Best of Three

by Emily Short profile

Slice of life

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Number of Reviews: 7
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Intelligent, elegant, and thoughtful, December 31, 2022
by Lance Cirone (Backwater, Vermont)

This is flat-out one of my favorite games of all time. Everything it does just struck all the right chords for me. The dry, sarcastic humor, the gloomy atmosphere, the way Helen and Grant interact with each other. You get a sense of what each of these characters have been through, and you genuinely do want to see what each of them have to say.

You are in a cafe, meeting up with an old classmate who you used to be in love with, and you want to prevent any embarrassing bits of history from coming back up... including a prank with your friends as part of a secret group you were in. You can try to distract from the conversation, focus more on the present, talk about your past, all sorts of interesting things.

The writing is hilarious and goes off onto all these somewhat bizarre topics or bits of history. There's Regis, the sculpting cowboy who Grant's mother is now dating. There's your English teacher who would squeak a dog toy into students ears when they weren't paying attention and now writes cheesy romance novels under a pen name. There's your twin brothers, who have a frog named Fuzzy and are completely unaware of how unfitting such a name is.

You can talk with Grant about movies, religion, literature, debate the origin of the universe, all sorts of sophisticated stuff. Helen in particular has a lot of problems with her mother that she can vent. And this conversation feels natural. You can see his posture and expressions change depending on what's brought up. Topics bounce around a bit, but it flows realistically. Your options are varied and make sense. Everything you do feels worthwhile.

The game gets right into its topic. No long-winded exposition; you can read background information as you want by thinking about certain topics. I was a bit baffled at first when it talked about "3Nigma" and all these characters I hadn't met, but the thinking command and the general flow of the conversation kept me on track.

The actual conversation content is beautifully written. It knows when to be funny and when to be grounded, like when you have a conversation over some poetry Grant dissed without being aware that you wrote it. Or when he finally pulls out the notebook of long-winded, embarrassing poetry you wrote about him, and you have to decide how to deal with it.

This game has become so comforting to me. Each line of dialogue gives you something new to consider or contemplate. It's a work of art.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting Concept, March 18, 2017

The "game" plays out as a conversation. Most of it takes place in a coffee shop and the interactions with the surroundings are limited. I'd consider this game to be more experimental; gently testing the boundaries of the medium, letting the player uncover the back-story of the main character and the NPC, letting the player (to a point) decide how the conversation will go (through multiple-choice dialogue). It's an interesting concept and definitely worth playing. It felt more like reading a book than playing a game, which I think is the point, and I like the result. I gave this game only four stars because I didn't "love" it, though I would definitely recommend this relatively short game to others (especially beginners), and I'd play more games by this author (because I did "love" Bronze).

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A two-person conversation game about old dreams, loss, and life, February 3, 2016

Best of Three is a menu-driven conversation game by Emily Short set entirely in the real world.

The game is a vast labyrinth of twisting conversation and topics. The characters are classic Short characters; young, independent, world-wise woman and slightly older, cynical and slightly dissipated man.

The game has a grey and 'ending' feeling. I have only played to one ending so far, and I assume there is a better one, but no matter what, there is no black-and-white happy ending in this game. But I still enjoyed it.

I put off this game for a long time because of the profanity in the opening scene; often. Once I started it, I was pleased to see that it had disappeared.

One playthrough took around 15 minutes.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Dreadful realism, July 28, 2008

I wanted to like this technically outstanding and "romantic" character study, but I couldn't. I know Grant Stern, and I don't like him. The game is a pretty convincing simulation of a coffee date, but I hate coffee dates. I simply don't want to be in this dismal café having a dismal coffee date with this dismal person.

So for me it is a fatal blow to this game that it makes Grant effectively the only interactable in the world, then refuses me any real freedom to change his course. Nonverbals aside, options are plentiful and cover a gamut which is entirely believable for the protagonist. But in a few playthroughs I could not see any way to significantly affect the course of the interaction - even at the extremes of iciness, silliness, and fawning. The personal minutiae which become preternaturally fascinating when you have the hots for someone take on the appeal of last week's leftovers when that heat is missing. Despite all his efforts to be interesting, I find Grant neither likable nor capable of surprising, and I could not find any outlet for a protagonist gone cold.

