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You Feel Like You've Read this in a Book

by Austin Lim

2022

Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

A time-sensitive mystery puzzle game with multiple endings. As you explore your surroundings, you get the feeling that your surroundings are vaguely familiar.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
IFID: Unknown
TUID: j10f35m2va268msd

Awards

36th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

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Number of Reviews: 2
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A conglomeration of literary references in a surreal twine game, October 26, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is another surreal Twine game based on exploration (after just having played Lucid), but I'm happy with that since it's one of my favorite genres.

This game is built out of a bunch of literary references, starting with Neuromancer (which I've never read), and branching into Kafka, Alice in Wonderland, etc. Most of them are oblique references, ones you have to puzzle over or which potentially could describe several stories (at least for me).

The tone is fairly dark, beginning with unwanted surgery and poisoning and including a lot of theft.

The game is somewhat narrow; at first I thought there'd be tons of options or strategy but the game funnels you pretty effectively. I can say there are several options that are hard to discover and the endings can take work, so that's actually pretty good, now that I think about it. Maybe the funneling is actually a good thing, since with Lucid I had the opposite problem of too many choices.

Overall, it was pretty fun to try to puzzle out the literary references. 'Diary of Anne Frank' is a bit of a bold choice to have alongside more goofy or wild entries. But I had a good time with this. The main drawback to me was the lack of weight in the endings; to me, the endings were abrupt and didn't resolve many narrative arcs (I saw 3 endings, including a death).


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Like an hourglass...Never mind. You are running out of time., October 23, 2022
by Kinetic Mouse Car
Related reviews: Twine, IFComp 2022

You wake up in an alleyway to find that someone took the liberty of performing unauthorized brain surgery on you. All you have is a key and a note explaining that you have a stash of neurotoxins in your head, ready to kill you within a few hours. To get the antidote, you must obtain $50,000 and bring it to the alley. Your memory is faulty. You could have sworn that you read about this somewhere…

Gameplay
The player is on a time crunch to fulfill the requirements of the note. There are multiple solutions to your predicament, not all of them require that you cave into the demands of the note. But decide quickly because you have a limited time before you die from the timebomb of poison in your head. There is no counter clicking away at the bottom of the screen to indicate what time you have left. You have to eyeball it. But there are little indicators, such as the colour of the sky, that serve as markers in the gameplay. Semi-short, yet reasonable in length. There are (Spoiler - click to show) four endings, three of which involve not being killed by the neurotoxin.

The gameplay takes place in a town setting near a seaside and rural countryside. This setting is fairly dynamic. For example, (Spoiler - click to show) the pawn shop is not open right away. If you want to pawn something, come back later. That was a nice touch. The game allows you to move freely throughout the environment, but not quite interact with it at the same level of detail. Inventory items are added automatically, and some character interactions occur on the player’s behalf. While it reduces the puzzle value, the upside is that it is easier to make progress. One of the strong points in this game is how the inventory page neatly lists your inventory items and the things you have learned while exploring or speaking with characters. This was a helpful tool in identifying objectives.

Regardless of the interactivity, the writing is humorous, and the premise of racing against the clock to reverse some bizarre surgical procedure provides decent suspense. But the main attraction in this game is the catchphrase of “You feel like you’ve read this in a book.”

Suddenly, an army of rabbits scatter to and fro. Furious flashes of hazel and pale gray silver fur blink quickly as timid rabbits dart around the grass away from you.

You feel like you've read this in a book.

Just when you think the rabbits are done fleeing, one of them lunges out of the hole and bites your hand before joining his comrades amidst the tall grasses.

(To illustrate, "bites your hand" was appropriately shown in red.)

Throughout the game, the PC notes that something reminds them of a piece of literature. But do they remind you of anything? It just may. And if not, at the end of the game is a list of every work referenced in the gameplay. Some were obvious. With others, I only picked up on the reference after I saw the list. That way, I could go back to the gameplay and say to myself, “Now, I get it!”

Story
The story was not as fleshed out as I expected. I would not say that the game is incomplete or has missing story points, but there is no overarching story that really ties everything together. Is the whole point simply that the protagonist likes to read and happens to make associations about everything they see, or is there some other underlying element as to why the associations are being made?

I can understand why the author may be hesitant to go down the rabbit hole (hey, a reference!) in terms of story since not every work hinted in this game is fiction, though most are. And by rabbit hole, I mean having the components from the referenced literature works appear in the story in a more concrete way. Instead, references are subtly mentioned in the text. That is not necessarily a criticism since subtle can perform wonders in conveying an idea. Perhaps the intent was to keep things grounded in reality. Still, I was waiting for a more fantastical, if you will, layer to be revealed.

There are bits of fantasy here and there, such as the (Spoiler - click to show) ritual in the forest, but not enough to be cohesive through the story. To be clear, I am not saying that this game needs to be a fantasy* piece to be successful. However, the game does feature some supernatural/fantasy-like moments that currently do not click with everything else. I love the idea of combining elements of the “normal world” with a fantasy world, which requires a balance. As for You Feel Like You’ve Read this in a Book, the logic is there, but it does not quite capture that spark.

*(I also wonder if I made a snap judgement about a fantasy theme based on the cover art, which would be an issue on my part, not the author’s fault).

The most concrete story background that we get is with the (Spoiler - click to show) surgeon solution route. When you talk to the surgeon about removing the neurotoxin, we learn that the protagonist has a gambling habit that left them in debt, and the person that they owe the money decided to take an unconventional approach to getting paid. This is probably the "best" ending since the neurotoxin problem is resolved without having to come up with $50,000. Then again, the emergency surgery did impact your brain's memory capabilities, and your debt is still unresolved. Maybe not. The protagonist seems to have a knack for not thinking things through. Nonetheless, it was a satisfying win.

Visuals
The game uses a generic black screen with white text interspaced with creative text effects. For example, the word “fog” by the water is glowing like a lighthouse surrounded by fog. Or in other cases movement is used, such as the word “ringing” moving up and down like an object vibrating from sound. Not only does this make the scene more descriptive it also draws the player’s attention to keywords that hint towards literary references. Also, a specific type of yellow text is used for inventory items in your environment, as well as key bits of information in a scene. This was quite helpful.

One design issue that kept glaring at me was how the inventory page has no return link. Instead, you use the small arrow at the side of the screen, but those arrows are the equivalent of an “undo” rather than a “back” to the previous screen. Am I a stickler? You may be nodding your head, but it felt the same as a broken link (and there is a broken link where (Spoiler - click to show) the only thing that appears on the screen is “You are bleeding,” without any link other than the small arrow). Other than that, the game is polished and neatly formatted.

Final thoughts
You Feel Like You’ve Read this in a Book is a quilt of several excellent concepts tied together with not-quite-as excellent strings (I am not making a reference here). There is the drama of the protagonist’s situation, the mystery behind the note, and multiple endings to try. The setting even has a slight Cannery Vale/Anchorhead vibe at times. But there is a gap somewhere that keeps it from going to the next level. If these core ideas were developed, it would be a formidable piece. Regardless, it is still quite a fun and memorable game. If you are working your way through this year’s IFComp games, make sure you give this one a try.


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This is version 2 of this page, edited by Dan Fabulich on 13 October 2022 at 5:42am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item