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About the Story
A twine game where the reader explores a stack of letters left on their desk from someone they cared about. She has hidden herself inside her words, and all you can do is read between the lines. Can you find her?
26th Place - 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2016)
The Breakfast Review
I don't know that I was deeply affected by the story, but I guess I was affected to a certain extent. In many ways, this is a character study or a portrait of Cadence, some of it in her own words, some of it demonstrated by the protagonist's memories. It's pretty sweet. Some of the poetry felt--like teenage angst poetry--a bit unnecessary. I'm not sure what to do with it. After a while, it actually felt a bit intrusive to want to poke around any more, which I guess is kind of a point in the story's favour.
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Disclaimer: (Spoiler - click to show)Hi, this are the reviews I did in the the IFComp 2016. Iím Ruber Eaglenest. Co-author of The skyscraper and the scar, and entry of that year. The review is posted without edition, and need some context about how I reviewed and rated the games. So, apart of my bad English I hope to be constructive. I will point to the things I don't like of the game, but I hope to be helpful. The structure I follow is this: Title, one line review, two to five word; Mobile friendliness, overall, score phrased based on IF comp guidelines. I had back ache and so thatís why I played most games in Android mobile, I looked closely at how games behave on mobile and review and vote based on that.
Mobile friendly: almost, but comfortable to play.
General: Interesting premise. At first it feels another game of consulting a Database to learn a whole story from pieces and scraps. You are in a desk with a lot of previously undelivered letters of someone who seems have passed away. However, instead of having a semi random interesting interface where we could parse all letters bit by bit, the game has a traditional twine structure, and this just donít fit the topic and theme and story. Eventually you reach the end of the tree and you find an irritating Start over link, to begin from the start. It is irritating the fifth time you find that. I think a premise like this requieres a somewhat simulation of the space (like in Her Story or 500 apocalypses), a way of pick always random letters, a way to sort them, a way to not to read the already read letters. That is a way to not repeat the same texts again and again, or the same loops again and again.
The content is mildy interesting. Yes it describes the life, the way, and the death of a beautiful girl. But it is somewhat on the nose. Thereís nothing much to discover because the death is just there, almost at the beginning. And the contents are not so interesting.
Apart of the structure problems, thereís a big problem with the voice of the game. At first, it seems that it is just that, the letters, in the writing and voice of her, but later there are passages that has flashbacks, or sequences where the protagonist is me, I mean you, the player. It just donít feel right, because thereís no homogeneity in the use of it. It feels random. Or improvised.
Score: In the end I didnít like it very much, and the start over mechanic irritated me. Not recommended.
(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my blog during IFComp 2016.)
In Letters, you're a teenaged girl reading, tracing and clicking your way through a pile of letters from your ostensibly cool school friend Cadence after certain events have occurred.
Both main characters have solid writing chops and some wisdom beyond their years, and they communicate everything to each other by handwritten letters in the year 2008, give or take a few years. I felt this setup was a bit of a contrivance, the kind of thing that is outrageously possible in real life yet which takes a certain amount of feinting or explaining when delivered as fiction to get people to buy it. I decided to accept the premise and move on once I acknowledged I was enjoying Letters's sparky, emotional teen writing, and that I was also being prompted to think about how I was interacting with this IF. It worked for me both as emotional writing and as something with a bit of a puzzly feel, an experience I've rarely had with similarly presented IFs in the past.
I spent about twenty minutes with Letters and felt that I had satisfactorily experienced most of its content by that point, though probably not all of it. It's not easy to track which links you've previously clicked, unless perhaps you lawnmower them, or have a better memory than I do. It was a testament to the game's effectiveness that I had no interest in mowing the lawn. I was clicking particular links I wanted to click for reasons I possessed or imagined in relation to the story. Contrivances accepted, I liked Letters a lot.
More detail with spoilers below.
