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(based on 10 ratings)
About the Story
A marriage contract, an isolated island, a house that seems to gnash its teeth in waiting. You have saved your family - but at what cost?
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2023
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Of all the games I played from Spring Thing 2023, this one got stuck in my head the most, for a lot of reasons. In a genre that often leans on tropes, the story felt original. I really enjoyed the writing, which truly made me want to escape that horrible place. And rather than just being creepy for creepiness' sake, the game had a lot to say, too. It’s not easy to balance the choices and pace the suspense effectively in a story like this, but Etiolated Light hooked me from the beginning, made me think carefully about my choices, and kept things moving until the end, at which point I immediately wanted to play again to see if I could do better next time.
The thing I like most about this game is that it has a strong point of view. It made me think about the consequences of casually sacrificing others for our own benefit, about the illusion of light and whiteness representing safety, about the advantages of working together to upend an oppressive system. (I haven’t figured out if it’s actually possible to upend this particular system, but someday I’ll find all the endings and know for sure.)
Being able to choose the gender of some characters was also interesting: You don’t know what the consequences will be yet, so you’re as unaware as the player character in the opening scene. It also meshes well with the theme of an ongoing cycle that keeps drawing in new people, leaving everyone vulnerable. And in my case, the pairing of the first two characters ended up subverting the expected dynamic in an interesting way.
I ran across a few minor bugs and typos, but nothing game-breaking. The main thing I found myself missing was a little guidance on how to find the remaining endings—though I did enjoy untangling the story branches by attempting to make different choices.
In short, I think this is a game worth playing. All the endings I found were suitably grim, and some of them made me think about the story and the themes a bit differently, so I think it’s worth replaying, too.
A short/medium-length Twine narrative about being pushed into an early marriage with the child of a strange, wealthy couple, and going to live with your new spouse on an unnerving island, unable to leave. It reminded me a little of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, even though the narrator of that novel gets married willingly: it had the same sense of not being wanted and not being able to escape.
The game does a great job of creating a Gothic atmosphere, with a protagonist who feels distinctly out of place and in the dark about what is going on. I say ‘in the dark’ but the palette of this story is one of light and brightness, and the haunting emptiness of those, rather than the shadows and night-time that I would expect of a Gothic tale, and Lassiter pulls this off well. At the very beginning, you are prompted to provide your own name, and it is suggested that the name is something to do with paleness; later on, a character remarks that the colour white, rather than having connotations of purity and goodness, feels empty and hostile.
The choice-based aspect of the game allows you to choose the gender of the three protagonists - I played twice, and experimented with these - and also, wisely for a game that turns on the main character’s powerlessness, the extent to which you decide to cooperate with those around you.
The overall look of the Twine interface was very nice, and the writing was good.
This is a moderately long (I wouldn’t say “short” as the game card says) Twine piece, that is gothic horror and very spooky.
When it started up with "You are sitting in the office of an official" I worried how the writing would go. “Office” and “official” felt too similar to be effective writing. But you are a child at this point, and the opening captures that characterisation well.
As the story goes on you get drawn into a dangerous world of mysteries. And it’s really compelling, and disturbing. Quite horrific in places, but not so much gory horror as spooks.
There must be multiple endings. I got a not great one, and the game doesn’t allow you to step back, and I didn’t want to replay all the way through. But I very much enjoyed the experience. I also liked how it offered multiple choices re gender in places. And how later individual choices already done are differently coloured (though this may not work for players using screen readers).
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