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About the Story
A convicted murderer must play through a "rehabilitation game" to earn his own release.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: July 16, 2018
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: Twine
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
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Number of Reviews: 1
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John has been convicted of killing Jenny. He now finds himself restrained a table and hooked up to wires in his brain to self-analyze the murder. Required to play the Rehabilitation Game.
John Kills Jenny uses a third person perspective while you play as John. The gameplay is simple. The player is presented with scenarios about the murder and a list of possible answers in multiple choice form. The player selects A, B, C, or D to input their answer. There is a timer of 60 seconds for each scenario, ticking away at the bottom of the screen. This was a nice touch. Long enough not to overwhelm the player but short enough to create a sense of urgency. If you fail to answer the game chooses for you.
Apparently, in this dystopian world the Rehabilitation Game is the sentence for murder, and the sentence ends once you reach the right ending. Deceptively simple, to put it lightly. The player soon finds themselves in a moral dilemma.
While the gameplay minimizes details about John and his story, the writing sprinkles in hints of the society underlying the story. The game takes place at around 2187. Here and there are mentions of futuristic concepts such as hovercars, household androids, and nanotechnology which add a little worldbuilding. It makes the game a little more immersive.
Implications about the overarching story kick in at the fourth scenario. It asks what John is unable to control, such as the future or past. The reason he cannot change these factors, according to the game, is because he killed Jenny at the first scenario. Everything onwards is shaped by her murder. But the Rehabilitation Game begins question John’s understanding of reality. In having to try different scenarios repeatedly to appease the test he has lost track of what aspects of the murder were real.
The fourth scenario ends with (Spoiler - click to show) “The End” but below it is a link that says, “But the Game’s still there.” Part of me was thinking there was some way of weaseling out of the prompts to find a hidden path or loophole. The game faintly paws at the idea that if somehow this process were interrupted it might allow John to worm around having to murder Jenny in the first scenario. In that case, perhaps a winning (or at least, an alternate) ending could be achieved. Some way to “free” John or reach a conclusion that defies the structure of the Rehabilitation Game.
Okay, so is there a winning ending? After experimenting with different playthroughs I think the answer is (Spoiler - click to show) no. Ironically, the game (Spoiler - click to show) forces the player to replay the entire game just as John does, nonstop until he supposedly reaches the right outcome. John Kills Jenny ends with the Rehabilitation Game (Spoiler - click to show) surprising the player with another scenario: Do they want to reset the test? The only possible answers for the multiple-choice is “Yes.” You are then brought back to the start of the game. It tries to put the player in John's shoes. I think that the game is trying to show an (Spoiler - click to show) exercise in futility. If the Rehabilitation Game is unwinnable, then that leaves John in a rather bleak situation. I was hoping the game would have dived a little deeper down the rabbit hole as it explored these concepts, but as a short Twine piece it still conveys a solid idea.
The game uses visuals to paint the picture of being tested at a table. A grey box appears on the screen with a prompt and list of possible answers. This represents the machine piping in scenarios via the brain interface. Below this box are four colourful squares with links that say A, B, C, and D. Such squares are also installed in John’s table. Just as the player clicks on the colourful squares to submit their answer they can imagine John doing the same thing on his table. The game keeps everything else simple. Sticks to a basic black screen, blue links, and white text. No noticeable errors or bugs.
John Kills Jenny is an intriguing game. Its dystopian themes are paired with a compelling story premise that carries some interesting ideas. It makes you think about John and the points made by the Rehabilitation Game. Content-wise, it does not go too deep, but its structure is consistent and wields some creative visual effects. Worth a few playthroughs.