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Aesthetics Over Plot

by Rohan


Web Site

(based on 12 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

After losing your job as a well paid biologist, you have been living rather ... let’s say frugally. With the oppurtunity of getting invited to one of your buccaneer friend’s party/banquet (really though?), you are determined to get the next job. But your potential bosses involve a omniscent mind reading cactus, a really cool donkey, and a wall. How would you win the job?

Game Details


Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2023


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Play this., April 8, 2023
by SharpNaif
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2023

This piece accomplishes exactly what the author set out to do. Readers shouldn't enter knowing much more than "silly" and "succinct." Two of the endings are disappointingly similar, but this one is definitely more about the ride than the destination.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Bizarro Job Hunt, July 12, 2023
by JJ McC
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2023

Adapted from a SpringThing23 Review

Played: 4/7/23
Playtime: 20min, 3 endings

This entry lives up to its title, without doubt. There is a loose plot about finding a job, but so not the point of it. This is another (the third so far in Spring Thing23!) IF patterned after a joke: setup and punchline, no goal but to make you laugh. This one struggled a bit to find its footing, I felt. It is rife with misspellings, awkward sentences, and questionable grammar. An early gag about mistaking computer for social networking was structured too loose to land, but there was something there. It just felt like the language was making me do a lot of the work to find the humorous core of the idea.

When comedy is most effective on me, not only do I not have to work, the language is a full partner in laughs. It is the sharply honed needle that injects that uncut, industrial strength funny right into my brain. Which is not to say that there were no chuckles. In selecting a book (after selecting your wardrobe) to prepare for your party-cum-interview-opportunity, two options are:

"2. How to gain friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie :
"Talk about networking while networking to network the network
"3. Business at the speed of thought by Bill Gates:
"Business business, business is to business what business."

The first one tickled me, but right on its heels I was brought up short by “I don’t know how to read that.” There were some other amusing bits: (Spoiler - click to show)the protag’s spider sense, continually misnaming the ex (once I realized it was not a typo), and especially one ending reveal about your host. The sum of these and other gags leaves little doubt that the protag is not going to be a model employee wherever they land. For all the successful gags, there were as many or more that elicited “I think I see what they were going for there” instead of a laugh.

It’s short, as far as I can tell at most 3 potential jobs you choose from, then done. While the selection of potential bosses was daffy, I felt they could be MORE widely disparate to really land the absurdism. A (Spoiler - click to show)sentient cactus and an urbane donkey felt somehow more similar than different to me? Maybe that’s just me?

All in all, I found I was working too hard through the language to find the humor. There were a lot of frenetic, goofy ideas on display, but more often than not they were undermined by the sentences they had to inhabit. It was thankfully short, a soul of brevity and all. But I appreciate it more when I don’t have to work so hard for my laughs.

Spice Girl: Baby Spice
Vibe: Playful
Polish: Rough
Is this TADS? No.
Gimme the Wheel! For sure spell and grammar checking are the next stops if I drive this bus. It would both sharpen the laughs and improve the polish in one fell swoop.

Spice Girl Ratings: Scary(Horror), Sporty (Gamey), Baby (Light-Hearted), Ginger (non-CWM/political), Posh (Meaningful)
Polish scale: Gleaming, Smooth, Textured, Rough, Distressed
Gimme the Wheel: What I would do next, if it were my project.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Humor Over Cohesion, June 3, 2023

It's quite absurd, really, and impossible to grasp hold of anything, but once you learn to let go of any expectation of grounding, it's good for some laughs, and fun to tinker around with the different options, just to see what's around the next corner. It seems a good length for this sort of experimentation.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short Twine job-hunting piece set at a party, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a short but entertaining Twine piece set at a party where through social interactions you need to try to get a job. It’s branching, and there are bad outcomes, and then others where you can get on better, and move the plot on. It is also possible to go back to previous choices, and try different routes. The writing is fun, though there are quite a lot of typos, including in the game blurb on the competition site. But that aside it’s briskly written, amusing, and I felt a sense of immersion within the story. And I was happy exploring different endings.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Spring Thing 2023: Aesthetics Over Plot, April 22, 2023
by kaemi
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2023

Aesthetics Over Plot, as a title, gestures grandly towards a committed artistic philosophy, a desire specifically to oppose aesthetics and plot sufficient to impose a hierarchy, clinamen into a new field, Kandinsky kicking down the doors of figuration to cascade visual hyle, Schoenberg splattering the scales to cascade tonal hyle. Although little stitches of that idea weaves through the quixotic crazyquilting, it seems the title is actually suggesting the opposite, which is, please don’t take this too seriously, don’t think about anything really, by the time you have a thought about it it’ll be too late, we’ll be three things further, since the stream of nonsequitors prevent anything from accumulating any resonance beyond the initial impact.

