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About the Story
Become the Final Girl or Guy (or anything in between) of your dreams on Blood Island.
You're a new contestant on the hit reality dating show Passion in Paradise, where you can be who you want and date who you want. There's only one problem. Shortly after the season starts, you discover there's an uninvited guest on the island: a killer who stalks you and the others in a plastic Barbie mask. Who will live and who will die? That's up to you and the choices you make. Will you play the role of traditional Final "Girl" or show us something new entirely?
12th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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This is, I believe, an adaptation of an award-winning screenplay by the author, and I think it shows in the quality of the writing.
In this game, you are invited to a reality show the season after someone got stabbed by a Barbie-masked attempted murderer. This season, everyone is back, so the would-be killer is among your group.
Gameplay is split between some classic-style romance gameplay (who do you talk with? who do you ask on a date? etc.) and running from or fighting with the killer.
The tone isn't always realistic, but it feels like a stylistic choice, making it more like a slasher flick. People get injuries that would be deadly in real life but continue to run or talk for a long time after; tv producers seem not worried about liability, etc. It makes for a slightly surreal game that puts you at a level removed from the experience, better able to contemplate bigger questions like gender roles in film and why audiences like terrible things.
Overall, I felt like the writing and agency worked well. I played a ton of Choicescript games last year and I would say this one is above-average in its use of the system.
This is a more mature game, with some profanity, a large amount of violence/blood and some mild/network-friendly sexuality.
While each individual part of this game is excellent, it didn't completely gel for me; a part of that was that I chose to be a cis het male and the game seemed to anticipate I'd be a woman, including people staring at my heaving chest and so on. That's probably intentional, given that the game is questioning these very assumptions, but making intelligent and thoughtful statements doesn't always translate to compelling gameplay. By and large though this is an excellent effort and one I believe most people would enjoy if they are not turned off by slasher flicks.
In a nutshell: Slasher horror + Reality TV + Dating sim = Blood Island
This is the only ChoiceScript game in the 2022 IFComp. Blood Island begins with a great start. You are watching a video of a contestant from the previous season of a reality TV show being stabbed by someone wearing a Barbie mask. The video ends and Chloe, a manager, enters the room. That’s because you are a contestant for the upcoming season of Passion in Paradise!
Blood Island cleverly replicates the qualities we recognize in romance-oriented reality TV shows but adds a unique and gruesome twist while maintaining an underlying light-heartedness. Even if you do not typically like horror or romance, Blood Island may surprise you.
Scenes usually focus on character interaction. A chunk of gameplay choices is reserved for discussing the nature of horror and reality TV with the other characters. While I would have liked to have a few more action-oriented choices about doing instead of talking (both are valuable), I like how the gameplay introduces the player to key ideas about popular culture and then pitches the concept of a Final Girl as part of the discussion.
We learn that a Final Girl (or Final Guy/equivalent) is more than just someone who is the sole person standing when the smoke clears. It is also a series of designated characteristics packaged by social expectations, often with gender norms. The traditional idea of a Final Girl has qualities ranging from drinking habits (or lack of), expectations about purity, graciousness, beauty, all the way to having the right name. Interestingly enough, the player can pursue an inverted version of a Final Girl to challenge the tried-and-true mold.
There are stats although they are only shown at the end of the game which I usually do not see in ChoiceScript games. I guess the point to use it in a more reflective manner since (Spoiler - click to show) the game wraps up with the player being interviewed about their whole experience.
Some encounters have a measure for endurance. If a player has a high enough stat more choices are available. If it is lower, some of the choices will be greyed out and unavailable. For example, (Spoiler - click to show) when the player is swimming from the shark as fast as they can, their choices are about having enough endurance to out swim the shark. These choices look like:
Swim like hell!
Swim, damn it!
Don't. Stop. Swimming!!!
If you are in good shape, most of these options will be available. Otherwise, the faster options are greyed out. The game seemed to take your previous gameplay choices into consideration. If you partake in less healthy habits the game will say, “You're not exactly out of shape, but you also haven't been making the healthiest choices since you joined the show,” whereas healthy choices result in, “You take care of yourself, and it's paying off.” I thought that if I played my cards right and increased my performance, I could out swim the shark. But no matter what I did the last choice of, “Don’t. Stop. Swimming!!!” would always be greyed out. The outcome of the scene remained the same.
If there is any underlying content, I am more than ready to go digging for it, but so far, the game sticks to the same course no matter what I do.
