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About the Story
Cozy horror game made for SeedComp 2023 in a few days. About fifteen minutes long.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: March 1, 2023
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: Twine
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
Entrant - SeedComp! - 2023
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This Twine game has you enter a beautiful cabin that you can customize to your hearts content. Drinks, decorations, everything is what you like.
There's even a holoscreen, which is nice. And the game can end this way.
There is an alternative world you can enter that strongly contrasts with this one. It reminded me of Porpentine a bit (mostly the juxtaposition of a pleasant holochamber with (Spoiler - click to show)body horror, so there's a ton of people in similar genres, but I'm not widely read in that area, so I go to Porpentine first).
It also reminded me of a grimdark video my son and I used to talk about called the Rainbow Factory from the MLP fandom.
Anyway, there was good atmosphere overall, the game was very descriptive, and it had some nice interactivity, but I think the overall length wasn't enough to draw me in, and the ending scene for me lacked something I can't really put my finger on. Still, it's overall a well-done game and one I hope is preserved for others to play in the future.
So warm. How lovely.
Welcome to your cabin.
Please, take a look around.
You find yourself in a cozy cabin surrounded by a winter wonderland. It belongs to you, and only you. It can be customized if you should wish. Just don’t mind me.
(wait a minute…)
Despite the surreal dreaminess that pervades the cabin, you can sense that someone is pulling the strings. And for good reason. I think the game's title gives it away, but I'll put it under spoiler tag anyway: (Spoiler - click to show) Your comfy cozy cabin is a simulation. None of it is real!
The gameplay follows an inconspicuous structure. There is a growing list of activities in the cabin for you to choose from. After three, you grow tired and fall asleep, unless you prolong your energy by drinking coffee (a clever little hack).
What would you like to do?
Watch the fire
Read a book
Each time (or every other time) you wake up, a new activity is listed. Cozy activities. And. Activities that seem a little… out of context for this serene winter setting. For instance, the first new activity added to the list is "Watch the holoscreen." Huh. Seems a bit out of place. Things get weirder.
You also notice that the narrator has a habit of speaking directly to the protagonist. It is obvious that this entity controls the (Spoiler - click to show) simulation (again, I feel compelled to put that under spoilers), but the player feels powerless at interfering with the narrator’s soothing prattle. However, if there is a will there is a way. You have options.
Is possible to get under reality’s skin. The trigger to underscoring the (Spoiler - click to show) simulation is hard to find, and yet so cleverly hidden that I can hardly complain about its difficulty. I was too busy admiring this innovative way of using Twine’s visual features. Some players may find it too well-hidden, which is understandable, but it worked for me. Creativity like that pleases me in choice-based games.
I absolutely love the idea of a surreal game with unreliable layers of reality. That said, it could use a little more structure in its gameplay. There is no real sense of discovery where you are chugging along and stumble across something that tells you hm, this is different. A game that captures this subtly is The Twine Fishing Simulator. It strings you along but ultimately leaves it up to you when making the big discoveries. In COZY SIMULATION 2999, the narrator directly feeds the reveal to you. In fact, the narrator gives the impression of I’m totally not narrating the story! This is still effective, and even humorous, but much of the mystery is lost in the process.
So. How exciting can a winter wonderland be? Well, the story takes off when you fall asleep.
When you fall asleep, the (Spoiler - click to show) simulation reveals its flimsiness. You have memories of (Spoiler - click to show) running through an industrial complex, being chased by unknown pursuers. Contrary to the safeness of your cabin, these dreams are a world of machinery, corridors, sharp edges, grime, and pain. The opposite of soft rugs and hot chocolate. The best part is when the game swaps out a new set of visuals that are FANTASTIC at conveying this change in tone. I’ll discuss that in the next section. FYI: (Spoiler - click to show) Memories can surface elsewhere in the game, but mostly through sleep sequences. That’s why it is important to explore every feature.
You want the truth? (Spoiler - click to show) After stubbornly refusing the help of the narrator, I realized that reality meant an industrial surgical ward operated by angels reminiscent of a Porpentine game. Turns out the angel- the narrator- attached to your body is the one pumping the simulation through your mind. And it means well, too. It was never, “ha-ha, you’re mine!” It wants to help you (sort of), but you can only live in a simulation for so long. Or maybe you can. The choice is yours.
