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About the Story
You're twenty-one. It's dark in here.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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You are 'Casey', an anxious college student with lots to hide, and you're going to your boyfriend's house for Thanksgiving. Can you keep it together?
Thanksgiving is designed with an eye towards those who unfamiliar with IF, with a preliminary explanation on how to progress in the story and colour-coded links (red is for eavesdropping; green is to progress).
The story largely involves navigating your way through social interactions with relatives: do you act cheerful, or distant? Help out, or try and remain invisible? The player took on the PC's responsibility to keep the PC's story straight. NPCs will remember your story, not least your boyfriend. What exactly was 'true' is not always clear.
The story also benefits from the PC's 'eavesdropping', adding texture and details to the boyfriend's family. It was suited to the close proximity that comes with family gatherings on occasions such as this.
I thought the idea of concealing one's identity was well done. We only ever see the bits of her past that she's actively trying to hide from her boyfriend's family, while other incidental details - her real name, details about her family - are irrelevant and thus omitted. Yet, the PC's past emerges in so many ways: not just in her new name, but also in her uncanny ability to spot scammers, perhaps even in the game's key mechanic of choosing the approach to social interactions. I would not know how factually accurate any of this is, but Thanksgiving feels like a very nuanced account of the minefield that is social interaction.
This well-designed and elegant Twine piece jumps right to the action, putting you in an increasingly tense Thanksgiving dinner with your college boyfriend. You have a secret--many secrets--and the backlog of lies and dodges accumulates, building the pressure on what is already a tense interaction.
The UI really shines here, too, with color used to differentiate choices and branches in the story. This was smartly done. Some choices have a timer, which increases the challenge dramatically, and really increased the power of the story.
My favorite aspect here is the way that this plays with conflict. A basic maxim of writing is to imagine some characters, find what they're afraid of, and then pile on the fears and the challenges. That's done brilliantly here, and quickly, making this a tightly-written and plotted experience.
Thanksgiving was my first Hannah Powell-Smith game, but I'm going to play her other games now. Before I talk about the story, I have to mention my favorite part of this game: the use of color on links. I think everyone should copy this: cycling text is one color, expanding text is another, and branching text is a third. This makes it so much easier to know how to explore. I really support this.
As for the story, it was one I haven't seen done before. As you go to Thanksgiving with your boyfriend, you come under pressure due to your hidden past. It's hard to say more without spoilers, but this game made me nervous in a good way.
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