A Catalan Summer

by Neibucrion


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Number of Reviews: 5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great Ideas, Partially Realized, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020

I was very interested to play this game, which is described by the author as an “historical gay melodrama.” Indeed, it does what it promises, putting you in the shoes of various members of the Vidal family as they live through a succession of scenes taking place over the course of a summer. Through their actions and interactions, a series of events will unfold that are historical, gay, and dramatic.

The interface is a bit odd. It’s a hypertext game with the kind of navigable world-model that’s more commonly seen in a parser game. That’s fine, except almost all of the interesting action (such as dialogue between characters where you have to make important choices, for example) occurs in pop-ups. With all the interesting stuff happening in these pop-ups, I quickly came to feel that the navigable world-model was frivolous, and mostly just served to make the screen look overly busy whenever a pop-up would be sitting on top of the room description/navigation buttons beneath. I think if the entire thing had been presented as a traditional CYOA-style game - no navigation, just conversation choices - it would have felt a lot smoother without really sacrificing anything.

The story is intriguing and it introduces a lot of awesome ideas. There’s interwar Catalan politics, the strictures of bourgeoisie propriety, a strained family dynamic, a little bit of a coming-of-age story, a consideration of gender, and of course plenty of gayness, all coming together in a fascinating and very multifaceted plot.

Certainly, there’s the foundation of a great story here. And yet… I feel that the game doesn’t fully realize its ambitions. Things happen very quickly. Often, you play a character for only a very brief scene before suddenly switching to another character, so I found it difficult to fully sink my teeth into any given scene. Sometimes, the writing is very evocative. I greatly enjoyed the description of the instant attraction between the family patriarch and his daughter’s suitor, for example. But elsewhere, the writing seems overly minimalistic and matter-of-fact, and I was disappointed that later interactions between the aforementioned characters weren’t described with the same degree of detail.

Overall, I liked A Catalan Summer and feel that it’s worth a playthrough, but I also feel that it has the potential to be much better. If the author were to treat this as a rough draft, go back and flesh out what’s already there with more evocative prose and more melodrama, it could become something excellent.