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Number of Ratings: 8
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1-8 of 8

- Kinetic Mouse Car, July 31, 2022

- tekket (ČeskŠ LŪpa, Czech Republic), April 21, 2022

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Affecting but a little flat, November 23, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

This is the second game Iíve played in the comp that explores issues of identity and trauma via online fandom, after A Paradox Between Worlds. The two make for an interesting study in contrasts, because while I thought Paradox was overstuffed with characters and plotlines, to the detriment of its strongest narrative throughline, I found extraordinary_fandoms.exe erred on the side of minimalism. Everything outside its core story is only briefly sketched in, with the titular fandom and characters other than the protagonist feeling rather sketched-in, and no obvious places where choices lead to much variation, even at a cosmetic level.

There are advantages to focus Ė and since, per the authorís postscript, a lot of the (awful) details of domestic abuse here are autobiographical, itís completely understandable that everything else would fade in importance. But for me, the absence of context supporting the story meant it didnít land as strongly as it could, though it is compellingly drawn. The central conflict is about the main character Ė who goes by the handle Pinecone Ė finding what seems like their first real friends via a Discord-style chat server and wiki dedicated to an anime franchise. Pineconeís halting steps towards self-confidence and self-awareness are affecting, and the link between their struggles and those of the fandom character they gravitate to Ė who suffers from hidden low self-esteem Ė makes thematic sense. And itís heartwarming to see the affirmation and support Pinecone gets from the other people on the server.

But the other characters feel pretty thin; there are maybe half a dozen folks who hang out to chat and do (short) roleplay, but outside of their favorite anime characters they donít have much in the way of personality. And thereís a very stark divide between Pineconeís home life, which is portrayed as unremittingly horrible, and things on the server, where everyone is uniformly and immediately positive, with never even the slightest disagreement about how best support them. Ultimately I thought the game works, but this flatness robs it of some of its power.

Highlight: The choices arenít a major focus of extraordinary_fandom.exe, with many passages connected by a single ďcontinueĒ link or its equivalent, and most others just having two choices that amount to very slightly different ways of saying the same thing Ė which is all fine. But this low-key approach to choices helps set up an effective moment that Iím going to spoiler-block: (Spoiler - click to show)at one point as the other folks on the server are asking Pinecone whether they can help, youíre offered two choices: ďNoĒ or ďNoĒ. The moment conveys the paralysis that often comes with being in an abusive environment in a show-donít-tell way that the rest of the game sometimes struggles to achieve.

Lowlight: The ď.exeĒ in the title really bugs me. I donít really know how Discord works, but I think itís like an IRC channel, right? And the wiki is a wiki. So whatís the executable program?

How I failed the author: I didnít have any issues playing through the game, but Henryís been struggling with gas today, so Iíve started and stopped writing this review like eight times as Iíve jumped up to soothe him after he woke up crying from what seemed like a perfectly nice nap. Apologies if itís disjointed as a result!

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- Ben Ben Llama, November 2, 2021

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Friendship simulator based on a real story, October 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is meant to emulate an older teenager or young adult hopping on Discord and hanging out with friends by talking about a Japanese virtual idol group and making a wiki together.

The friendships in the game are uncomplicated and straightforwardly positive. All drama and tension come from the (Spoiler - click to show)abusive situation that the author finds themself in.

I feel like the representation of discord is accurate, and overall the writing was authentic.

The display was a bit puzzling; it's flat white text on a flat white background with no special styling or extra polish. The puzzling part is that one of the major focuses of the game is the protagonist's growth in the use of CSS, with the code listed in-game. Why not use CSS to make the game itself look fancier?

Finally, I feel a bit spoiled here, as one of my favorite games from last year (Lore Distance Relationship, which I voted for in several XYZZY awards) was also about fandoms and also treated the same real-life scenario (the authors are siblings). This game, while having emotional authenticity, doesn't have the same depth and polish of last year's game. But I am glad that both seem to be in a better situation.

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- Zape, October 11, 2021

- Ann Hugo (Canada), October 4, 2021

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Linear game about how quickly strangers can become friends online, October 2, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

This piece strikes me as a very personal story from the author. Nothing at all like their entry in last year's IFComp (which I very much enjoyed). Kind of a journal entry and therapy session played out in the creation of this work of Twine. I'm not sure if the author explicitly said so in the blurb or intro to the piece, but it feels like this is a slightly fictionalized re-telling of things that actually happened to them. I hope that they have been able to heal a bit by sharing their story with others.

Perhaps because I haven't shared any of the experiences in the story it was hard for me to relate to this piece. I think I'm just not the target audience. The story is extremely (maybe completely) linear, where the few choices that you are given are often just different ways to say the same thing. I've found that if you aren't given enough agency to choose the personality of the character you are playing, then if you don't relate to that character sometimes the game just misses you. That was the case here. The short sections alternate between fandom discussions of anime, programming a website, online SFW role playing and discussions of the main characters home woes. The only sections I was really interested in were the last kind, and they seemed infrequent and over quickly. Again, because I'm pretty sure these were real experiences it makes sense to switch back and forth between these scenes in this way, just not sure it makes for the best story structure.

Honestly, my enjoyment of this game was closer to the two-star level, but because I know the game was important for the author to make and will hopefully be important for some others to read, and because I do want others to play it in case it does speak to you, I gave it three stars.

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