howling dogs

by Porpentine profile

Secret
2012

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(39)
4 star:
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2 star:
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Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 109
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- cat, August 1, 2022

- VanishingSky (Antarctica), July 30, 2022

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful and haunting work of hypertext fiction, May 31, 2022
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

When I finished this game, I was left absolutely speechless. I sat at my computer, just sort of letting the experience soak in. I finished the game a few weeks ago, and I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on it. While I don't have a cogent or coherent interpretation yet on what I think the game means -- and the work does warrant this level of thoughtful, reflective engagement -- my initial impression has persisted: this is a stunning work of hypertext fiction.

The work has a game-like setup, but ultimately plays like a story on-rails. The player occupies a barren prison with a few rooms, which, in its eerie desolation, reminded me of the empty barracks from Steve Meretzky's Planetfall. In the initial interactions with the game environment, Howling Dogs could play out like that IF classic, with machines still dispensing food long after other life has moved on. Instead of exploring an expansive abandoned space station, though, the player in Howling Dogs remains confined to a small cell and a few adjoining rooms, one of them containing a VR-like device that sends the player into a variety of strange scenes, some familiar and others fantastical.

There's some branching, but (it seems like) most of the links add details to a scene without leading the player down many drastically different trajectories. After each session in the VR contraption, the player wakes up again in the prison, a day (or more) having passed and the cell becoming more and more unkempt. Part of the beauty of this game is in its design, which effortlessly communicates this tension between confinement and escape that's core to the message of the narrative. The player feels hopelessly lost within a narrow cell, despairingly constrained in world-bending simulations that transport across time and space.

Those simulated sessions constitute the bulk of the gameplay. Each session is both distinct and part of a larger whole, each an intricate verse in an expansive poem. Each node in these visions is made of arresting passages. I won't detail any of the scenes because winding your way through each session is sublime, but here are a couple sample passages plucked: 1) "sometimes the smoke is high enough to be mistaken for the sky, sometimes it collapses low as a cavern"; 2) "We saw its spirit ascend with the morning light, and from its grave grew trees of dizzying height, and the fruit was birds, one of each kind of bird in the world. Your zoo now has one of each kind of bird in the world."

Overall, this work reads more like a work of hypertext fiction than it plays as a game, but it is a testament to what can be done with text and links.


- Zape, November 13, 2021

- Sarah Mak, July 21, 2021

- bkirwi, May 25, 2021

- Austin Auclair, March 12, 2021

- TheBoxThinker, January 26, 2021

- Wynter (London, UK), January 17, 2021

- Urithor, January 4, 2021

- autumnc, September 11, 2020

- Rainbow Fire , August 28, 2020

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Already a classic, April 1, 2020

Once you understand the way to "escape" (by eating, drinking and entering a virtual world) the room in which Porpentine locked you up, you experiment various lifes, which are maybe the same, as seen by a disturbed mind... A brilliant illustration of the Twine games potential.


- Sammel, March 21, 2020

- Ry (Philippines), September 30, 2019

- Bartlebooth, September 21, 2019

- Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands), July 9, 2019

- Steffan LW Sitka (Los Angeles), March 3, 2019

- IanAllenBird, January 26, 2019

- Woof, January 21, 2019

- Snave, October 30, 2018

- Jaxcap (Arizona), August 12, 2018

- Dawn Sueoka, June 20, 2018

- ikkinlala, June 16, 2018

- Stas, April 1, 2018


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