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About the Story
You made a pledge not to fly, but that doesn't mean your adventures are over. The bus journey from London to Hamburg looks simple enough. Just, you know, don't forget your passport, okay?
59th Place - 25th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2019)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I hadn’t come across the term ‘flygskam’ before, but apparently it is Swedish for flight shame. This is going to be a short story about taking the bus from London to Hamburg. Sounds nice enough, although the casualness of the blurb’s final sentence is perhaps a bit overdone: “Just, you know, don’t forget your passport, okay?” Do you even need a passport to enter or leave the UK? Wait, yes… they never joined the Schengen zone, just like they never adopted the Euro. Brexit is not a sudden eruption; it has been in the making for decades. But that’s neither here not there. Flygskam Simulator is!
This is the pretty laid-back story of someone who travels from London to Hamburg by bus. The decisions are very realistic: stand in line by the door or remain seated? Try to sleep or read a book? Talk to the person next to you or play a game on your phone? The trip can take an unexpected turn, for instance when you get to know a guy who leaves the bus in Rotterdam and you decide to hook up with him. (Rotterdam! Of all places!) But it is also possible to just travel to Hamburg. The trip seems to be based on personal experience; at least little details, such as the difference between English and Dutch bus waiting zones, are correct.
It’s a nice little tale to relax with. But there doesn’t seem to be much to it, not much of a point beside sharing an impression of travelling by bus. Perhaps the branching narrative is meant to evoke the sense of possibility that belongs to a journey? On the other hand, the game focusses precisely on the mundane and expected. So I end up not being precisely certain what the author intended, and not truly able to recommend people to either check it out or leave it alone. It’s, you know, okay?
This takes place in an environment that is familiar to anyone who has undertaken long-distance travel, especially across national borders. It’s the “adventure before your adventure,” looking at the things that happen in the space before a vacation starts.
I enjoyed the fiction because it was conversational and observant. It was like getting an email from a friend talking about their travel experience, or like writing that email to someone else.
It gets two thumbs up for interactivity. There’s a nice mix of cosmetic/immaterial choices alongside significant choices that trigger specific events. (Or maybe not? I played through the game a few times, and I’m not entirely sure I saw which choices linked with distinct outcomes.) (Spoiler - click to show)I made some conscientious-but-boring choices on my first playthrough, and I felt like my diligence was rewarded with a successful arrival in Hamburg. Things were much different on subsequent trips.
I was going to grumble, it would be that it was tricky for me to pick up the game’s full context without doing some additional research. The blurb establishes that I’m trying to ride the bus from London to Hamburg, but the opening of the game just drops me at the bus station and expects me to know what I want to do. I also needed to look up what Flygskam meant, because I missed that cultural conversation.
Katie Benson has a specific style to her games. They are always kind of low-key and chill, focused on a specific aspect of life, with a 'main' path and one or more side paths, and a lot of little exploration choices in the middle for flavor.
I'm always happy to see one, and I find it pleasant. This one isn't quite as developed as her others, but still gives the same enjoyable vibe. 'Flygskam' (or shame of flying) refers to the movement that tries to avoid the use of airplanes to avoid pollution and energy wastage.
This game adds a new feature where at times you restart the whole game. It would have been tedious, but the game is short enough that clicking quickly takes care of it.
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