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About the Story
My mother made a deal.
Nominee - The mother, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - Leonora, Best Individual PC - 2019 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Night Guard / Morning Star explores art, sacrifice, and the difficulties of living in the shadow of a self-centered parent. These themes are beautifully rendered through scenes where paintings come to life in ways that illuminate the protagonistís past, revealing and developing the characters through off-kilter, scattered memories.
Itís a wonderful example of interactive structure serving the story, as the physical layout of the gallery, the description cards for all the paintings, and the ability to enter paintings in order to explore a scene from the past, all fit tightly and satisfyingly with the dark and vivid story being told.
The aunt and the Morning Star are vividly rendered and memorable as their images become embodied in different ways while they beckon and cajole the protagonist into action. And the relationship between the protagonist and her mother is deliciously fraught: the protagonist is able to see conflicting perspectives she and her mother had on different moments in the past, and this, along with their occasional clashes during the course of the story, lead to real character development and multiple endings that each feel like a unique resolution of the protagonistís journey toward empowerment, as well as an exorcism of the ties and memories that have haunted her for a long time.
A beautiful Twine game by veteran Astrid Dalmady, this nevertheless left me a bit cold. Itís funny how an art exhibition is practically an IF trope, and it was ripe for the Twine treatment. And while the use of medium is top notch, my feelings are mixed on the story. The prose is certainly evocative, though a bit melodramatic for my tastes and to the point where I find myself not sympathizing with our protagonist.
I quite enjoyed the first ending I came across where (Spoiler - click to show)Leonara becomes the artist, enough to try the game again. However, each ending I came across was less satisfying and made the story feel broken (I mean, really, (Spoiler - click to show)killing my mom is an option?). I enjoy multiple endings in a comedy or adventure game; but in a serious dramatic piece, I say tell the story you want to tell. Being able to change the PCís morals on a whim feels gross when the stakes are this high.
I'll admit, I'm a big Astrid Dalmady fan. From her earliest games like You Are Standing at a Crossroads, I've found her writing comforting and cathartic.
So this game, I ate it up. It's not big on traditional interactivity. You just explore everything, then move on to the next step (on the surface, at least. In truth, the game tracks state and has many endings, but it doesn't appear like it).
What I like about it is the story. The label I'd like to apply is 'magical realism', although that's a subject I'm not an expert in, so I might be using it wrong. A day to day story with fantastic elements brought in that are treated matter-of-factly, for the most part.
What happens is you are the night guard for your mother's paintings, and (Spoiler - click to show)they begin to come to life. You must gather items for a ritual to summon back a lost painting.
You have options. Some choices cause you pain, and others cause you sadness. There are many endings.
Overall, I found it almost like a cleansing for the mind. The deep discussion of the mother-daughter relationship helped me think about my own relationships, and the ritualistic structure was like a form of meditation.
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