I found Rameses and Short's Glass delightful despite (and at times because of) their intense constraints on player freedom. Best of Three, however, only left me with a dysthymic queasiness. That could be because it is unpleasant to realize how lame one's past crushes are - or to realize how similar you must be to this budding blowhard across the table at the coffee-house. But it could also be because, as with Galatea and unlike Glass, I somehow acquired expectations that were impossible to fulfill. Grant and Galatea are well-rendered and have plenty to say, but they are also self-absorbed narcissists divorced of any real context. If you do not love them, you have nothing in common with them. Paradoxical as it might sound, you may not find them worth the time even if they are among the best NPC portrayals in IF.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Engaging and refreshing, despite realistically irritating NPC, June 17, 2008
by Clare Parker (Portland, OR)

Grant Stern, the main NPC in Best of Three, is more than a little irritating. His academic pretensions make me grit my teeth and if someone I was dining with ever ordered a cup of tea the way he does, I would probably die of embarrassment. I know men like this. Smart men who have only recently broken out of high school into the world of academia are prone to becoming self-centered and obnoxious. However, because I know men like this, I understand the PC's infatuation with him. It is easy to fall for smart guys, particularly if they are good-looking, and most especially if an underlying current of sweetness can be detected.

The whole of Best of Three involves a conversation between our PC, a young woman struggling with family issues and a growing post-high school malaise, and Grant. The PC, upon seeing Grant again, finds that she has not quite rid herself of the crush she holds for him. It is quite easy to direct the conversation to either end their "romance" or begin it. For the most part, the conversation flows smoothly. Grant comes up with things to talk about even if you fail to think of anything to ask him. There were a few points where the conversation options were rather out of the blue and a few other points where I misinterpreted the tone of the available options. The non sequiturs and unexpected replies to my statements could be mimesis breaking, but were the exception to the otherwise seamless conversation structure.

Best of Three, like all of Emily Short's work, is well programmed and implemented. However, it is not her best work. Some actions that should have been implemented were not. Attempting to say goodbye to Grant at any point yields the message "You terminate your conversation with Grant." Said conversation continues without any sign of having been interrupted. Furthermore, although you are quite plainly sitting in a booth in a cafe, getting up is not implemented. Alas.

Overall, this is quite a charming and interesting game. It can't be called difficult at all, but the prose is quite excellent and the characters have real depth. It isn't Emily Short's best work, but it is certainly worth a playthrough, and then another playthrough to pick up all the conversation options you missed and change the course of the burgeoning (or failing to burgeon) relationship.

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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Love lost and found, June 10, 2008

I loved this little gem of IF. It was short and sweet, never difficult. I felt like an actor in a drama. Instead of simply watching a conversation unfold, I felt far more connected to the events by participating. The characterizations where fabulous and fleshed out. This was assisted by explorations of their past lives. Highly recommended!

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Romance in a Northwest Café, May 9, 2008
by Pavel Soukenik (Kirkland, WA)

A conversation masterpiece, and not just because it is a "conversation only" thing, Best of Three does everything important right: It sets and keeps the atmosphere, provides a superbly characterized and likable protagonist and a life-like NPC as a past romantic interest who is (perhaps intentionally as a clever decision) less likable.

The gameplay is straightforward: You can choose what to say from a menu, change the topics to steer the conversation or just think about things. Occasional physical actions are well infused with significance. (My high expectations were let down only in one case when I wanted to convey a sense of closing the conversation by pocketing the returned pen from the table but the response was the default "Taken.")

Best of Three is not just a conversation, it works as a story. It reveals the background in a way that is not forced, and it serves as a prime example of unobtrusively pacing the conversation and guiding it through the stages the author intended to achieve a meaningful progression and storytelling.

Although I did notice a glitch or two (a topic clarification "the his father") the implementation is very polished to the point where I was confidently typing in "sip cappuccino" just because it felt right. Time advances while you look around or think which limits the leisure feeling and makes the encounter real. I found myself weighing carefully on what to focus my attention next. (Changing topics does not advance time which is good, while trying to think about an irrelevant thing does: this might be converted to an out of world action too.)

Best of Three is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two in a Northwest café (or rather, a "coffee shop") going through your high school relationships.

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