Move On

by Serhii Mozhaiskyi

Experimental
2020

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
As it says on the tin, December 9, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

Move On has an interesting gimmick, which is that, playing as the director of a political advocacy organization you must choose where best to direct hundreds of thousands of emails – OK, apologies for the dumb joke. Move On does have an interesting gimmick, but it doesn’t have much going on besides the gimmick so I’m straining to pad out the word count (apparently I have for some reason decided to act like I’m getting paid by the column inch for these things).

Anyway talking about said gimmick is a mechanical spoiler, but it’s pretty impossible to talk about the game without revealing it, so probably best to nip over and give it a play – it’s short – before returning here.

To give some space for the spoiler-averse to flee, let’s lead off by talking about the story and writing of Move On, which are certainly things that exist. To be clear, there’s nothing at all wrong with them. The premise is a familiar jumping-off point for video games, though more so in action-oriented formats than IF: you’re a motorcycle courier racing to get some (unspecified) data package past some (unspecified) baddies to your (unspecified) patrons. There are little bits of color thrown in around the edges, but nothing that gets you beyond Prefab Cyberpunk Game – in fact one detail, which is that some of the baddies work for someone or something called Belltower, I think is a hat-tip to the Deus Ex prequels (like, yer Human Revolutions and Mankind Divideds. Though I suppose I can’t rule out that this is a very indirect precursor to Deus Ex Ceviche). The prose is action-oriented, typo-free, and does what it has to do, though honestly I found it hard to really engage with due to the mechanical gimmick, which we are now due to address.

The trick here is a clever one, which is that Move On is a choice-based game that presents itself as not having any choices. You only ever see one button to click – labelled Move on, duh – but depending on whether you click it while the little motorcycle icon on top of the window is moving or after it’s come to a stop, you’ll get a different outcome. This isn’t stated straight out, but there’s pretty clear hinting (the opening blurb says “keep your eyes on the road”, and explicitly states that those playing without sound aren’t missing anything, which I found helpful as I typically play with music off). Anyway I twigged to it pretty quickly and I think most players will too, though I did struggle for a couple minutes unsure whether the only differentiation was moving vs. stopped, or if some choices had three options, like moving in first half of segment vs. moving in second half of segment vs. stopped.

There’s a little bit of a guess-the-coin-flip vibe to the game, though on repeat plays, it’s clear that some segments have some signposting: if the most recent passage of text says something like “hurry up!” you should probably click while moving, whereas if it mentions a red light, you should probably wait. I noticed such hints in like half the passages, though, so there’s still a bit of trial and error, and of course there’s no save (the game only takes ten minutes tops, with a winning playthrough being maybe two minutes, so this isn’t that big a deal). Once I figured out what was going on, though, I took to scanning each passage as it came up looking for key words, then immediately either clicking, or being a bit disengaged by knowing I had to wait, so I think this undercut the impact of the writing since it just became a source of clues for a stressful, timing-dependent puzzle. I can pretty clearly remember what happens in the first half of the game, as I was working things out, but the second half is a bit of a blur as a result.

Move On is a lagniappe of a piece – I would have loved for it to come between Tangled Tales and Return to Castle Corlis, to be honest. There’s not a lot there, but it shows off its fun trick and knows to get out of the way before it risks wearing out its welcome.