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Hanging by threads

by Carlos Pamies

2022

Web Site

(based on 9 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

Discover Oban, the spider-web city.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: x2oykga40dd962r1

Awards

57th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A city of webs that is tough to untangle, October 3, 2022

Hanging by threads kicks off with an exciting and clever intro. You and a group of people are traveling to the city of Oban when the tour guide decides to throw a wrench into the game plan: Only one person gets to enter. The decision is made by drawing sticks. This builds the suspense of winning an exclusive and coveted access to the innards of a mysterious realm. Atmosphere has a faint, faint similarity with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, minus the candy and the kids. Instead, it is a city suspended over a chasm held together by spider webs.

Gameplay
Once you win the sticks drawing (which is a no-brainer) you make an important choice. Do you take a lantern, knife, or binoculars into the city? Each item opens unique content in the gameplay. This also encourages replays to try each item. If you want my take on it, (Spoiler - click to show) the lantern’s content was the most innovative while the knife’s content provides more exposition on the story. Binocular’s content was interesting too but with less pizazz.

After the intro you can explore the business level or the lower level to see some of the locals. Here, the gameplay is descriptive. Life is a tangle of catwalks and ladders. All you have to do is explore.

Story
The overarching story is intriguing. Turns out that Oban is (Spoiler - click to show) slowly falling apart. There is some secrecy about this. You hear quiet conversations in the game room and bar where people discuss an unnamed decision they need to make. An evacuation, maybe? I cannot say for sure.

There is a major weak point that drags everything down. Sudden and abrupt endings. You are puttering around doing this or that when the game ends with (Spoiler - click to show) (see below):

My surroundings seem strange, as if everything is moving and I can't stand, so I sit where I am. There's no doubt now. I don't have time to watch what the others are doing, and being honest I don't care, they should be ready for it, and I shouldn't be living this situation.

____________________________________
End

??? What does it mean by “others” and what did the player do to cause this ending?


The game is fickle. In one playthrough you may step foot somewhere and be fine. In another, you get this message. Experimenting is tricky because you never know when the game will cut you off. Perhaps there is a pattern that I am missing. But after playing and replaying the game, I still ran into the same issue.

Because of this, I have not reached a winning end. Or any end at all besides the one mentioned here.

Characters
I felt like I did not see enough to really experience the other characters. You do get a sense of people’s livelihoods which was interesting. Instead of (Spoiler - click to show) fishing for fish in a body of water people “fish” for birds inside the chasm beneath the city. Surprisingly, we also learn that (Spoiler - click to show) some people are not too concerned about the city falling apart. They just see it as the natural way of things. But when I had the chance to talk one-on-one with another character the game would come in with the abrupt ending.

The protagonist's background is also unexplored. The gameplay is in first person. We know that the PC is male and uses a cane to walk even though he is relatively young. But that does not stop him from braving the floating walkways. He seems ambitious and I would have liked to know more.

Visuals
The game uses a beige background with black text and a black line at the bottom of the screen. It is a simple design, but the game sometimes surprises the player with extra effects.

The most prominent effect occurs when (Spoiler - click to show) visiting the bar by the catwalk with the lantern. The screen and text are black to hide the words from view, but the player’s mouse is surrounded by a halo of “light” represented by rings that conjure up the appearance of a flashlight illuminating a wall quite convincingly. When you scroll over the words they appear. It closely follows the effect found in another Twine game called my father’s long, long legs where (brief spoiler for that game) (Spoiler - click to show) the protagonist uses a flashlight to search underground tunnels. The only difference is that in this game the light is white instead of *yellow. Either way, this is great application of effects to tell a story.
*Correction: I remembered wrong. They are both white.

There are other effects thrown in there, but I will leave those for you to find. The only criticism I have for design is that there are some noticeable spelling errors.

Final thoughts
It has a lot of great things going for it. Compelling beginning, whimsical setting, and the freedom to simply wander. Unfortunately, there are snags that cut the game short. Just as things get going the game decides to jump out and say, "surprise! The end." If this were fixed, I would give this a higher score, without question.

