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by aidanvoidout


(based on 12 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Go on a short adventure to assassinate a tyrannical ruler, and maybe you'll learn something along the way.

Game Details


65th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)


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Number of Reviews: 5
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Demented and incomprehensible (mostly but not entirely in a bad way), December 23, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, says the proverb, dig two graves. It’s an admirably pithy way of foregrounding the corrosive effects of giving yourself over to the single-minded pursuit of vengeance, even if it does raise some practical questions (if you dig them before you leave on a journey, does that mean some poor schmuck of an undertaker has to haul two rapidly-moldering bodies all the way back to the graves? Seems inefficient!)

Sadly, I can’t tell you whether HOURS grapples with the psychological and logistical complexities raised by the adage, because bugs meant I failed in my quest to assassinate the Shogun of the game’s techno-magic empire; his legions of soldiers stymied me just for a moment, but “I need usable code to the right of =.” ended my journey right quick. I can relate that I did not excavate any tombs at the outset, and in fact launched into this quixotic adventure without much in the way of forethought at all. The protagonist is a soldier in the Shogun’s army (initially nameless, though later it’s revealed he’s called Jack so he probably should have stuck with him man-with-no-name schtick. At least he makes out better than the poor Shogun, whose parents called him Charlie) – sorry, lost the plot there for a moment, a soldier who’s told by a ghost that he’s gonna die, so he might as well assassinate his own leader.

Lest you think I’m bottom-lining this in too conclusory a fashion, here’s the passage in question:

According to an apparition you saw on the battlefield, you had less than a day to live.

“How?” you asked. After all, you didn’t feel any different from usual.

“It may not look like it, but it’s your injuries. You’ll die soon.”


(Jack is a master of JRPG-protagonist ellipses).

“You will die by dawn tomorrow.”

You pull an arrow from your arm and tear a piece of cloth off a corpse to use as a bandage.


“Nothing to say?”


(See? I told you!)

“Well, since you’ll die anyway… I have a little favour to ask of you in the last hours of your life. Could you help to assassinate the Shogun of your nation? I’ll keep you alive with magic until dawn, but that’s the most I can do.”

Jack is quickly teleported to the capital city, leaving him with only five hours to spare, so he immediately – rents a room in an inn (hopefully an option to invest in his 401(k) will be added to a post-Comp release). While you have the option to mope around until dawn kills you, you can also just march down to the Shogun’s castle and launch a frontal assault on his personal bodyguard of hardened mercenaries, which isn’t suicidal because Jack just remembered he has a magic sword that can kill people if you stab where they used to be – this makes for a badass fight scene though also makes me wonder why he doesn’t just head to the hospital where the Shogun was born and skip some steps. Anyway after interrogating the lone survivor about some heretofore-unmentioned magical soldiers, Jack heads to a slave auction where poor captives who seem to have X-Men style superpowers are tortured and sold to the highest bidder (I’m not sure what level of Econ Shogun Charlie got to in college, but his failure to establish a monopsony here feels like a major oversight). And then the aforementioned bug brought proceedings to a halt.

I’ve been making fun, but honestly, I was disappointed not to see where things ended. HOURS has the demented, incomprehensible energy of the kind of anime I occasionally was able to watch when I was a kid in the early 90s, where someone at school’s uncle’s cousin stayed up until midnight to tape a poorly-dubbed episode from two thirds of the way through the run of some show you’d never even heard of before and never would again, except the station wasn’t paying attention to the timings so it cut off right before the end so they could run a Thighmaster infomercial. I can’t say that it’s good, but I was carried along by its silly enthusiasm for a while, even as I was MST3king it in my head – and getting any kind of emotional response out of the audience is something a first-time author can be proud of. HOURS isn’t an especially auspicious starting point, no more so than a two-grave cemetery, but here’s hoping the author’s journey into IF creation comes to a better end than Jack’s quest did.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Haphazard and buggy, didn't enjoy it, October 14, 2022
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes, IF Comp 2022

In this choice-based game you play a soldier during the Shogun era of Japan (I think? It mentions Shoguns, but also your name is Jack) that includes among the armaments of the time: bows and arrows, swords and guns. And magic, don't forget the magic. Mortally wounded on the battlefield, though apparently to you it just feels like a flesh wound, an apparition appears before you and asks you to undertake a very short quest (you'll be dead by dawn they say) to assassinate the evil Shogun of your state.

