Sonder Snippets

by Sana


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A bit too obfuscated, December 11, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

Another short choice-based game that didnít quite land for me, Sonder Snippets offers a few densely-written fables, with a slight frame story of a grandmother telling stories to a child. There are a couple of passages with lots of words to click, but how these relate to the text or whether they impact the stories you hear wasnít obvious to me, and the frame story is very minimally suggested (I only fully twigged to what was happening after a story concluded and I was given a choice to hear another one or ďmake new memoriesĒ by having the grand-daughter go outside and playing with other children). So the meat is really in the fables, which are Ė basically fine?

They seem to be creation-myths or just-so stories, which are hard to write because itís challenging to reconcile the abstract, iconic nature of such storytelling with the specificity and detail that gives a tale its punch. I thought How the Elephantís ChildÖ, from much earlier in my list, nailed this balance, admittedly by aping Kipling and eschewing the cosmological for the practical. Sonder Snippets I think sticks too close to the abstract side of things: all the stories seem to involve a Thief (capital the authorís), a sort of demiurge or at least trickster-figure, who addresses the moon, or a lover, and does Ė stuff. Thatís an awful word, I know, but itís pretty hard to decode the meaning beneath language thatís often intentionally obfuscated. This sort of technique can create a dreamlike sense of allusion, but I confess it more usually felt muddled to me, especially because the tone seemed less folkloric and more undergraduate po-mo. Consider:

"Reparations have to be made for that which was stolen from the sanctity of silence only to be silenced on the terms of another. Water holds memory, and the tears the Thiefís loveróthe lover still only known in relation, in possession, to the Thiefócried, hold memory."

I think this is about oceans or the tide or something? It just leaves me a bit cold Ė itís too high-level, thereís nothing I was able to grab on to.

The stories are also fairly short (maybe 4-500 words?) and there arenít that many of them: the first time I played, after getting my first story, I clicked the link to hear another, which brought me to a second, but then I got that same second story four times in a row. I dipped back in for a quick replay as I wrote this review, and looks like there are a few more, so perhaps I just got unlucky that first time, but itís still a fairly limited pool, with no customization or responsiveness to other choices within the stories as far as I can tell. And by design, you just keep clicking through to generate a new story until you get bored and decide to send the grand-daughter outside to make snow-forts.

Sonder Snippets isnít bad by any means, with technically-solid writing and bug-free implementation, and stories that clearly have significance to the author. And I liked the few hints I got of the relationship between the grandmother and grand-daughter. But it doesnít feel like a game thatís considered what impact it wants to have on its audience, and tailored itself accordingly.