Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes

by B Minus Seven profile

2014

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Number of Reviews: 3
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
You're catching the gist but not the exact phrasing., September 4, 2015
by CMG (NYC)

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.