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Beautiful & haunting., March 12, 2018
Disclaimer: I'm friends with everyone credited on this game, and married to the sound designer, so I'm as far from unbiased as one can be. But this is common among intfic circles, so.
In What Isn't Saved, Zoe, a neuroscientist, tries to salvage the memories of her recently deceased partner, but there's only so many that can be saved.
It's a gut-wrenching task—memories explode into other memories, a book you can only quickly skim. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, when Joel dashes through his disappearing memories. Structurally, it also reminds me of Sam Barlow's Aisle in that, instead of lightly exploring the story's boundaries, each choice cuts the narrative space with garden shears.
There's a sinister, desperate note to every choice in What Isn't Saved that mirrors the anxiety we often feel in romantic relationships, about the effect we have on those we're closest to. Of course, I wanted to rebuild Sara's memory of her and Zoe's first kiss. But what about her memories of Zoe's flaws?
Being in Zoe's shoes, I felt uneasy and invasive, and questioned my own motives when I made decisions about why certain memories were important or not. The story handles these choices with the weight they deserve—there's no hope in this task, just compounding doubt and worries.
There are many aesthetically beautiful games made with Twine, and What Isn't Saved is among them. The confusing way pronouns flicker inside the memories made me kick the dirt and cuss, because I wish I'd done similar for the shared consciousness scenes in Mama Possum.