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Let's Talk Alex

by Stephanie Smith

2022

(based on 3 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

A simulation of what it’s like to try and leave a relationship after emotional & mental abuse. Players confront their significant other about unhealthy behaviors, using memories to support their claims.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: eef5kk4mcrtepg5g

Awards

Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022

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Number of Reviews: 3
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Leaving a toxic relationship, June 7, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2022

Let’s Talk Alex is a Twine game about some very heavy subjects – gaslighting and emotional abuse in romantic relationships – that matches its emotionally-engaging premise with solid prose and an ultimately positive, actionable message of empowerment. I think it’s a very fine game, though I didn’t find myself as involved in it as I expected I’d be, partially because, per the game’s blurb, it’s not just a story but aims at being a simulation of how to get out of this kind of toxic relationship.

LTA realizes this ambition by structuring itself as a series of conversation puzzles: in any playthrough, the confrontation with the partner, Alex, plays out as a collection of four different mini-conversations (out of a pool of six), each focusing on a different aspect of their controlling behavior, and with clearly-laid out different strategies to try, some of which are always going to be successful in helping you get out of the relationship, and others (so far as I could tell) always unsuccessful. The choice of which topics you see depends on what you do during a pre-fight preparation phase, as you reminisce about different bad moments in the relationship. You get a short memory, which is mixed with the protagonist’s usually-positive thoughts about Alex even as they’re exhibiting a different strain of really negative behavior.

Then Alex comes home and there’s a transition into the fight:

"I’ve been feeling concerned that you’ve been showing some unhealthy behaviors. I feel like you’re unaccepting, controlling, take things too personally, and don’t trust me."

This definitely allows the player to take stock and understand how the stuff Alex has been doing falls into specific categories of emotional abuse, which helps with the educational or simulation side of things. But I found this bit of dialogue jarring, since it feels rather clinical, and I wondered how someone capable of saying this sentence about their partner hasn’t already realized that the relationship needs to end!

Once you zero in on one topic – say, the lack of trust – you get a few dialogue options, and here’s where the different strategies come in. Again, there are better answers and worse answers here, and while it’s usually pretty easy to suss out what’s likely to work (there are also some strong hints in the game’s introductory material), the choices set out a bunch of plausible responses. But I found myself wishing the conversations had a little more depth, since usually there’s only one or two choices before you’re back to the hub menu and on to the next topic – the focus is on providing feedback on whether the choices have been effective, rather than portraying all the back-and-forth of a big argument.

Ultimately, it’s a positive that there’s a good amount of signposting and that the writing is precise throughout, since that communicates why things are happening the way they are and makes the puzzles legible to the player. But at the same time, I found this approach sometimes too cut-and-dried given the emotional dynamics at issue, with the clarity sometimes undermining the verisimilitude and messy immediacy of what a relationship-ending fight can feel like. I don’t want to ding LTA too harshly for this slight dryness, though; if it makes it a better tool for exploring different ways a controlling relationship can be escaped, and a less-compelling story about one single way that plays out, that’s certainly a reasonable choice. On the Spring Thing festival page, it’s also got an “autobiographical” tag, and god knows that know that when I made my own autobiographical game last year, there were a whole bunch of topics and storytelling approaches that I dialed down or avoided, because I wouldn’t have been emotionally capable of writing the thing otherwise. Regardless, LTA tackles a tough set of topics with grace and clarity and is a worthy entry in the festival.


A bit of psychologist for an unestable couple relatonship., April 19, 2022

So if you are Alex it is supposed I am Andra.

A short and very imaginative (low cost psychology) game where we can see how a couple try to fix and upgrade his relationship.
This festival I have played several games about space, psychologist, fiancees, dogs, hyperspace, fairies… all seems to be in duplicate.
In the reality things often goes upside down, she has the pan for the handle when talking about home things.
Meanwhile you can play several times with same ending.

Jade


An accurate depiction of a controlling/abusive relationship, April 19, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

Whew! This game brought back a lot of memories.

It's a game that doesn't take too long to play. You are a person with an abusive significant other, Alex (I read the protagonist as coded female and the antagonist as coded male, but the game is purposely ambiguous and uses they/them pronouns for Alex).

Alex does things that are expressed as being for your best interest, but really they are for their own selfish interest. Keeping your away from your friends and family on social media , moving to be closer to their family but away from your friends and family, constantly worried that you will cheat (yep), shaming you for interests they're not into. All of which I've experienced in real life.

Actually, contemplating this game made me zone out for about an hour, thinking about things, and I wrote a big personal essay about it and realized I never finished this review. I guess I'll have to give this game points for emotional impact, that's sure. I found the choice structure not as compelling, but I can't think of any recommendations for it. It has real interactivity and limited options, but I feel it could be somehow pushed a little more. Overall, a game that has unsettled me to my core.


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