it yet, but I would definitely like to! [edit: looks like it's offline, and a lot of the images aren't on internet archive...]
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