Dialogue: A Writer’s Story Demo (Tea Powered Games)

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Dialogue: A Writer’s Story is the tale of Lucille, a woman who is stuck on a novel, and who goes to her friends and relatives to find inspiration and work past her difficulties. The full game is not yet available, but a demo is free to download. My remarks here are therefore necessarily based just on the two scenes provided in that demo.

Dialogue has some aspects of a visual novel — in the screenshot shown above, Lucille and her brother are talking, and Lucille periodically gets timed opportunities to choose dialogue responses. All of the text is fully voice acted. There is a bar that shrinks as you run out of time to answer, as in Telltale conversation sequences, though there are also some additional dialogue powers that come into play and allow you to gain alternate dialogue lines partway through the timed session.

At the end of your conversation with Lucille’s brother, you get a little summary of how the game thinks the conversation went: were you pushy? neutral? I have to admit that its understanding of what I was doing and why didn’t really match my own.

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Delphina’s House (Alice Grove)

delphinaDelphina’s House is another of several ParserComp games that I didn’t have time to get to while the competition was actually in progress. It was widely liked by the comp judges, and came in 3rd overall and 2nd in the technical category. It’s the story of an imaginative little girl who is performing a sort of treasure hunt (mostly of the imagination) before moving out of her house for the last time. I found this premise mildly charming but not all that gripping; I was more interested in the puzzle construction, which was effective.

The core mechanic centers on shifting from one universe to another: an object that appears as tiny jinglebells in one imaginary universe might appear as a collection of marbles in another, for instance. This is strongly reminiscent of Dual Transform, but whereas Dual Transform requires you to move through and understand all its spaces, Delphina’s House uses the transformation strategy to make its game more forgiving. There are three major puzzles, each of which can be solved in any of the three universes: you can pick which variation you find easiest and solve it there.

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Spoken IF: Codename Cygnus, Multi Path Audio, Mayday: Deep Space

cygnusCodename Cygnus is interactive radio drama: there are voice-acted scenes with music and sound effects. The premise is that you’re a secret agent, and you can download several missions; each mission is itself divided into smallish episodes, so when you start something, you’re not committed to a long session. It’s highly genre-determined, trope-y stuff, where you’re meeting bad guys with foreign accents across a gaming table, or slipping truth serum into someone’s drink.

Periodically the narrator asks you which of two options you’d like to pursue in order to continue your mission, with specific keywords for you to speak (“Athletic? Or Clever?”). You can either speak the next word or tap the option on-screen, but the system is designed so that you can play entirely hands-free, without holding or looking at your device. As with Choice of Games titles, your actions may determine character stats rather than causing immediate narrative branching; and in fact in Codename Cygnus a lot of your choices (“Athletic / Clever?” “Hostile / Charismatic?”) are explicitly asking which of your stats you want to use and enhance. Because you’re not viewing the text, the screen consists purely of a stats readout, plus controls to scrub or replay audio sections you’re currently listening to. It’s simple but attractive.

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