Repeat the Ending

by Drew Cook profile

Slice of life

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
"Love Follows Knowledge", indeed, June 9, 2023

To someone with sensibilities like mine, Repeat the Ending makes quite the poor first impression. From the very beginning, the footnotes already work to constantly interrupt the game's natural pacing, and the extradiegetic nature of the tutorials is puzzling, to say the least. This inability to leave the player alone speaks to a complete lack of faith in the text's ability to speak for itself, and is especially baffling coming from those who supposedly respected the original enough to help make a new version of it. That these people could have thought so much about this game and still ended up thinking so little of it strains believability.

But then I wondered if maybe, if it's so unbelievable, I'm not actually supposed to believe it and that's when Repeat hooked me.

There's so much that could be said about this game, and what comes to me most easily are thoughts on its portrayal of trauma and mental illness. The scoring system that tracks game overs rather than progress is the mechanical highlight here, and the failure-obsessed playstyle it engenders in the player ties perfectly into those themes. Just as higher scores will lead to increasingly better endings for D, so too does surmounting his trauma require him to, through "us", look at his own pain, understand it, acknowledge it. As painful as this process can be (and it's certainly uniquely painful to him), only from that knowledge can love follow.

Well, that's the easy part of thinking about this game. The hard part is reckoning with all the fictional commentary on the game itself that's been included with it commentary that, in my understanding, ranges from misguided at best to insultingly ignorant at worst. Most of it is content with merely ruining the play experience, as mentioned in the first paragraph, but the most egregious read so unnecessarily deeply into the material circumstances of the characters that they absurdly come to the conclusion the work is cruel for its own sake, and also misogynistic, ableist, classist, etc., which of course reflects quite poorly on the author.

Where does this leave me, the real-world critic? I'd like to say that I'm not like those commentators. That I'm above them; that I always approach texts sincerely, with an open mind, not seeking to impose my own view upon them. But do I really? Always? Can I truly say that I've never looked at something through the wrong lens, or dismissed a work due to having an incomplete view of it? I... can't. I just can't.

In a stroke of genius, the scoring system is relevant here as well, as it's said to also function as "a measure of [a reviewer's] engagement with the text". (For what it's worth, mine was 33/33, though I'll admit to liberally checking the hints.) A reminder for me to never take my critical process for granted, then. Even art that initially seems so confused and bad as to strain believability deserves the benefit of the doubt. To be looked at closely, understood, acknowledged. It's a laborious process, and it might reveal something of value, or it might not; but either way, only from that knowledge can love follow.

So here's my own contribution to the game's paratext. I'm a very slow writer, so was initially not planning on doing this... but then I saw the contemporary reviews of this, the Real real version of the game, also included with it, and I couldn't resist. Thank you for trusting your players and critics in this manner, Mr. Cook; I hope I've managed to return that trust in kind. (And, given that this is my first time writing a review here, that I've not unknowingly committed some unforgiveable faux pas.)

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Andrew Schultz, June 9, 2023 - Reply
Welcome! This is a really strong first review. You haven't broken any rules as far as I'm aware. Hope you find time and motivation to write more.
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