It’s time for Le Grand Guignol! I feel much better about reviewing the games that were allowed more than three hours, because seriously, how can you critique a three hour game? It’s like the authors are competing on Chopped except their baskets are full of Halloween crap and they’ve got to program the oven before they can cook with it.
Also, I should have mentioned this in my original post, but the reviews may have major spoilers, so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.
[spoiler]This is a game about grief that turns to horror. You are one of five friends who take a trip to a cabin in the woods to scatter the ashes of another friend who recently passed away. Upon starting a new game, I immediately noticed the custom CSS. It’s simple and pleasing to look at, and I don’t know about everyone else, but I find I enjoy twine games a lot more when there’s custom styling.
The writing is well done and evokes the appropriate mood. Sentences are efficient and never flowery. Some are short. Some incomplete. Strong words do the heavy lifting. This is writing I like, though maybe with a few nits to pick. For example: “You rub your temple with your hand…” What else would you rub your temple with? The phrase “with your hand” can be cut. As far as typos go, sentences ending with a link often lacked a period.
Some twine games allow you to click all the links on a page before continuing, making the hub page feel like a repetitive chore. In games like those, I’m railroading through links. Here, you learn that you’ll likely only get to choose one link, so you become more thoughtful about what link you click. I like how it had the added effect of keeping the game moving.
Unfortunately, this meant that I had to wait until my second playthrough to discover that my choices didn’t have much impact on the story. On my first run, my favorite moment was the game of Never Have I Ever, as I hadn’t yet realized that there were right and wrong answers, and I thought I was building the protagonist’s backstory in a really cool way. Oh well.
The more I played, the more I realized that the premise didn’t work for me. At one point, it’s revealed that you helped Laurel commit suicide (you’re a medical professional and you got her pills to overdose with), but for some reason there wasn’t enough time for a suicide note? She was dying from a terminal illness; she’d have plenty of time and a reason to get her affairs in order, but her last request was written years earlier? Also, given how much the friends now hate each other, why wouldn’t you all call it off?
The most egregious offense was how it’s heavily suggested that one of the guys had sexually assaulted Laurel in the past. Why on God’s green earth would she have wanted him there scattering her ashes? She wouldn’t. Everyone else should have known better. This all added up to a lot of forcing-the-plot just to bring five people who hate each other into the same room so that the murders can happen.
Once the murders do start, the story amps up the excitement thanks in large part to the quality of the writing. I was a little thrown when the game asked me to finger a suspect when I didn’t feel I had been given enough evidence, as I was under the impression that I’d end up with a bad ending for a false accusation, but that turned out not to be the case. I do like how the ending tied back into Laurel’s last request in such a creepy way.
Overall, I enjoyed this one and would say it’s a strong contender to win in its category.
P.S. for twine authors: if you take away the restart button, at least put one at the end!
(Edited to organize my thoughts a little better and correct grammar, because I really shouldn’t be writing reviews when it’s late and I’m really sleepy.)[/spoiler]