Letters is not outwardly gamey, but part of the blurb is a challenge Ė "Can you find her?" (your friend, figuratively) Ė and there's a certain labyrinthine quality to the link structuring. The 'Start Over' end nodes often occur after emotional climaxes or relatively drastic events. Something about them makes you want to avoid them, or just nervous about encountering them. This sensation probably emerges from a basic desire to avoid premature closure of the story. And there's a feeling that if you choose wisely, maybe you can in turn eke out wiser decisions for the characters. For instance, an ending that's not too deep in the structure and which occurs immediately after you tell Cadence to piss off, suggests that maybe by doing so you harmed the friendship so early in the piece as to preclude its development. In light of moments like this, I don't interpret the pile of letters to be a bunch of static found objects that you're going through. They feel more like your interface to a story that has an unchanging core but which you can get into more deeply if you're persistent, or sometimes deflect off if you're unlucky.
The key things I liked about Letters are that I wanted to find more ways into the story, that it wasn't entirely elementary to do so, and that there was a good balance between links that made me feel narratively rewarded for picking them and links that capriciously made the story crumble and sent me back to the (not too far away) start.
There's some tension, while reading a letter, between wanting to click particular links as soon as you encounter them, and holding off and reading the whole letter first. Sometimes reading to the bottom of the letter reveals more links that were initially out of range. Maybe they'll be more interesting? Or maybe you're effectively changing events in the story by disregarding later parts of a letter to move laterally earlier? I also like that I never entirely resolved all this stuff, and the answers probably aren't set in concrete anyway.
I'll admit, I was disappointed, because I thought this game actually had a series of secret coded messages that you had to decrypt, from hints in the text.
But this is actually a bunch die of letters from a girl to the player that talk about life and difficulties. The styling is great, and the game is polished and descriptive. There was some strong profanity.
Really polished, but relatively short and hard to piece together.
This twine piece tells the story of Cadence, a young woman who the opening implies has died, through the letters and memories she shared with the narrator. The writing is good, making use of a strong voice and sense of rhythm.
The opening takes the form of a last letter, a farewell, to the narrator, a classmate who became her closest friend. The story flows well, with regular reveals of information, and an interesting mechanic of "starting over" at the end of every story node to learn more.
I didn't think this would work as well as it did; the first time I saw "Start Over" it was after two clicks, and I wondered if the piece would be tedious and repetitive, but it isn't at all. The mechanic works perfectly to let you learn more and explore the story in greater depth.
Overall, this was an affecting, moving work.
Twine. You are looking through different letters send to you by your friend Cadence, and click keywords to bring up more letters. Sometimes there's a bit of your own inner commentary as well.
Cadence and you are characters with personality: Precocious, a bit melodramatic, but then that's kind of what you get with teenage protagonists like these; you need that sort of perspective to drive things. The letters span a bunch of times, different topics, different moods, and Cadence pours herself (or versions of herself) into them.
Each letter has a couple keywords you can explore, and those keywords take you to another letter or moment about that. The starting letter's keywords all lead to branches that address a different topic or event.
The writing... the writing is quite good, good enough that it makes me want to settle in, and treat it like a novel. That's the mode my mind switches to. But those have professional editors and countless revisions, and I hit these minor typos, or places where the sentences are too short, or some other small thing... They're all minor, but they feel just slightly disruptive, and it's not fair to compare it with an actual novel, probably -- Twine's a great tool, but the lack of spell checker means people should consider running their text through Word or something.
The writing's generally better in the letters than in the third person stuff, which sometimes didn't flow as well, or which were phrased slightly abnormally; as an affectation in written letters, they work well, but in third person, a bit distracting.
This has a structure, and the letters are revealing, in different ways, and build, in different orders. The branches eventually hit an end, and you have to start over, and I think that reasonably gets across the idea of you poring over these letters and re-reading them for clues, haphazard and disorganised. You can set a system for how to go through the letters and you can go down the line, or you can just click whatever draws your attention first. This works either way.