What happens next? Its hard to tell. Forgive me for saying so, but the story feels like the ones I wrote as a 10-year old. I would write a sloppy, but moderately coherent page each day, then they next day when I came back to writing, whatever idea had popped into my head overnight would be the next part of the story, whether it flowed or not. There was more than once after I got to the end of one of the lengthy pages that I made a choice and was just bewildered by what happened next. It didn't seem to flow at all.

The writing and formatting are sloppy, the few choices available to you don't make sense all the time, or lead down very dissatisfying paths, and there are a few coding bugs in the game. I could say more but it would just be piling on.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Frenetic, with an interesting end, but uncontrolled, November 22, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

HOURS certainly jumps right in: you're a soldier who has had a mortal wound, and an apparition tells you, hey, come with me and kill the evil Shogun who's been controlling your mind. Hey, you're going to die anyway. A compelling start!

You have that choice of staying at home or actually going for revenge. And I think early on, the work established it would be a bit too on the nose: "stay in your room and die" is, well, direct, as is much of the dialogue. That said, I think it provides, relatively speaking, the best writing. It doesn't feel like it's trying too hard to induce excitement. This part is linear, where you have a different thought in each of your final hour. It seems quite focused, maybe because the author didn't have to worry about game states or branches or whatever. And of course the player can just undo things.

Once they do, the on-the-nose dialogue does come into play. We've all done it, where we've forced in where we need to. I like to refer to Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie's very polite spies, Tony and Control, for guidance. They spell things out a bit too much and are a bit too formal and still always getting to know each other. It's sort of sweet but also a reminder that we can often say things that don't need to be said, both in life and in literature, and that can ruin the mood. For instance, "poor soul... you've seen so many horrors in this battle... if only the kings, sitting in their ivory towers, understood what the common folk like you went through..."

As for the story? I'll bring up something else: the movie Streets of Fire. Things seemed to sprawl until they sort of clicked at the end. Like that movie, there appear to be a lot of anachronisms and cliches, and I think they're deliberate. The Shogun is 300 years old and still youthful, so something is going on here. You are Jack, and he is Charlie. You have swords alongside suits and communications devices, along with an old-fashioned slave auction. The chaos seems deliberate, but it quickly feels uncontrolled, even if everything is tied up at the end. And the ending I got with reaching the Shogun certainly brought things together--my guess is (Spoiler - click to show)the character is not the only person the spirit gave this offer to, and perhaps that is part of how the Shogun has retained their energy. Which is pretty heavy stuff! But sometimes with the helter-skelter writing, it felt more like you were in an express grocery line that suddenly shut down once the cashier had to go on a two-hour-overdue break.

Certainly the ending, along with the small detours I could take (talking to people versus immediately getting to the point) made me wonder if there was any way I could save time and avoid falling at the final hurdle. I did not find it. Nevertheless, the dialogues in the tavern helped bring out some of the story I didn't see when speed running so I didn't waste a single minute. There's obviously something supernaturally weird about the Shogun, and the story of how his henchmen pronounced him as blame-free was effective to me.