I was hoping that the game would indulge the reality TV show premise for a little longer because it is not often that I see this envisioned in interactive fiction. Passion in Paradise tasks contestants to entering a relationship by the end of each week to avoid from being disqualified. Now that I think of it, if this were a real TV show it would probably have more than eight contestants total, but this size works perfectly for this game. Contestants also receive date cards that details a fun excursion they can go on with another contestant. The gameplay never goes past round 1, nor does it reach the point where a contestant is eliminated- (Spoiler - click to show) that is, eliminated according to the show’s rules. By other means? Watch out. The stranger with the Barbie mask makes several appearances in this game.
Spoilers! (Spoiler - click to show) I thought it was sad at how the person you choose for the one and only date on the show dies but if you think about it most of the contestants (and even some non-contestants) get slaughtered in the last scene as well. Takes the idea of Final Girl literally. After all, this is a moment for slasher horror. In the epilogue the player receives a phone call about returning to Passion in Paradise. Considering how many contestants died, I am surprised that the show still manages to continue for another season.
There are seven romanceable contestants, and their introduction to the show is spot-on in creating a reality TV opening montage effect. What frustrated me about these intriguing contestants was how interchangeable the dialog and character interactions were after the opening chapters. They respond the exact same way for everything without any consideration of their unique characteristics that are portrayed when they are introduced at the start of the game reality TV-style. There are certain situations where I figured that Nick would have a different response than, let’s say, Mona, but the writing is almost always the same aside from their names. I am being a bit unreasonable since it is a lot of work to write content for seven separate contestants but please understand that the writing is well done, and it will take time before you exhaust the content.
Now, I know the game is playing around with stereotypical concepts, particularly with the trope of an ideal character that the audience adores, but it also seems like all the NPCs are equally enamored by the player, which feels flimsy. The relationship between a Final Girl/Guy PC and NPCs almost skims the Mary Sue trope which is partly the point in Blood Island. Afterall, you are the package deal. I feel that just because a contestant wins the hearts and minds of viewers does not mean their fellow contestants automatically feel the same way. The NPCs are also competitive contestants who, unlike a TV audience, directly interact with the protagonist and have a chance to form a deeper opinion of them.
Final Girl or not, even if you try stir up drama, and there are opportunities to do so, they forget about it a scene later. It makes me wonder, (Spoiler - click to show) is it even possible to get them to reject me when I choose them for the date card activity?
Also, just for the heck of it, I decided to try an alternate path. The game almost hints at a (Spoiler - click to show) possible Chloe, although I cannot say that I like her character, route. Is it possible to go through with it?
Final (get it? Fine.) thoughts
I have played two of the author's games and I noticed a skill for taking a potentially seedy premises and making it work. Horror game in a retirement home? Slasher horror on a reality TV show? The author pulls it off. (By the way, consider playing The Waiting Room from last year’s competition. Horror with a human touch.)
I was similarly impressed with Blood Island. This game offers a wild time. Your first playthrough is exhilarating and will likely leave you reaching for seconds. After some experimentation the allure fades, but there is enough content to sustain the player for a while. Its discussion of the Final Girl concept is especially memorable.
Question: If someone (Spoiler - click to show) stabs you with a cake knife in your stomach all the way to the hilt, would you survive that? It is surprising at how the human body can withstand major injuries but that sounds like it would test the limits. Then again, perfect for a slasher story.
Blood Island by Billy Krolick
I think this might have been the most entertaining entry from the 2022 comp I’ve played up to this point. The premise is pure Tito Valenz catnip: you play as an entrant on a reality dating show–set on an island, yabish–with a selection of hot singles being stalked by a killer with a cake knife (not a spoiler–the cake knife appears very, very early). The scenes flowed into each other effortlessly with no wasted moments. I was completely engaged, start to finish. When I was done, I immediately played through two more times to look for different results. I do wish there was more variety as far as what you can make happen–especially since there is HEAVY emphasis that EVERY choice matters (not all do). This is also another choice-based story, and you know how I much I enjoy that convenience. It’s a longer game, but the mechanics help it breeze right along. I also appreciated that the author is clearly a student of the producer manipulation these shows are known for: when you take another character on a date, there is a seafood lunch set out, but of course, the couple is NEVER allowed to actually eat the food. That’s for display only! So I will be rating this one highly and I give it my recommendation. Unless you don’t care for dating sims. Or horror trope deconstruction. Or slasher films. Or really, just talking about horror movies in general.
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