by Caliban's Revenge


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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Unnerving supernatural powers beyond being able to retry endlessly, January 17, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Loop-til-you-win Twine entries always interest me. They feel efficient and tidy. You have some feedback on what you're doing right, and you will have to lawnmower a bit, but there are places to skip. The gold standard of loop-til-you-win may be Spider and Web, but we don't have to scale those heights. "Keep poking until you get it right" works, if there are enough tries, and you are told–hey, this part isn't useful yet, or that other part is. Lucid has the added advantage of remembering critical things you did, so if you die, you don't start entirely from scratch. It seems to combine the best parts of save points and also giving you the freedom to do things wrong. This may not be perfectly realistic without an explanation. Lucid gives none, because it's trying to invoke surreal supernatural darkness, and I think it does so–it's also a small enough world that the lack of undo makes you feel helpless but not frustrated. I wound up feeling uneasy with the knowledge and powers I'd gained, and the main character seems blown away by the writing on a cereal box underscores that nicely. I prefer this sort of thing to physical descriptions of gore.

You're not told who you are, as you explore a dark city, but the false branches (it's easy to get killed or escape, neither of which is meant to seem satisfactory) make it pretty clear you're here to do something, to sit and fight. But what are you fighting against, and what are you fighting for? That's what you discover. And Lucid , written in poetry form, hides certain things and makes others clear. The part mentioned in the walkthrough–that you stack progress even after a death–doesn't seem to appear in-game, until there's something clear. Then, I felt like I was off to the races. There were some places that should be inert but weren't. Some deaths were of the "don't bother again" sort, others of the "it's not time yet." And there were in-game shortcuts too. There's a high-rise apartment you have to climb the first couple times, which set atmosphere, but all the same I was glad I didn't have to repeat that once I'd figured things out. There's a man on a park bench who'll help you out. It's not idyllic.

With each power or item you acquire, Lucid feels more constricting, and this makes sense, given the ultimate ending. You have a destiny, of sorts. Your character is slightly aware of their changes, but you the reader may be even more aware.

I can't speak to precisely how good the poetry is, but given that it had definite high points for me (the grocery store and the residential tower) I think it's more than just "hey, look, I decided to make a line break after every 6 words and give the finger to strict capitalization!" I think reviewers more competent at that than I addressed details elsewhere, but they found a lot to like (so to speak–the game is not lovable.) So did I. I found it a bit rough around the edges, but that seemed more due to ambition than inattention. So it was a very worthwhile experience for me. That first bit may seem forbidding, and you may wonder what you're doing here, but it's worth holding tight until you find that first clue.

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