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About the Story
Before we begin, we have a sharp-- I mean short intake form for you to fill out.
40th Place - 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2014)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This game placed 40th in the 2014 IFComp and has a bunch of negative ratings on IFDB, but I love it. You won't find much plot here. You won't find much coherence. But this game is drunk on language, and it is also hilarious.
B Minus Seven just knows how to write a sentence. Even a non-sentence. Even a nonsense sentence. Even a gobbledygook list filled with misspelled words. The text plays with you and you can almost bite into it and eat it at certain spots.
Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes is about putting you through the wringer. You the player, you the character you're playing as, and you know that the author went through the wringer too while writing it. You're on a little road of trials. The trials make no sense. You fill out intake forms. They make no sense. The lines in the text are the crooked lanes in the title, channeling emotions through the text like veins directing blood through a body. Cleansing. Purging. Producing either purity or waste, you can't tell which; the code is broken; you can't piece it back together.
The words "inward narrow crooked lanes" are taken from a Donne poem quoted in the game. The poem's gist is that a writer can't exorcise demons by putting them onto a page. It may seem possible at first, but then a reader comes along and feels the demon trapped inside the text, and now you've got three demons: one in the author, one in the text, and one in the reader. So much for snuffing out the original demon.
That's what's happening here. This game contains frustrations. It's a prison for them, funneling them inward through those narrow crooked lanes, into the game. And now there's a danger: they might get out again.
It is almost, in a certain sense, a triumph that this game has gotten poor reviews. It has succeeded in failing, which is to say that it hasn't transferred its demons into most people who've played it. All the strange things the game does are like a defense mechanism. When I mentioned broken code before, there really is broken code in the game, in the second room you enter, and it's there on purpose. The game is ripping itself open, showing you everything, but interestingly this direct exposure creates distance rather than closeness between player and game.
But what if you take the game's offer, get on the train, go with it where it wants to go? Is it going to sink you with its negativity? I say, no, because its humor is a buoy.
The snake suggests shearing your mane. You have no razor ready at hand; the idea is apropos of nothing. You don't believe you and the snake are on quite the same wavelength.
Humor is subjective. I know this stuff won't work for everyone, but it works for me.
On a more mundane note, I appreciate one technical feature in the game that allows you to rewind it to any page you've already visited. This makes going back to explore different branches very simple. You don't have to restart from scratch every time.
I really liked the blurb. It sounds snarky. It sounds like it could be a satire. It sounds like it could be fun. The game itself, though, was none of these, sorry to say. It was hard to understand- if there was something deeper than what I saw, then I missed it entirely.
The intake form of which the blurb speaks doesn't even give you a chance to make sense of things. It doesn't start off normal - it's garbled through and through, and finishing it takes you to a room. Rooms, as it turns out - the content of which changes with your earlier choices in the form. What happens in them... (Spoiler - click to show)also doesn't make much sense. Playing it, I got the persistent feeling that I was missing something somewhere. Should I be understanding this? Is there some textual hint? Read the first letters of each word or something? Apparently not. This made the game vaguely unsatisfying, like an itch your arms are too short to scratch. In short, interesting premise, I guess, but either badly executed or just not for me.
(Removed reference to Twine bugs.)
This game received very low ratings in the 2014 ifcomp. I feel like most of those votes are in error.
First, the game starts with a series of multiple choice answers filled with semi-gibberish. Many people likely saw the first few questions and quit.
Second, after the intake form, you go through 4 rooms, and the second room purposefully contains Twine code, revealing what would have been various choices and reveals. Many assumed this was a mistake.
B-minus has a style that is part impressionistic and part Dada. The gibberish evokes a variety of feelings in a primeval way, and the 'hacked' parts of the game completely change the way you interact with the world.
Overall, a technically brilliant game. However, it was not a joy to play or replay, but more of a crazy experience where once was enough for me.
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