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Copper Canyon

by Tony Pisculli


Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

YA Western violence After disaster strikes a small mining town in the Old West, it falls to a handful of brave teens to reclaim their home from bandits. [A 10K-word branching narrative with fifteen endings and no puzzles

Game Details


Audience Choice--Best Backstory, Best Choices, Best Storyline, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2021


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Number of Reviews: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A mine-r pleasure, April 9, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2021

I didn’t have “Old West YA adventure” on my Spring Thing bingo card – and wasn’t shedding tears over its absence since neither are my favorite genre – but lo and behold, here’s Copper Canyon and it’s a lot of fun. This Ink game is canny about deploying its tropes: the player character is a plucky, appealing youth in a mining town whose life is upended by an inciting incident (a big earthquake that apparently kills his dad and shuts down the town’s raison d’etre), and who gets a team together to fight back against the black hats who take over in the resulting power vacuum. There’s nothing too surprising here – there’s a shocking twist or two, but they’re the kinds of shocking twists you’d expect to see in this kind of story – but there can be a lot of pleasure in playing the classics so long as they’re done well.

Fortunately, Copper Canyon does it quite well indeed, largely on the strength of its choices. There aren’t too many of these, but I found a high percentage of them to be tough, engaging decisions. One of the best comes early on as Tom, the player character, is gathering his team: one of the other teenagers who’s been invited to the meeting is your classic heel, bad-mouthing everybody’s plans and generally irritating the group. When given the choice whether to kick him out (because he seemed like a liability) or to keep him in (since better to keep tabs on him than have him angry and likely to blab to the baddies), I actually stopped for a couple of minutes to think it through. And most of the choices are like this, getting good dramatic milage out of only two or three options.

Making this even more impressive, I was surprised when I replayed the game and tried making all the opposite choices that not very much changed. This does mean there’s not as much branching as you think on your first play-through – I believe the choice of whether to be brave or clever in the opening determines who becomes your main sidekick, and I was able to die at the end by making what were pretty clearly dumb choices. But it also allows the author to keep control of this tightly-paced story while still making it feel like the stakes are high and the player’s decisions are significant ones.

As for the story itself, it’s workmanlike enough. Again, you’re pretty much looking at tropes all the way down, but it’s still fun to play through e.g. a sequence when you drive a dandyish gunman out of town by ruining all his suits. And the game does occasionally touch on some more serious and darker emotions – largely through the prism of melodrama, but it still gives Copper Canyon a note to play besides Boys Own Adventure (not to say that there aren’t female characters, as the Chinese-American Lin was my favorite of the sidekicks).

The prose supporting the game is sometimes over-verbose – we’re introduced to Tom as he’s “carving a face into an old apple as a gift for a girl he thought he might be interested in” – and there’s the occasional typo or anachronism, my favorite being the description of a drunk old coot of a miner as being recently “let go,” though it’s mostly good enough, and zippy enough, to keep things moving. But really it’s not the writing but the choices that provide the real motive force here.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mine, April 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Twenty two good men died in the mine after an earthquake. To add insult to injury, some hoodlums take control of the town and deny the families their grief-benefits, robbing them of even the possibility to pay for a church-sevice or a proper burial.

As the son of one of the miners, you gather a group of young kids to stand up to the thieves.

At first, Copper Canyon reminded me of the Peter Pan-movie Hook. A bunch of kids resorting to tricks and mischief to shame the bad guys into drooping off. The story evolves into something much darker and more serious however. This transition was gradual enough to be believable, there was no sudden jerk in the story. This is mainly due to the excellent prologue reverberating through the story.

Having played through only once, I don't know how much the choices in Copper Canyon change the course of the main story. They certainly do offer the player an opportunity to flesh out the protagonist, to fill in his character by exploring what he does in certain situations.

Although I think this piece could do with some more characterization, and some more exploration of the effects of the deaths of the miners on the rest of the town's population, I really liked it.

A good read.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Ink game about saving a mining town after an earthquake, April 9, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Spring Thing game written in Ink. In it, you play a young man in a mining town where a disaster has struck. There are several chapters, each of which has 3-4 binary choices to choose from, with several paragraphs of text per choice.

I'm going to rank this on my five-point scale:

+Polish: I could have sworn I saw some typos but not sure. Game looks nice, generally polished.
+Descriptiveness: I quite liked the descriptiveness in this game, the characters were interesting and the mine scenes were excellent.
-Interactivity: This is a hard one. It's better than many games I've seen, but in general it's very hard to figure out what kind of effect different choices might have. It branches wildly, but seems generally forgiving. In a perfect world, I would have hoped for choices that have some kind of pattern, so I could make a plan, but unexpected surprises, so I'd have to adjust that plan.
+Emotional impact: I really got into my character and my feelings for the town.
-Would I play again: Even though it branches a lot, I didn't feel a strong desire to replay. Glad I played once, though.

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Copper Canyon on IFDB


The following polls include votes for Copper Canyon:

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Story of 2021 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2021 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest games...

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