Keepsake describes itself as “a short interactive story about vengeance and its consequences.” As usual, commentary follows the jump.
It’s very hard to discuss Keepsake meaningfully without giving spoilers, so I’ll stick to a couple of brief observations before the spoiler space.
One: this is a tiny and easy game, in which I noticed no significant bugs, though there were a couple of typos. Playing it won’t take too long, if you’re interested at all.
Two: there’s a consistent, if not very difficult, puzzle concept at work, which makes the piece feel reasonably unified.
Three: the tag line is a bit misleading. “Keepsake” isn’t really about vengeance or about getting away with a crime, though the game’s precipitating incident is vengeance-related. Mostly what it has to offer is some peculiar imagery and some set-piece moments that are more interesting than their frame.
I had mixed feelings, but Keepsake is so short that, if you don’t care for it, you won’t have lost much time.
Some years ago now on ifMUD, someone mentioned the idea of writing a game in which time goes backwards, as in Memento. Adam Cadre muttered darkly, went away, and deleted his WIP — because he was working on exactly this, but felt that it would be ruined if the central gimmick were too obvious, and in his judgment the game didn’t have enough else to offer.
“Keepsake” is an explicit nod to Memento, and it is pretty much limited to that one concept. The puzzles with the fixer, the old man, and the little girl are visually memorable and allow the player to reconstruct the protagonist’s path through the game world; but does it matter? What story is told by these details? What is revealed about the protagonist, his victim, the nature of the vengeance or the reason it was committed in the first place? That the protagonist is capable of small acts of kindness alongside murder, yes, I suppose; but so is almost anyone, frankly. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hitler had occasionally picked up a dropped article for a lady on a train, or Charles Manson now and then refrained from kicking a puppy. This is really not enough to form the basis of a story or a character sketch.
Then, too, by the time I got to the end, I’d already figured out what was going on sufficiently that the epilogue didn’t come as a riveting surprise; even the form of the epilogue felt like a bit of a lift from Braid, except that in this case seeing the events in the forward direction didn’t significantly change what they meant.
“Keepsake” is beta-tested, it’s reasonably clued, it has a unique puzzle concept that ties in with its fiction, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome; it checks off several of the boxes on the way to being a good game. I just wish there were more of a point to it.
PS: for an alternate spin on the whole backwards-time puzzle concept, see Beanstalk the and Jack.