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About the Story
On a sweltering-hot summer evening, two friends walk and talk. And then some.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
Number of Reviews: 3
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In other reviews Iíve advanced the theory that one of the distinctive things about this era of IF is that the parser vs. choice dichotomy that loomed so large Ė and, er, acrimoniously Ė through the 2010s is starting to dissolve as authors who play, and sometimes make, both kinds of games experiment with ways to get the best of both worlds. Typically the way Iíve seen this play out is through choice-based games that implement parser-like navigation and a world model while filtering interaction through a set of always-available actions rather than bespoke choices. Digit represents the opposite approach Ė itís a parser game with no puzzles and large chunks of text between actions, where almost all of the interactivity is embedded in the menu-based dialogue system.
This is a rather bloodless way to describe a sweet albeit graphically sexual (or maybe itís the other way around?) story of two best friends visiting a street festival and learning more about each other than theyíd bargained for. But Iím foregrounding structure because Ė well, it gives me a chance to expound a pet theory, but also because itís helpful to let potential players know what to expect Ė choice-based mavens who typically shy from parser games I think would find Digit a gentle way to dip a toe (groan) into the pool, while parser boffins looking to juggle inventories and unlock every door they see should adjust their expectations. Itís also relevant to how I evaluated the game, though: viewed narrowly through the criteria I usually use for a parser game, it has some real negatives, but making a broader assessment these donít matter so much compared to its strengths in what itís actually trying to do.
To get those negatives out of the way quickly so I can focus on why I enjoyed Digit so much: yes, itís largely on rails, with much of your keyboard input simply just hitting a button to get the next line onto the screen, up to and including the game typing in an action for you on occasion. In terms of interactivity, you can choose different dialogue options but the order doesnít seem to matter so you can just lawnmower your way through. And itís a bit underimplemented, without much scenery to explore, few synonyms for the objects, the world model not always matching the story (like a character still being present in a room after dialogue indicates sheís gone to the bathroom), actions that could have been implemented separately swept up into the general TALK TO command (e.g., thereís a point where you need to give a series of foods to your friend, but attempts to GIVE are unsuccessful), and a few small bugs like a cute sequence at a water fountain that you can repeat even after itís fired.
If you want to get hung up on that stuff, I canít stop you. Still, I think that would be missing the forest for the trees, because even if all youíre doing is typing TALK TO EVIE, picking an number, and bouncing the space bar a dozen or so times before going back to step one, nonetheless I think this is still a really good game, because itís really well-written. The central element here is that the prose, while not at all showy, is really really good. Often in my IF reviews I note that a game has solid writing, which is to say, itís fine, it gets the job done, nothing to worry about here. But for me personally, the quality of the prose is probably the single biggest factor in how much I enjoy something. Outside of IF, 99% of what I read is literary fiction, and thatís due to how much attention those authors typically put into every word they use, not because I have an obsessive interest in reading about New Yorkers getting divorced (Ėthough you know, Iíve just this moment connected the dot that my parents were New Yorkers who got divorced. This seems a dangerous idea to keep unpacking, though, so letís move on). Digit does great on this score, boasting clever yet naturalistic dialogue, landscape descriptions that are low-key while still having the occasional moment of lyricism, and a global grounding in the concrete and physical that meant I was always right there with Sirin and Evie. Like, hereís a passage chosen at random:
"I led us down a footpath, which ran down a hill to the waterfront promenade. As it approached the horizon from behind a fluffy cloud, the evening sun bathed the sky in peachy hues - but damn, it was still a hot one.
"Not far from where we were standing, gentle waves were breaking on the shore, caressing the rocks with a quiet murmur. A light seabreeze ruffled my hair. It felt cool against my sweat. It was nice. The promenade was a place I often came to jog, but it felt totally different being here now with Evie."
Again, itís nothing thatís jumping up and down screaming ďlook at me!Ē But this sets a mood, and you read it with satisfaction without consciously noticing the way the author adeptly slips from landscape description to character responses to embedded flashbacks, alternating longer, fancier sentences with shorter, more direct ones. This same care is present in the dialogue sequences too, like an effective scene where the protagonist is sharing some tough personal stuff with her friend while skipping stones, and the conversation is regularly interrupted with a count of how many skips sheís getting, illustrating how emotion is getting the better of her in a neatly understated way.
The strong writing extends to the character work, too, which is really what takes center stage. Given the tags and the content warning, itís hopefully not a spoiler to say that the whole game is a dance of seduction Ė though whoís seducing who is definitely placed into question!. Itís appropriate, then, that Digit is in no rush to get to the sex. We get a sense of who these characters are, whatís going on in their lives outside of their relationship, and what they mean to each other, so that by the time the low-level flirtation bubbles over, itís not sexy just because people are having sex, but because these characters are having this sex. The strong writing is also a godsend here, because of course sex writing is so frequently ridiculous; itís good here, as befits a game from the author of Turbo Chest Hair massacre, which has the steamiest robot sex ever featured in an IF Comp entry (with all apologies to Hanon Ondricek for robotsexpartymurderís competitive second-place showing).
Would Digit be a better game if it had all the usual parser game bells and whistles? I guess in a formal sense, but beyond the small bit of bug-squashing alluded to above, the only change Iíd really want the author to make is to alter some of the default Inform responses Ė hearing Graham Nelson intone ďthat was hardly portableĒ took me out of the story a little bit. As it is, I had a lovely time with Digit, and if there are more parser/choice mashups like this to come, bring on the revolution.
I have played this game for a while and the scheme is, as described in documentation, a barely talk / examine game where you travel all along through the choice options given by the game. There is many, many times to write "talk" and a few other actions.
This game is a text novel story where two girlfriends discover herself through some hypnosis experiments.
If you like erotic stories you can play it or not, otherwise this game doesn't worth a try.
Digit is a very well written and often touching story about love, longing, and lesbian finger sucking. Digit also plays like a book you occasionally need to fumble about with to turn the page. These can both be true.
Digit's main problem is that it squanders its medium. Isn't the point of IF that it feels like you're in control of the narrative? The experience of playing Digit is like that of being a train conductor: you control the pacing and admire the scenery as you down a predetermined route.
Also, the sexual content feels strange. It's by no means bad (it's quite sexy, actually,) but it's also unnecessary. It's almost as if it was tacked on in the irrational fear that the story didn't have enough of an emotional draw, which it certainly does. Our heroines could have finished the night with a chaste snuggle, and it would have been just as cathartic without making me feel like as big a pervert.
Despite the flaws, Digit is very, very good. The prose is very atmospheric without falling into purple territory, the characters are very cute together, and despite my quibbling, I by no means object to the sexuality. It's an excellent short story, but the gamey parts are the least good element of it.
4/5 stars; it's finger lickin' good!
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