The Staycation

by Maggie H


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Number of Reviews: 6
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Flatmates, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em, December 25, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

The Staycation listed itself as taking two hours, but for me it wasn't close to that long. However, the time suggestion and content warnings (which seem almost apoligetic) pushed it back in my IFComp backlog. It's more a sprinkling of discomfort than anything intense–a brief Texture effort about spending a few nights at home, or trying to. Claudia and Xavier, your two flatmates, are on vacation for a bit. It's not clear if they're actually dating, or if you are upset about this, but they mention you are welcome to come along. You don't. You're sort of glad they're gone, you say. But then night comes, and you either poke at a book you don't process or a phone, where you see Claudia and Xavier on social media.

There aren't many choices here, but that's part of the intended creepiness. You realize you may not want to be around your flatmates, but you don't want to be away from them, either. The main choice is whether to face your demons inside or not. You have two or three nights of this. My first ending was, apparently, seeing my own blood on my arm and not realizing why or how it happened. Another? Well, it seemed the story got frozen, which was creepy in its own way. You have two options to drag-and-drop, but you have no words to drop them on. The text say "you choose (X)" and the implication is, you can't choose.

I looked at the source, as I wondered if this was intentional.I don't think so, because there's a final ending, where you have a nervous breakdown. Whether or not it is, it's effective enough. I've had times I thought I made a decision and didn't really, because I would flip back and forth. Or I'd choose to face a horrible truth but only after this next go through social media I didn't care about. Perhaps if and when texture becomes more mature, people will know this trick and say it's been done and can we find something new? But I found the jolt effective.

The Staycation mirrored a high-placed game several years ago in IFComp written in Inform that forgot to include an "instead" at the end, and the result was that excessive text bled into the game, but it was surprisingly effective. Here, if the hang was unintentional, it was effective–it gave the prospect of an endless loop of nights, or a fear of an endless loop.

Sadly there isn't enough here. It's a bit light on character sketching, and I think too much is left to the imagination, so it falls short of the well-done cover art. Obviously filling in all the whys would be unsubtle. But there were missed possibilities to play to Texture's strengths by, say, looking at items around your flat.

Side note: this is the first Texture entry I played on my phone, because I looked for ways around the apparent bug and thought it might be the browser. The interface made me wonder if I should revisit my earlier reviews–it makes a big difference!