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A short horror story via mail, November 9, 2022
The protagonist of Something Blue is Helen, a young woman recently married to an affluent man named Henry Compton. Great match. The story is told through letters that she writes to her sister Anne. But each letter gradually reveals a sinister truth.
Gameplay is simple enough. For each of Helen’s letters you choose several passages by clicking on a link that cycles through your options. There are three options per passage, and options seem to feature three different tones:
(1) Helen assumes the best of her husband and never speculates about suspicious things.
(2) Helen admits that she is not enjoying being married and that her husband gets super touchy about certain topics but otherwise plays ball. For a while, at least.
(3) Helen is sure that that something weird and explainable is going on. This last one sits on a fence between working yourself into imaging things and knowing Exactly What You Saw.
I was half expecting, half hoping that the player could determine Helen’s actions based on your choices while writing her letter. If Helen writes to Anne that she will (Spoiler - click to show) explore the attic when Henry leaves, she will explore the attic. If she opts to stay out of it, she stays out of it. Instead, it she goes to the (Spoiler - click to show) attic every time, and honestly, I cannot fault her for that. Ultimately my issue is that gameplay choices seem superficial when finding the possible outcomes for the story. I would mix and match choices to see how it shaped the gameplay, but it ended up being rather linear.
Helen is told she get go wherever she wants in the house except (Spoiler - click to show) the attic. I will just rip off the band-aid. (Spoiler - click to show) Helen sneaks into the attic and discovers the dead bodies of Henry’s previous six wives. Her final letter to Anne shares her findings. The game ends with Helen’s husband sending a letter to Anne with bad news. He explains that Helen’s previous letter surely must have been the result of a high fever that gave her delusions that her husband had murdered his former wives. Haha. No, the player is not going to buy into that too easily.
I found the ending to be ambiguous. We know he is trying to cover his tracks. We do not know if Helen tried to run away or asked him about what she saw. I am assuming that at some point he figured out that she explored the attic. The implications of this are disturbing but we are left with a bit of a cliffhanger. Is she dead? He offers to allow Anne and her parents to come visit, so I take it that she is still alive. But if gameplay has any merit, she will probably end up like the other wives. Implied horror can work tremendously, but Something Blue ends a bit too soon for the story to click.
Henry’s writing about a fever feels like the default ending, but there is an alternate ending that ends in a similar fashion. If you choose gameplay prompts that seem a little, for the lack of a better word, “hysterical,” Henry writes that she was sent to a sanatorium instead. Historically, the notion of hysteria been used as a way of diagnosing women, which opens a can of worms about sexism and other issues. But it appears that Henry is going to use that to his advantage. Like the other ending, things are a little ambiguous about the outcome. Is he really sending her to a sanatorium or is he just going to kill her in the attic?
In case you are curious, the game’s title is based off a wedding rhyme that says, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." Each part of the rhyme details something the bride should wear while tying the knot to ensure certain blessings throughout the marriage. The "something blue" is meant to defend against evil superstition but (Spoiler - click to show) having a husband who chops up his wives also counts. If Helen followed the rhyme at all, it clearly failed. Especially with "something blue." The sad thing too is that her first letter in the game suggests that she married at her parents’ insistence. She probably had little say on not just who she married, but also on how she was married.
The visuals only tinker with basic effects but they are effectively polished. The text is on a yellowish-white square against a dark blue background with matching links. It draws attention to the colour in the game’s title. I thought it was a nice look.
This was one of the first games I played for this year’s EctoComp, and I fun reading the story. Definitely a horror game. It could have been more fleshed-out, but it is still a quality piece suitable for a few rounds. If you like interactive fiction with gameplay that exclusively takes place through letters that you modify, consider Something Blue.