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The Counsel in The Cave

by Josh

2022

Web Site

(based on 9 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

Graduate. Become lost. Imagine what's possible.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
IFID: Unknown
TUID: wvpvp0izl3shzbbg

Awards

31st Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

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Number of Reviews: 2
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
All The World's A Stage, November 5, 2022

I was excited to see a magical realist game show up in the Comp as itís something I like but donít see often, especially in video gaming. One of my favorite video games is in fact Kentucky Route Zero (which is also the only magical-realist game I know of, go figure). Itís clearly a favorite of this author as well, since I could clearly see the inspiration here. KRZ and The Counsel in the Cave are both games set in rural areas (at least at first), and are technically choice-based but donít have much in the way of traditional puzzles. Instead, the player is given the option to shape how the story plays out Ė the choice picked is always correct and becomes the new truth of the world, as if itís always been there. The overall framework of the plot stays the same, but no two playthroughs will ever be alike unless you do it on purpose.

Luckily for me, The Counsel in the Cave ends up being a worthy game on its own as well as distinguishing itself well from its progenitor. I donít want to give too much away, but itís very well written and creates a world that is both stylistically and thematically distinct from KRZ and has no trouble standing on its own. It also tells a story that is nicely sized, and will feel familiar to anyone over a certain age - who will you become after high school?

The Counsel in the Cave ends up pulling off a neat trick integrating its gameplay with its story. The central conflict driving the two protagonists forward is the question of what to do after high school, how their choices will shape who they become, and how to deal with the responsibility of it all. At the end of their arcs they both conclude that itís going to be scary, but no matter what theyíll solve the problem by moving forward and seeing where life takes them. The only wrong choice is not to choose and thereby end up stuck.

This is, incidentally, what the player is doing the entire way through The Counsel in the Cave. The only way to get stuck is by indecision alone, and while the player canít be sure of the outcome of any choice they know itíll move their story along. Yes, itís a game and people are expected to click the links, but I really enjoyed this piece of thematic resonance.

What I Liked

For those of you who donít want to read the spoiler (and I encourage you to play the game first before reading my thoughts!) I liked quite a lot of it. The side character Moondog was a standout, though.

What I Didnít

I think a little too much happens offscreen between acts, in particular between 1 and 2. I can tell the author wanted most of the journey to happen off-screen, but that requires walking a tightrope between telling the player too little about what happened (and confusing them) and infodumping. This definitely erred more on the side of confusing, which wasnít a huge problem but it did throw me out of the narrative for a hot second.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A short surreal game about graduation and finding yourself, October 15, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This brief Ink game follows two teens, May and Jason, who are graduating soon and preparing to head off to college. They stroll through the woods and discuss their future.

Things start just slightly surreal and go further, but it never seems to shake the protagonists, just like how it is in a dream.

There might be some plot branching, but most of the choices feel like character determination to me, like role-playing, not even necessarily saved as game states.

There was some beautiful imagery in the game, young adults trying to find their place in the world literally represented as a journey through an allegorical world.

It felt a bit disjointed and brief, though. I worried I had skipped a whole chapter when I reached the end of the first act and clicked on a tiny, almost missable 'right arrow' and ended up in a very different place than the last chapter ended. But the table of contents seems to indicate I saw all 3 sections, so I guess the game itself is just a bit smaller than its story could allow.

Overall, a pleasant game to spend time with. According to my rubric, it's polished, descriptive, has good interactivity, and reminded me of pleasant times, but I wouldn't play it again.


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