I’ve been playing more of the games from this year’s Spring Thing. (You too can play! And vote! And review, if you wish!)
Ms. Lojka is a horror Twine about a beastly supernatural killer in New York City, with some references to Babel and Rasputin, backed by some (I thought) rather effective illustrations, as well as whispery sound effects and music. Meanwhile, the text appears on the screen as though typed. I typically find that effect annoying and slow, and Ms. Lojka was not quite an exception, but it does use the interesting conceit that the narrator’s typing becomes more error-prone as the story goes on and they become less stable. At the end, it wound up in a loop of repeating text that I couldn’t seem to stop, which was narratively appropriate, so I assume that is the intended ending; but it’s just possible there’s an alternative outcome.
I didn’t respond as much to the content as to the presentational effort. Ms. Lojka mingles hints of mental illness and supernatural or mystical powers, and it finds some creepy images to express those ideas, but ultimately felt like a combination of fairly standard tropes to me.
Astrid Dalmady’s Tangaroa Deep tells the story of a deep sea dive, and of the disturbing unknown under the ocean surface. It’s kind of a gambling piece: the deeper you go, the more danger you’re in, but the more interesting your discoveries, so it’s up to you to decide when you want to cut your losses and ascend. (Perhaps we should think of this as an alternate version of the gauntlet: you can bail at any time and get a happy ending for many parts of the story, unless you push your luck too far, in which case…)
Creepy, and with nods to many other works from Lovecraft and Sunless Sea to Lifeline-esque conversation games (except that in this case you’re the Taylor character out in dangerous territory).
Sisters of Claro Largo is a bilingual Twine piece by David Marchand (When Acting As A Wave). I played in English, but there was also a link for Castellano. It takes an expansive approach to storytelling: each time you click a link, that sentence expands with extra detail, growing the story. Sometimes you’re expanding the end, sometimes the beginning, sometimes a bit in the middle; often you’re gaining just a phrase per click. When the narrator remembers an early event that influenced later outcomes, you jump back to fill that event in at its proper place in the narrative. I was reminded of NJ Lowe’s writing on holographic story.
At the end, the situation reverses and you’re removing items instead (a little reminiscent of Detritus, which also inverts its core mechanic). Inventive, but also quite constrained and linear—I didn’t see any points where it felt like the player’s choice could alter the outcome, and very often there was only one link available at a time anyway.