Perhaps HOURS wished to make the point that there was nothing you could do, or it went for the "it was all a dream"/Incident at Owl Creek angle. Perhaps it meant, deliberately, that pulling an arrow out of your flesh and not having it hurt was a sign things were already on the paranormal end, or you were already half-dead. That seems even likely. The contrast of reflecting on your family in your room and being forced to see the Shogun's past works well. But the less-than-tight dialogue and sometimes over-earnest narration got in the way of that. While you needed to be in a rush, unnecessary description that sprawled jumped back to where the narrative skipped a bit. That cut down both the urgency and any idea of how close I was, and it's a place where having a "you are here" style map, in the status bar or one click away, seems the sort of thing IFComp is built to allow and encourage. Even posting the time outside of the "go to your room and doe" ending or saying "you've lost track of time--you can only judge it by the sun/stars" would add to this. As-is, I felt hurried along, so the tension didn't build as it should have.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short Twine game with lots of worldbuilding, short time, October 27, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: less than 15 minutes

The name of this game comes from the fact that you have 5 remaining hours and each big action or scene takes up one.

This is a short Twine game, but it seems like it has the worldbuilding for a much larger story. There is an ancient, near-immortal Shogun (named (Spoiler - click to show)Charlie????) that enslaves and tortures special people who have Curses.

A weird apparition gives you a weapon to fight the Shogun (from searching, the weapon may be inspired by Sword Art Online). You can have various fights, or just remember all the deaths in your life and give up, etc.

The game feels a bit rushed or unfinished, with lots of plot threads left hanging and some little bugs (an option near the end wouldn't let me click it, for instance).

Overall, I think this just needs more time in the oven. The slavery in the game doesn't really seem to serve a purpose besides being a shorthand for suffering.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Kvetching Hour, November 26, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

This work feels more incomplete than the ones I’ve reviewed to date. I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but it feels like the work of someone at the front end of their authorship. There are gaps kind of across the board: in concept, narrative, use of interactivity and coding. Everyone that writes has been here, where ideas are clamoring to get out, but the tools are still blunt and clumsy. Using them is the only way to hone!

Conceptually, the setting is an interesting (fuedal?) Japanese, military magic/mutant exploitation jam. Depending on choices, you get more or less of the background and all of it is loosely sketched. The looseness is not a problem per se. Sometimes you accomplish more with detailed hints that allow the reader to do some mental lifting to fill in the gaps. The danger is that if the reader lifts TOO much, and you subsequently contradict their mental image it is jarring. The trick is knowing where to proscribe and where to sketch. For me, the use of swords and historical Japanese vocabulary crashed in my head once guns were mentioned (but never employed?) Or when a prominent character’s name was revealed as (Spoiler - click to show)“Charlie.”

Narratively, the protagonist is initially presented as resisting the call, only to then acquiesce. Of course, this Campbellian Construct is deeply ingrained in popular storytelling. But it isn’t free. In particular, the Refusal is the least interesting part of the Journey and really requires some selling by the author. I mean, we WANT the adventure. The longer and less convincingly the protagonist resists, the more the reader rejects them. Conversely, if their acceptance does not organically refute this refusal, the character comes across as petulant which is not endearing either. There are other unsatisfying narrative choices, like the protagonist having exactly the tools needed in the moment, without foreshadowing or establishing shots. Again, tone could help sell this, but not here.

Interactivity is all but missing. I think there is exactly one narratively important choice the player can make, and one of the alternatives is unattractive and unsatisfying. Instead there are a series of choices presented that at best provide more backstory and at worst have no impact on the narrative at all. Now there are a lot of ways to use interactivity: to align the reader with protagonist, to give the player agency in the narrative, to provide mental and emotional puzzles to grapple with. None of these are at play here. It devolves to page turning, which effectively shines a brighter light on the Concept and Narrative.

Technically, there is a bug where one potentially impactful decision puts the game is a stuck state without resolution. (Spoiler - click to show)If you attempt to buy a slave (to save their life presumedly), you get stuck on a page with a “markup contains mistake, need usable code right of =” error. Elsewhere, a potential choice seems unimplemented and stalls until you make a different choice. With a game this small and linear, it is hard to understand how playtesting the entire decision tree was not done before release.

I honor the ambition of the effort. As a player, this is not engaging, but as a first step there is plenty to learn from and build on.

Played: 10/13/22
Playtime: 15 minutes, multiple playthroughs, 2 endings, 1 game ending bug
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Intrusive
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

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