Insomnia: Twenty-Six Adventures After Dark

by Leon Lin

Surreal, Humor

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Funny and technically/narratively worthy, May 15, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2023

As a fellow Spring Thing 2023 author, I was amused to note a similarity between Insomnia and Write or Reflect–well, WoR in helpful mode, anyway! Both have a possibility of going to endings you’ve seen before. (Insomnia has a bit more writing as a payoff, and said writing is better organized through some pretty diverse adventures!)

But they have different mechanisms for helping you to find all the different endings, so to speak.

Also, I’d like to thank the author for an early encouraging note to me about WoR. I hope this is good payback. So any suggestions here are “It’d be neat to do this too!”

WoR’s helpful mode lets you know if you’re about to walk into a node where all endings are covered. So you will get there, and rather quickly, by trial and error. It forces you to find the right path, which may ruin the fun of exploration.

But Insomnia leaves a bit of a puzzle. It’s quite up-front about things and I think even the endings seem to be organized so that, say, ending #1 is “first choice all the way through” and #26 is “last choice all the way through.” So you have a neat idea of what you can target and when and how. There’s some neat intuition here that I like, because while I enjoy branching Twine games, I sort of cringe at having to look at the source to knock off that last ending or two. Whether or not the endings diverge as much as Insomnia!

So I’m not aware of anything else that handles the endings as Insomnia does. But I’d be interested to see others, because I think it’s a great idea well-executed that helps it go beyond "yet another zany Twine game with clever fun writing." Especially since Insomnia doesn't try to slide on its zaniness alone. There's a funny ethical dilemma (well, not really) and I was amused to find the main villain was someone named Richards. With apologies to people whose last name is Richards, I laughed, remembering a line from a story I never wrote in college: "Geez, you have Richards this year for English? What an asshole!" Richards is, indeed, worse than that. I thank Insomnia for dredging up my irrational subconscious hate of people surnamed Richards. Especially if they have mustaches and wear corduroy blazers with elbow patches. (That's part of my never-published story.)

Insomnia's structure and bumpers open up possibilities for creating Twine-ish paths elsewhere, maybe even allowing the player a difficulty knob of how much they want to spoil.

For instance, you could have a counter saying, once you’ve hit all the endings in the (Spoiler - click to show)UFO branch (there are four) two times, that one is blocked off somehow or the node is bumped back! It seems like this would be tricky to do in Twine, but it would allow for a VERY branching game with even more than 26 endings so that the player’s energy would focus less on staying patient and juggling endings and more on the writing.

(Another neat idea, especially if the game had meta components, would be to allow the player maybe 2-3 glimpses at a branching ending map. Or maybe even label the endings 11111, etc., based on which choice gets you somewhere in the minimum tries.)

Insomnia is definitely a fun light-hearted read but it brings up some (to me) engaging, serious issues of how to keep the player’s attention and the niceties we should add to help them along and feel the optimal amount of stuck so we had a neat challenge, without giving up!

All these considerations, though, are nothing to lose sleep over. Ha ha ha.

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