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About the Story
There's no way around it. This is a dark, weird, kinky game. You play the role of some poor damned soul who must either please their new demon master/mistress (which appears is up to you, as are your gender and sexual orientation) by doing... something unpleasant... or face eternity as the plaything of their older and more sadistic brother. Or perhaps an even worse fate. Along the way, you may need to replenish your strength, but don't worry: that's part of the fun.
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Remember those carnival dark rides with all the lurid artwork on the sheet metal facade that looked like it was done by an artist who did both tattoos and album covers? They promise chills and thrills within, but once inside the bumpy cart and crashing through the doors, the flapping tent doesn't keep out the daylight, and you're supposed to quiver in fear at some random blasts of air, a buzzer in the dark, an air horn, and an occasional brief illumination of a halloween mask by a bare bulb? The outside suggestion of what goes on inside proves to be the most interesting part.
Shadow of a Soul purports to be a sexually and violently explicit tale of the afterlife. It is written in Twine, however the text is not styled, using the ugly and way-too-small default white on black format. The game does contain some images and some well-chosen music.
So you've made a deal with dark creatures for a long and happy life. It's not immortality, but it's more than a hundred years, which seems reasonable for this kind of story. You're allowed to choose or not choose your gender, and also specify what gender attracts you the most. This is nicely done and the text varies to adapt to this.
So instead of just going to hell, you are pressed into service by a dark minion to "release" seven souls as a pre-quest before going to your final reward. Your performance here will determine your ultimate fate; whether you are kept as a pet by this minion, or turned over to the minion's "sibling" who is purportedly not as nice.
This is a great setup, and suggests a dark and gritty scenario rife with geysers of blood and lava, horrifying creature fights, and some down and dirty sexual scenarios as well as some soul-searching and some insight into the human nature of mercy and punishment, pain and pleasure...all the the trappings of an imaginative take on Dante's Inferno.
What happens next is barely a skeleton of that idea. You fight seven identical creatures. Even the art for each one is the same. A few are differentiated only by the words "this one looks stronger". You get the choice to stab them with your knife or feed them your blood, and every time this happens, it is described exactly the same. There seems to be a slight bit of randomness in how many times you stab or how much blood each creature requires, but this is arbitrary and involves no strategy. When you give blood, you can give "a little" "more" or "a lot". Twice you can perform sexual favors to replenish your blood, and these encounters are described with only the slightest bit more detail that wouldn't even come close to making a soccer mom who's read Fifty Shades tingle even a bit.
It's a horribly missed opportunity to show off some amazing creature art, and some disturbing sexual and violent prose. The story as told doesn't go far enough for all its suggestion of afterlife prurience. And the "battle" game part isn't fun or strategic or varied enough to make up for the uninspired descriptions. Once you stab a demon, you can't retreat and offer it blood. It's about as pulse-pounding as a solo game of Battleship.
I did think the music worked well and seemed to follow what was happening, providing a smudge of the atmosphere I wanted in the prose, if it wasn't in the monster art. The scream when a demon dies by the knife is a bit humorous though.
(Spoiler - click to show)I believe there may be different endings besides the two extremes that I played to (all blood, all stabbing). When you reach one, you pretty much are given the fate that was promised, without irony, nor an endgame twist, which was disappointing.
I so wish this worked better, because it's a solid skeleton for a game, but it's a plastic skeleton illuminated by a red bulb accompanied by buzzers and air horns instead of being a ghoulish and decadent dive into depravity promised by the painted facade.
It's really a shame this author didn't polish this another week and submit it for the Adult Interactive Fiction Competition.
Games set in hell by verityvirtue
Games in which a major setting is hell, the underworld, Hades or some variation thereof. Omissions likely because I haven't played the game, and, as always, suggestions are welcome.