The resulting dizziness is the core of the humor, which delights in lateral strikes, sometimes in puns, sometimes in sheer zaniness, often both: “You grab a spider from under a table and flick it upwards, the wind blows it towards your right, “that’s where I have to go” you declare. / “Spider Sense, we used to call it back in my hometown” you take pride in your accomplishment. / You see a crowd centred around a large table, as you push through the ground you realize that the crowd is surrounding … a Really Cool Looking Donkey ! / “What?” you whisper to yourself, but then you notice that the donkey is wearing glasses.” There a number of things you could say here, from the way the loose grammar heightens the motion blur, or that nonsequitors don’t really pack much of a punch when they interrupt other nonsequitors, but by the time you could make any of those points, you’ll have missed the bus.

Which could be really exhausting if sustained for any meaningful amount of time, but luckily the game does slow down a little after the first chapter, allowing its satirical subject of The Job Interview to come into focus. In this slower mode, the sharp left turns apply whimsy: “You lean closer to the cactus and try to establish a mental connection. You focus your thoughts and send them to the cactus. / “Hello, Mr. Cactus. I’m very impressed by your work. You have a very unique style and vision. I’m a biologist by profession and I have some ideas that could benefit your business. For example, have you considered using photosynthesis to create renewable energy? Or using spines to create weapons and tools? I have the expertise and experience to help you with these projects.” Taking a silly premise seriously is a classic satirical route, and Aesthetic Over Plot’s breeziness means that a biologist pitching themselves to a cactus easily jaunts out the jokes without dwelling in the punchline for drier and drier reprises. When in the mood to adhere to this clarified satire, the game can sly some witticisms with a candor differentiated from the surrounding zaniness: “The trick to finding who is the most important person in a party is to observe who surrounds themselves with the most amount of people. It’s simple math.” I particularly like the cynical wink of “who surrounds themselves with” instead of “who is surrounded by”. The exuberant assertiveness of “It’s simple math” keeps the tone ebullient though, and the stakes never feel at odds with the wild ride mentality, even when you are confronted by your ex-boyfriend, to whom you must sheepishly apply for a job: ““Hello cthenion, who will still bleed when no more will the world. Fancy seeing you here” he says in a sweet but sarcastic tone … “Oh, this? This is nothing. Just a little hobby of mine. I started my own company after we broke up. You know, because I was bored and had nothing else to do” he says with a smirk. / “What kind of company?” You ask, trying to hide your curiosity. / “Oh, just a little biotech company that specializes in creating custom organisms for various purposes. Nothing too fancy” he says casually. / “Wow. That’s…amazing.” You say sincerely. / “Thank you. I’m glad you think so.” he says with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.” The surprising sincerity here is its own nonsequitor, infusing a bit of humanity in the otherwise whirlwind, almost tempting you to believe in that sincerity, try to make a delicate connection: ““Umm … Jack …, I’m sorry for what I did to you. I was wrong to break up with you. I was too focused on my work and I didn’t appreciate you enough.” You say trying to sound sincere. / He looks at you with surprise and then with indifference. / “My name’s not jack and is that all? Do you think I’ll just forget how you dumped me over the phone? How you said I was holding you back from those trees you were working?” he says furiously.” Nope, the game grins, no catharsis here, keep moving, there are more jokes to get to.

Whipped up into this frothy cartoonish whimsy allows for your character to make many a bold choice and have each frictionlessly applied: “You decide to flirt with the cactus. You say “Did anyone ever tell you how prickly and cute you look …”, the familiar voice interrupts you, “let’s not make your presence hear any awkward than it is” the cactus responds.” Okay, well, maybe a little friction. Perhaps you’re not the best match anyway: “You hug the cactus. You feel a warm sensation in your chest. You realise it’s blood.” Ah, Cupid, your arrow…

I suppose it goes without saying that none of this adds up to more than the sum of its parts. On the contrary, elements of its implementation can feel a bit slapdash, especially on multiple playthroughs: the game is pretty linear but presents itself as more openended, each round starts with a selection of choices which ultimately feel like an afterthought, the imposition of chapters feels jarring, etc. Still, there’s enough variety abounding to keep you entertained as your shuttle careens off a cliff.

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