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About the Story
Mutated mimicry of Skulljhabit, it's a game about the futility of writing a game like that of Porpentine's.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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Creating an homage to a fellow artist (particularly one who is still alive and may come across your work) is a tricky rope to walk. At worst, it may turn into cringeworthy idolisation. At the same time, surely some form of deference to the older (greater?) artist is to be expected; otherwise, what's the point of it being an homage?
chintokkong's A Study in Porpentine avoids the risk of cringe through a fairly original approach: the game isn't so much about its creator's feelings towards Porpentine and her work as it is about a concrete artistic problem: how to create a game like Skulljhabit. The author's page mentions several literary sources with which I'm unfortunately unfamiliar. I'd like to add that it reminded me of Jorge Luis Borges' short story "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", the story of a 20th century writer's attempt to recreate Don Quixote; not an adaptation or a pastiche, but an identical facsimile, word by word.
And A Study in Porpentine works. In fact, I may have enjoyed it more than the game it's based on. Skulljhabit is not a bad game by any means; it has Porpentine's usual high writing quality, and the setting and ambience are compelling. Even so, I've only played it once and was satisfied, whereas I keep coming back to A Study in Porpentine, even after solving it. I can think of a few reasons (essentially all boiling down to "it's a taste thing"). For starters, ASiP's story of finding inspiration and creating a work of fiction is closer to my own life and motivations than Skulljhabit's cycle of menial labour. Secondly, ASiP gives you a more driving plot, with your goal and the way to get there set out right from the start. Skulljhabit does have a progressing plot, but it lets you fumble about in the dark to find it. What can I say? It's a taste thing. You may have the opposite reaction.
I enjoyed pretty much everything about it. The challenge of compiling the material for your game is a good example of how puzzles can be implemented in a Twine game. I did find one part (finding the hair) frustrating, since it got me blundering about using trial-and-error, but I don't have many hard feelings for that. And the writing and mood are excellent, fully on a par with the source material.
I found it enlightening to compare my feelings to the other chintokkong game I've played, Save the World in 7 Moves. With Save the World I found the gameplay original, especially for Twine, but didn't feel that the writing or mood were particularly memorable. In ASiP, the gameplay is upfront about being unoriginal, but the writing and mood are as good as I could desire.
Recommended, but play Skulljhabit first.
A Study in Porpentine is a text game about making a text game. I initially expected something like Last Minute, where you make several choices of what your game will feature and then play the result.
As it turned out, the essence is roughly the same, but the game is... very different.
You explore a small multiverse of nested worlds, seek for inspiration in various sources and collect parts of your game - its "skull" (the main idea? your game can have two skulls and more), its "bones" (game structure?), its "flesh" (writing?), its "skin" (appearance?), its "hair" (?) - until the whole organism is complete; even when it's not, you can try to play what you've got (don't fear to use "Entwine" - you won't lose anything).
There's repetition. There's confusion. There's irritation. How many parts do you need? You don't know.
But I liked it.
The ending was beautiful.
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