I’ve been playing with a few things on the enormous to-be-played list from a few days ago, though of course there are so many things on there that it will take quite some time to get through.
Braid: I have now finished. It’s of course a masterpiece in the game-play area, and doesn’t need me to say so. I usually have a really hard time getting through platformers, since I don’t have the right combination of patience and skill. As advertised, Braid minimizes the amount of frustration involved in playing a platformer while offering a diverse range of genuinely interesting puzzles; and while there were still a handful of these that were too finicky and that I would have been happy to skip, nonetheless it was the best time I’ve ever had with the format.
As far as storytelling goes, it’s a bit more confused: there is some really intriguing material in the final level, in which the meaning of events is revised and reinterpreted in a way that naturally connects to the gameplay itself; and even before that point, many elements of the game are framed so that the play is metaphorically significant.
But what I get out of all that is not really a story (good luck finding two people who even agree on what happens in Braid) so much as a series of meditations on some of the common problems in relationships and self-definition. Some of it’s thought-provoking, some a little on the obvious side. Admittedly I usually find this kind of content under ask.metafilter’s human relations tag rather than in a game, and I’m generally encouraged when a game branches out to incorporate new material. So hooray for that.
Nettestadt Troll was recommended to me as an example of good Ren’Py work, and I’m afraid I didn’t get nearly as far with that. The premise is uncomfortable to start with: girl gets abducted and raped but discovers she kind of likes it and/or falls in love with her captor. This is a fantasy to be found in many forms of literature from Menander to a certain genre of 1970s romance novel, but it’s something that would need to be handled with a fair amount of psychological sensitivity in order to be a story I want to read. Otherwise, what you have is basically porn for a specific audience.
I wasn’t crazy about the art or the prose quality, either, and the pacing left me kind of bored during the first few chapters; as for the world-building, it’s extremely vague and careless, featuring both alchemists and telegrams, feudal hierarchies and shops with “receptionists”.
I did stick with it for a while, though, in case this was a case of poor writing craft combined with a strong storytelling sensibility. Unfortunately, once there started to be choices to make, they were often on the level of random and incidental choice: e.g., what dish do I make for my supper while waiting for the troll to come home and rape me again? It’s a bit less inane than Dream Day Wedding, but the choose-your-own whatever aspects display the same lack of significant agency that I complained about there.