Number three, Etiolated Light - ~~~
First of all, the atmosphere-building of this game is elite. I really did feel as if I was transported to a dark, lonely island in the middle of nowhere. And although some moments in this game were described as bright, I still imagined the character I was playing to be in an eternal darkness. That darkness contrasted with the white, shining mansion we’re forced to stay in. The prose is clear and concise, the main character has emotions that the player can also feel, and the overall mood of the game seems to transport the player right into the story. Not to mention the amazing imagery, symbolism, and powerful phrases being dropped left and right. It was a great experience.
Guess what, kid? You’ve just saved your family! How did you save them? Well, you just sold yourself away to be married to another child that you’ve only had a two-second interaction with…
The narrative begins by telling you that your parents are poor and gives you chance to pick the possible addictions that keep them poor. Becoming betrothed to the other child named Cessair is how they used you to get money from Cessair’s wealthy parents. When you’re older, you complete the marriage ceremony and are forced into a white mansion on an island surrounded by the ocean. Alone with your new spouse. Things start to feel awry to you as you notice butterflies being caught in webs, a sister named Lola dying from a strange illness, an elusive gardener wandering the property, and of course, the weirdest thing of all, your spouse who always seems to be sickly and is still getting sicker. After a few night terrors involving a giant spider, footsteps in the house, your spouse being eaten, and finally a nightmare that trumps all of them when the massive spider pleads with you to sign a contract with them, our character finally decides that they’ve had enough of this. It’s time to find the secrets of the house and hopefully escape with your soul still intact. But is that still possible?
Here are some random thoughts that arose during my playthrough
- What are we signing? Nobody seems too enthusiastic about this. Not even the contractors.
- Why does a wealthy family want their child to marry into a poorer family? 30 minutes later - Ah, it makes sense now.
Cessair is the butterfly? Symbolism?? Being devoured by a two-headed spider? Her parents???
- My character only remembers either their time in this home or their time as a kid before signing that contract. Since that day, I think that contract effectively stopped their life in place…
- I think it’s gotta be me. I don’t want Garrine, Cessair, or a future child to suffer.
There are a few typos and places where certain lines of text are missing while they remain in others. I also wish that there was a guide on how to get more endings. I volleyed between Endings 9, 6, and a few others, with no idea how to get more. But then again, I’m not the most intuitive person so there might have been an extra path I missed. I also would have appreciated more clarity between time skips and a general ballpark about how much time had passed, but that omission was possibly due to service the atmosphere. A save button also would have been nice haha.
Writing-wise, I think that it would’ve been nice to have the player be able to spend more time with the characters so that they could slowly unravel their backstories over time, but I recognize that Spring Thing time constraints can be a killer to slow narrative pacing so it’s excusable.
I liked it a lot! Surreal games can often be a hit or miss with me, but as a fan of horror (especially psychological), this game was very enjoyable. I would recommend that anyone play in a cleaner state.