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A Study in Porpentine (itch.io)
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A Study in Porpentine

by chintokkong profile


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(based on 4 ratings)
3 reviews

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: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Skulljhabit but worse, February 22, 2023
by Cerfeuil (*Teleports Behind You* Nothing Personnel, Kid)

This game takes both too much and too little from Skulljhabit. It copies the mechanics without copying over why the mechanics worked so well in the context of Skulljhabit's setting, so it removes their narrative thrust and renders it all rather pointless. Unfortunately, I got bored of the grind and never finished it. So don't trust this review, apparently the game expands and lets you do other things later on. But the part I played didn't interest me.

In Skulljhabit the arbitrariness of your task is part of the point. There's no apparent reason for you to be shoveling skulls into a giant skull pit. You're doing it because you've been told to by an exterior bureaucratic force and you have no choice but to obey their edicts. In this game you're in a library trying to make a game (very meta) based on Porpentine's work, and the crucial detail to me is that you're here of your own volition and this is something you want to do. Completely different context. One way this game undercuts itself with its premise.

This game's setting is much more abstract. In the library you read about Porpentine and use the 'words' you get, measured in numbers, to purchase your game's 'body parts' one by one. It has an allegorical feel but the allegory doesn't work for me. Maybe because this abstract process of reading books to grind up your wordcount to buy body parts bears no resemblance to the process of actually making a game, in any sense. It focuses too much on the reading, not on the writing, and there's something soulless about how it depicts the reading. Reading becomes grinding for currency so you can purchase things. You're "reading" about Porpentine but as far as I'm aware you don't see a single word of anything she's written, you just click the 'read' button and get a random number of words to add to your wordcount, and then you click it again, and again and again, until you get tired and go to sleep. In Skulljhabit this worked for shoveling skulls because it's meant to be a thankless, tedious task. But I think reading, especially reading about an author you admire, should be a respite and not framed as part of the daily grind.

This is my main complaint with the game really, I gave up on it so I'm not sure if it gets better. The gameplay I saw wasn't very interesting. Mostly grinding, and there's a few typos. Reading isn't the only thing you can do, there's a mountain to climb for example, but that mountain is taken almost directly from Skulljhabit and in my opinion the modifications made by the author make it worse. Which describes my impression of the game pretty well: Skulljhabit but worse. Play Skulljhabit, it's pretty fun.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great game, but play Skulljhabit first, November 21, 2017

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.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A surreal meditation, August 14, 2017
by Sobol (Russia)

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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This is version 3 of this page, edited by chintokkong on 6 March 2020 at 9:59pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page