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A flawed work of art, September 30, 2017
The word "keepsake" makes me think of a small object: precious, of course, beautiful, perhaps, but above all exquisite and rare.
Keepsake is small and unique. Unfortunately, its idea is a bit too bold, and the details a bit too out of proportion, for it to form an aesthetically perfect whole.
I let that simile get away from me, didn't I? Let's rewind.
Keepsake has a very bold concept that can't be discussed without spoiler tags: (Spoiler - click to show)you are playing through a series of events in reverse, taking things from bystanders instead of carrying out fetch-quests, handing over important items, on your way away from the climactic moment. It's not a completely original concept: I haven't see Memento, but I was also reminded of Martin Amis' novel Time's Arrow, another example of a bold work of art that perhaps doesn't quite work. This conceit is wrapped up in a very simple but emotionally powerful revenge plot.
So I like the plot, slight as it is, and am impressed by the conceit. I'm in two minds about the puzzles. On the one hand, they're clever: solving them requires having figured out the conceit. On the other hand, once you have done so, the puzzles are 1) essentially the same, and 2) very simple acts of giving or using an item. The simplicity is justified: in this type of story, more complex puzzles might have been very difficult to solve, let alone implement. Still, it meant that while the first puzzle I came across (the old man's cane in the coffee shop) impressed me, the next one was just more of the same.
The writing is good, rather than great. It's not strikingly beautiful prose, and some sentences felt clichéd, but conversely, there were also times when the writing struck a psychologically accurate note, and I feel like those moments outnumbered the duds. The style is a clear window to observe the story through, rather than an artwork.
The epilogue, again, has me in two minds. On the one hand, it's well implemented and serves as a good coda to the story; on the other hand, it made me realise that unplayable epilogues might be rare in IF for a reason.
The version I played was very well implemented: the set-up by necessity causes a bunch of disambiguation issues, but the game is streamlined enough that I had very few problems getting it to understand me. As I mentioned before, the epilogue is also a good piece of implementation.
One of the more original games out there, and perhaps it implements its gimmick as well as can be realistically expected. In the end, however, between the somewhat flavourless writing and the simplicity of the puzzles, I found it not-quite-exquisite enough to live up to its name.