My Father’s Long, Long Legs is a deeply creepy Twine game, a horror story centered on an unusual and startling premise. The structure seems linear at first: often in the early stages there is only one link forward, or there are multiple links but they control only the order in which you will read the same text. Later, things branch more, but in a way that still never gives the player a sense of strong agency. The experience is instead always of being drawn onward to explore even though there’s the strongest sense that you won’t like what you’re going to find. There’s no chance that you’re going to be able to control what that something is.
Sometimes text appears only after a delay — sometimes after so long a delay that you just start to feel that the story might be broken. Sometimes it becomes invisible except in a small, flashlight-illuminated circle around the mouse, forcing the player to move the cursor just to read what’s there. I tend to consider this kind of effect a gimmick, but in this particular case it works, keeping the reader constantly off balance. The text is brief enough, and comes in small enough snippets, that the need to scan past it doesn’t dramatically slow things up.
All this technical variety and aesthetic finesse is in service of a narrative that I found genuinely horrific. I am not, as a rule, a great fan of horror. But the horror of this particular story does not depend on exaggerated gore and never descends into a pornography of disgust.
It reads to me as a story of mental illness, of what mental illness is like to observe in one’s own family, of the effects it has on oneself and those one loves. The story is carefully observed and occasionally funny, and most of the really terrible things in it could actually happen, or be understood as a metaphor for things that actually happen.
Which is much, much creepier than zombies.