I don’t know if I could go back to having pillow fights in the cabin while knowing that- I’ve spoiled too much. Please play the game for the full experience. There are three endings, and the author has kindly provided a built-in guide for reaching them. The author also says that neither are good or bad, but I suppose depends on your interpretation of quality of existence. Do you (Spoiler - click to show) want to know the truth and suffer or exist blissfully as external reality falls apart?
For those who have played the game: (Spoiler - click to show) What does everyone think? The narrator does not seem maliciously deceptive, only wanting to conceal the truth. Which I assume is that 2999 is a horrible year to live in. I thought the clementine description was an eerie indicator.
Sweet and juicy. A little remainder of what they once called summer.
Think about it.
There is some vagueness about being reborn. It’s something that appears in all three endings that I assume has to do with the shenanigans going on outside of the simulation. My guess is that the shenanigan in question is to integrate people into a hive mind as painfully and soothingly as possible. I suppose that is one way of being reborn.
At first glance, even the game’s appearance oozes coziness.
The tan text is set in an off-white cream text box with a thick tan border. The font is small and delicate, with light tan links. Graphics are included along the text to depict cozy cabin imagery that adds nice polish. Finally, all of this is set against a white backdrop of a snowy tree, blurred enough to minimize distractions while finalizing the appear of a winter landscape.
Imagine my surprise when that changed. (Spoiler - click to show) Once dream-mode kicks in, the entire background goes black with thick dark-grey rounded borders crammed against the edges of the screen. The text is white, and the links are red. If you seek out the truth, some extra background visuals are added. They make you wonder if maybe staying in that warm winter cabin would have been a better idea than look too closely.
This change in atmosphere was perfect. The use of visual elements to signal (Spoiler - click to show) shifts in reality is one of the strongest parts of the game. Visuals have a lot of potential in storytelling, and I am glad that the author tapped into that. Going from a tranquil cabin to a (Spoiler - click to show) dystopian nightmare moment was powerful. That surprise of the screen going (Spoiler - click to show) dark with anxious-looking white and red text replacing the cabin paradise just had the feeling of Whoa. I love that sort of thing in interactive fiction.
The game uses visual effects in other ways to mess with reality. When text tears through the (Spoiler - click to show) simulation, it is shown in different text that makes it clear that you are straying from the program. For instance, consider (Spoiler - click to show) watching the holoscreen.
The new mental rewiring manufactory has reached 300% efficiency levels, according to StrexCo's fourth quarter and fiscal year 2999 financial results—
No, wait. That's not supposed to happen.
Just ignore that. I'm sorry.
Right. Just ignore it.
The first sentence uses a darker, bold text that is a sharp contrast to the rest of the writing. It represents a break from the façade where fragments of the past creep in. Clearly the narrator did not want the protagonist to see this. Naturally, this only makes it more obvious that the narrator is covering up the truth. The bottom two sentences are the standard text associated with cozy cabin land.
Through visuals you can clearly see the tug of war between the (Spoiler - click to show) simulated reality of the cabin and the nightmarish reality of the “outside” world.
COZY SIMULATION 2999 is a great blend of sci-fi + horror hidden behind a seemingly innocent slice-of-life premise. There is a bit of everything! While I wish we could explore the backstory a little more (what is going on in 2999?), it feels like a complete game with a strong atmosphere and lots to offer.
It is also a strong first interactive fiction game. I know the author expressed in the game that they were not particularly confident with it, but heck, I had fun! Part of it does appeal to my love of sci-fi surrealness, but it really does demonstrate creative thinking while integrating story, gameplay mechanics, and visual design to create a piece that leaves you wanting more. And I want more.
(Note for the author: There is one small bug with the (Spoiler - click to show) holoscreen and the artwork activities. If you watch the holoscreen enough times, you run out of prompts and only see “lovely colours.” Similarly, if you keep making artwork, the option to do so is eventually replaced by “I don't like your art anymore.” I thought this was hilarious. The problem is that these remain unchanging when you start a new game. You can never revisit the interesting holoscreen channels or the cool artwork that you can “create.”)
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