WHO AMONG US is a choice-based murder mystery/thriller set in post-Soviet eastern Europe. It’s fairly substantial for a choice-based piece, and took me 30-45 minutes to complete. Review after the jump.
The basic premise here is that the protagonist is a person with good reason to want to hide his past and identity, who has been lured to an abandoned building in Russia along with a bunch of other folks with shady backgrounds and obscure motives. Snow starts to fall. The electricity doesn’t work right. And then people start dying.
The action keeps up at a good pace — various revelations, gunshots in the dark, secrets and hidden objects, weapons changing hands, etc. — from start to finish.
The plot is fairly linear until the very end: that is, during most of the midgame, it was clear that choices I made were looping back to rejoin the same tree as if I’d made the opposite choice. Given how complicated the story is and how many nodes there are, this is probably fair enough. Making a fully branching story with this degree of complexity would be hard to handle. Something like ChoiceScript would have supported doing it in a way that tracked state depending on what choices you’d made in the midgame anyway, and I don’t see any evidence of that here.
But perhaps it doesn’t matter so much in this case. The chief effect of the interaction in this story, for me, was to force me to think and act on behalf of a character who really isn’t all that nice, but to feel a certain amount of concern for him.
There are a few careless spots in the implementation: a few typos, once or twice bits of text that looked like they might have been left over from some sort of planning document. All the same, this is one of the more sizable Twine pieces I’ve played, and proofing the whole thing must have been non-trivial.
As for the plot…
The plot often felt as though it was lifted from Clue: The Movie. Given that Clue: The Movie has three endings, this may not be as much of a spoiler as you think; but there is the collection of guests with the spotted pasts, the mysterious person who has invited them to come together, the power outages, the mounting body count.
Overall I enjoyed this piece more than I initially expected to. I wasn’t completely sold by the blurb or introduction, but I found once I’d started that I did want to keep going. The setting (abandoned Soviet buildings, talk about the risks involved in getting the local police involved, the heavy snowfall preventing anyone from leaving) put a bit of a twist on multi-death plot. The characters are not deeply developed as people, and the game refers to them throughout by their professions, which helps keep them straight but makes it harder to think of them as individuals rather than board-game pawns.
The game also toys with the player in a way that ratchets up the suspense: I kept trying to go down to the basement (and the game kept giving me opportunities to try this), but each time I was thwarted in what I wanted to do down there. There’s a specific trick here that choice-based games can do that parser games have a hard time with: explicitly show you a particular option again and again (in this case, “go to the basement”), in such a way that it starts to read as an obsession of your protagonist’s.
In general this is a type of story — lots of action, lots of plot twists — that one very seldom sees in IF. So that’s cool.