I do think the surreal city setting makes it a game worth playing for a few playthroughs. But playing one that trips you up with random and contextless endings without providing the ability to save weakens the experience.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Exploring a city from Calvino's Invisible Cities, October 20, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

This game lets you explore Octavia, a city described in the book Invisible Cities (by Italo Calvino) as a spider-web city hung on a great web of ropes, pipes, etc.

You are offered three different items to take with you. When you arrive, you have time to explore and look around, seeing the wonders of the city.

But not very much time. After 20 turns, the game ends with a vague message. I unfortunately got that message on my first playthrough right when I was trying to click a moving link, so I thought that this was a 'failure message'. With no undo, I was out of luck.

But I think the intent here is that you explore for a short time but are unable to see it all in one playthrough. That's a beautiful idea, but I find the execution a bit wanting. There's no indication that that's what the ending signifies, and the other review on IFDB I read also seemed to consider it as a bug or problem of some sorts.

I'm giving 3 stars mostly because I like the conceit both of the spiderweb city but also because of the idea of the limited time, even if it came off a bit weird.


1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
City Planning Dont's, November 22, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

A short exploration IF of a tantalizing setting. There are some early nods to a specific protagonist that needs a cane, including one nice bit of business on a bridge. That specificity seems to fade into the background pretty quickly, and doesn’t seem to inform the experience beyond that. Personality-wise the protagonist is a blank slate, which is not uncommon in IF that wants the player to step in.

There are choices to make, both in wandering direction and equipment. In all cases that I hit, there was little to no indication of what effect your choices could have, so they all ended up being arbitrary. None of them seemed character based. That’s not so terrible in the wandering around part. It does convey the exploring-a-new-city feeling of not even knowing where the interesting stuff might be. In the case of equipment it does rankle a bit, particularly when depending on your arbitrary choice some areas of the city might be closed off later.

The setting is really the star here and in concept it's a pretty cool one: a city suspended on ropes and chains between two mountains. The narration that describes it varies from scene to scene. Some scenes are wonderfully painted with vertiginous heights, colorful skies, physically hefty and sagging environs. But there are just as many scenes where details jar to the point of ‘I don’t think that’s how that’d work.’ If your city is suspended by ropes, then torches and holy crap bonfires seem like a REALLY bad idea. Kids play with rocks which, where are they getting those exactly? Most egregiously, the ropes are repeatedly described as fraying and worn. I would think rope maintenance would have to be top priority for the city council. I mean they don’t need to worry about sewer or trash collection right? (Though dear lord the land dwellers beneath them) At first I was thinking maybe it was the poorer sections that suffered neglect, which would have been a nice detail. But no, that was me me adding things.

There is definitely something to be said that nit-picking details in stories is garbage criticism. When you start complaining about the realism of fantasy, what is even the point? (see also incel criticism of Rings of Power race in fantasy races. Actually, that’s a little different. I’m not talking about racism masquerading as ‘realism’ Forget I brought it up.) While I think the prescription to embrace fantasy on its own terms is a strong idea, that doesn’t change that effective use of tangible details helps immersion. Despite the prodding of the angels on our shoulder, tonally inconsistent half-baked details can jar us.

Yes, Sparks of Joy wandering around, but as many ‘I don’t think…’ moments. Maybe more disconcertingly, your ability to wander is limited. In some cases you can’t go back to explore untaken paths. In others, sections are shut off because you took the wrong equipment. And then it ends - practically out of nowhere. In two playthroughs, I went down completely different paths but ended at the same abrupt and narratively unsatisfying end screen. There was no arc to what I’d seen and the end text did not wrap up my experience in any meaningful way. It just ended. I think there is a really powerful nugget of setting here, but for a truly satisfying experience, it should be polished a bit, and some sort of narrative arc applied to it.


Played: 10/16/22
Playtime: 20min, two playthroughs, same ending
Artistic/Technical rankings: Sparks of Joy/Notable
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless





This is version 2 of this page, edited by Dan Fabulich on 13 October 2022 at 5:42am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item