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About the Story
Please, stop embarassing us.
Content warning: Excessive bleeding, mild gore, social anxiety
27th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 5
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In this choice-based game you play as... someone. A non-descript person with a desk job, whose nose continually starts and stops bleeding throughout the piece, without much explanation. The ending intrigued me and put a new spin on the story that came before, but it wasn't enough to redeem it.
This one didn't work for me on several levels. The first was the interface. Instead of clicking on a word or sentence to make your choices there would be 1-3 verbs in boxes at the bottom of the screen and you had to drag them up to the proper noun to make your choice. At first it seemed unique/fun, but in the end it just took me out of the flow of the story. Clicking a hyperlink is easy and keeps my mind focused on the text rather than the logistics, and if you missed dropping the verb tag on the noun by a little bit it would drop back to the bottom and you'd have to do it again.
Another thing that didn't work for me was the game basically telling me "No!" when I made a choice. Sometimes I would pick a verb and the next screen of text would tell me why my character couldn't do that. In other games I've played in the past this mechanic has served to emphasize the helplessness of the character, but I didn't feel like that was justified here. Also, sometimes it works to interrupt your character in the middle of the action as a change of pace, but it happened too often in this story for that to be effective.
Finally, the story just didn't grab me. When you start you have no idea what is going on and the same it true right up to the end. The writing is vague, on purpose I'm sure, but it didn't work for me. If I never know what is going on, even a little bit, I can't get in to the story. And it seemed like the story repeated the same cycle of (Spoiler - click to show)nose bleed -> deal with it somehow -> get ridiculed -> be confused too much.
Clean interface and programming, but nothing about the game worked for me.
ADDENDUM: I've since learned that the interface isn't unique to this game. I thought it was a Twine innovation or something, but it was actually made with Texture Writer, an authoring tool that came out in 2014, but that I hadn't encountered until this game. That said, do to my other issues with the game, I'm keeping my star rating the same. Just an FYI.
I had heard rumors about this game before I played it.
This is one of many Texture games entered in this competition, and it's probably the best-put-together one out of the bunch.
It's a visceral body-horror game in a limited sense; you have blood leaking out of your nose while at work but you feel desperately like you can't pay attention to it or fix to it or you'll be letting everyone down.
I'm sure there are many interpretations of this, but I definitely feel like it touches on social anxiety/impostor syndrome (actually, looking back, one of the content warnings is social anxiety).
The visceral text is accompanied by excellent animations that make the spreading drip of the nose bleed a lot more real. I had some trouble, though, with a completely black screen, taking a long time to find the right way out.
This game grossed me out and I didn't enjoy playing it, but I think that speaks to its quality.
Nose Bleed is an unsettling short IF work that explores the themes of social anxiety and debilitating self-doubt through an interesting conceit: you've got a nosebleed and, no matter what you do, it won't go away. The nosebleed quickly escalates from nuisance to horrific, and there's some strange, almost disembodied descriptions of your attempts to lick, rub, and ignore the blood seeping from your orifice.
The game is written in a Twine-like system (update: actually, it's written in TextureWriter, a system I'm not familiar with; but this game has the feel of a classic Twine game), but has a neat game mechanic to advance the story. Rather than clicking on links, the player is presented with 2-3 verbs in boxes at the bottom of the screen and drags them around to a corresponding word or phrase on the page. This helps to reinforce the tension of wanting to take control of the situation -- the verb that you're grabbing -- and the helplessness of inability, as any attempt to avert or address the situation inevitably results in only worsening the situation.
The player character's nosebleed is soon noticed by a coworker and, once the PC is shuttled to a company event, their nosebleed becomes an embarrassing distraction for everyone. While I found the plot intriguing -- and definitely effective in communicating the main themes of the work -- this is ultimately where I felt Nose Bleed was not fully realized. The office job setting where the nosebleed starts out is very generic and not described in any specific detail. The narrator's internal monologue likewise feels underdeveloped and lacking a lived-in tone or voice.
In part, the work is going for a surreal vibe and does not want to place the story in a fully realistic setting -- this is something like a nightmare, a vision of a hell. In that respect, this work reminded me a lot of Andrew Plotkin's Shade -- but Shade is so effectively precisely because the surreal nightmarish elements settle in over a concretely realized apartment. If Nose Bleed had a fully realized character and setting, the monstrous nosebleed that serves as an externalization of social anxiety and self-doubt would be even more powerful.
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