A Catalan Summer

by Neibucrion

historical
2020

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A low-key drama about obligations and secret desires, December 13, 2020
by autumnc
Related reviews: ifcomp 2020

A Catalan Summer is a family drama about forbidden love and politics, taking place in a Catalonia household in the 1920s. It is told from the perspectives of four members of the bourgeois Vidal family: Josep the patriarch who secretly loves men, Maria the wife who wants a relationship Josep can't give, Clara the too-romantic and imaginative daughter, and Jordi the rebellious son with left-wing political inclinations. There are lots of perspective switches that show all sides of the story. Overall, I liked the game a lot. It's a rather rare theme for ifcomp, and the narrative is suitably dramatic and complex while not overstaying its welcome.

Basically, the major choices at every step can be boiled down to, do you seek out what you secretly desire which might lead to your downfall, or do you stay in your assigned role for the good of the family and stability? Each character has their own temptations. Josep is tempted by Charles's flirtations. Maria is tempted by Toni, the son of the gardener. Clara is tempted by a ghost (which is like, an actual ghost?). Jordi is tempted by leftist political movements and Montse, a working-class young woman. Each of them secretly seeks out the source of their temptation while also resisting it for the sake of keeping up appearances, for getting along and not rocking the boat. There are multiple endings depending on one's choices as each of the four characters. There are also some side plots involving Catalan independence politics and labor issues, which I don't think factors into the ending. In my playthrough I stuck to the more safe path for all the characters, so I might have missed some content.

The writing is mostly kind of understated, with rather sparse descriptions and just a hint of the characters' inner states. We only get a little bit of how they feel about abandoning their potential lovers. So the reader is left to infer or imagine what the characters are really feeling.

In terms of structure, the story is less interactive than it seems at first. You can explore the house with "go up"-style choices, but everything pushes you towards the direction of plot advancement. The final party scene is a bit more free, where you can take control of any of the family members and play their parts in the story. Unfortunately, the room descriptions donít really change with perspective shifts. It would have been interesting to see what the different family members thought of their spaces (would Jordi see the alienated labor present in everything? would Josep be possessive? how would Clara see things differently from Maria?)

The game appears to run on a custom-designed html/js system. For the most part it works pretty well. However, I was not a fan of the bright red background color. I had to change it to black to not burn into my eyes. Also I wish there was more of an indication of when the perspective was changing. There is a name showing the current perspective character, but no other indication.