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About the Story
Your sister is missing, and the answers lie within your dreams.
You just hope you can find her at the end of this all.
Content warning: Drinking. Potential death. Potential drowning mention. Gun mention.
55th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).
I’m a sucker for stories about siblings. Much of that’s probably for boring autobiographical reasons – most things are when you get right down to it – but even without that personal link, I’d stand by the opinion. They allow you to have strong connections between characters outside of a romantic relationship, with a potentially richer palette of emotions – for one thing, there can often be more pain, resentment, and ugly history between siblings because even after doing things to each other that would be unforgivable in a friend or a partner, they’re still related – and unlike with parent/child relationships, who has power or who’s in control in a particular situation often needs to be continuously negotiated, and can shift drastically with little warning.
Am I My Brother’s Keeper? is a short choice-based thriller that centers on one such bond, following the protagonist as she searches for her missing sister. Sofía’s got a drug habit, which means everyone else is prone to write her disappearance off as simply ducking off the grid for a while. But you’re sure something terrible has happened, and after a late-night phone call, you get a lead that could take you to her, if you’re got courage enough to brave some sketchy warehouses and even stranger places…
This is another game written in Texture, and while I’ve enjoyed several of the Texture games in the Comp, for some reason the system didn’t seem to work too well for me this time. For one thing, I had to start over since when I played on the phone, I hit a point a third of the way in where I couldn’t drag one of the action-boxes I needed to in order to progress – and then once I switched over to my laptop, had to start over again because the game reset itself after I alt-tabbed for five minutes. For another, the game largely uses choices not to present different paths through the story, but to expand on details in the text – and these are added inline, which dynamically shrinks the font so that the full passage stays on a single page, meaning the writing was often uncomfortably small for my aging eyes.
These minor gripes aren’t all the author’s fault, of course, but they perhaps made me grumpier at its weak points than it deserves. There are very much some pieces of Am I My Brother’s Keeper? that I enjoyed; the investigation is pacey, and introduces supernatural elements in a gradual, grounded way that kept me from immediately guessing the truth behind what was going on. And when you share a scene with your sister (there are flashbacks, so that’s not a spoiler), the sibling rivalry and banter definitely strike me as authentic.
But there are other aspects that aren’t as successful. For one, while much of the joy of this kind of procedural is running through the beats of an investigation, the process of finding and decoding clues here feels overly abstract or unrealistic (there’s a sequence where the cop assigned to your sister’s case suggests running down a lead together, then later lets you explore an evidence-containing warehouse on your own, as thought they’ve never heard of the concept of chain of custody). The writing also aims for a neo-noir patter that’s effective at communicating a vibe of omnipresent gloom, but lands in Max Payne territory more often than not:
"A journal on a coffee table in between two seats. Compared to the rest of the building, it’s immaculate, unburdened by the marring of abandon."
The game’s almost entirely linear – there’s one choice at the end that might have an impact on the outcome, but other than that you almost always need to use all the actions available to you in a passage in order to move on – which I often don’t mind, but again, for what’s framed as an investigative game, makes progress feel unearned. This extends to a sequence where you’re told you can only take a single item into the final confrontation: but rather than this being interactive, the game just railroads you into bringing a gun, surely the most boring choice imaginable.
The other exception is very early on, when you’re given the chance to answer the title’s question in the negative, and abandon Sofía to her perhaps-deserved fate. This takes you to what’s clearly a premature, unsuccessful end, but along the way the game also plumbs the relationship between the two sisters with more nuance than comes out in the faster-paced rest of the game. With more of this, and less of the soft-boiled narration, Am I My Brother’s Keeper would be substantially stronger; as it is, it’s pleasant enough to play but is unlikely to stick with me for very long.
This is a well-written texture game about a young woman who is desperate because her sister is missing.
Starting with a true crime-like opening, the game soon pivots in another direction.
This is written using Texture, which is an engine where actions are dragged onto nouns. As far as was apparent to me, this story is mostly linear, with choices either expanding some dialogue or moving the story along. It is possible there is some branching but I didn't find evidence of it.
I enjoyed the story and the characters. I felt it ended a bit abruptly (I had a successful ending), and would have liked to see more variety in interaction.
This is an entry that I enjoyed playing and replaying, and I intend to play again. I found it to be a bit atmospheric and mysterious, and it left me wanting to know more. I would even describe it as “fast-paced,” as it drew me in so quickly I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Nadine Rodriguez is able to indicate a lot with just a few words; she keeps it simple, and her work is all the more effective for it.
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