Review: Cactus Blue Motel

(Good writing, well-executed, great visual atmosphere. Unsurprising, middle-of-the-road for the most part. Saved by its touching and recognisable finale. Cactus Blue Motel - Details (

Roadtrip Pause

Exhausted after a long drive through the desert, you and your girlfriends pull up to a dilapidated motel. A good night’s sleep will get you ready for the next day of driving and visiting the sights.

But then the neon cactus flower blooms, and the Cactus Blue Motel proves to be very enticing. Maybe you’ll prolong your stay. Just for a day or two…

The visual presentation of this game is spot-on. Clean white-on-black text with a clear layout, and the links presented in a neon-blue, like the billboard out front. It keeps the player aware of the closed-off location that is the motel, with nothing but dark desert surrounding it.

When the plot took a turn into supernatural thriller territory, I was unimpressed at first. I liked it, sure, but it was a bit too reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining to get me deeply involved. Creepy motel with a mind of its own doesn’t want the characters to leave. Check. Age-old guests and employees assure you that the motel is the best place to be. Check. Mirages of inviting amenities luring the guests to while away their time for just a bit longer. Check.

The tour of the rooms where you meet the other motel-guests was very promising, with a few memorable characters and scenes. The conversations did get a bit repetitive over time, and I found it hard to distinguish between personalities when their answers to questions about themselves and the motel were so much alike.

The unlocking of a previously inaccesible room provides some much-needed forward tempo, when a talking Jackalope (yes, a talking Jackalope,) asks your help with his investigations into the nature of the motel. It turns out he’s sending you on a series of undisguised fetch-quests. I like fetch-quests, but when solving them amounts to a sequence of overclued clicks, my sense of urgency and agency is quite diminished.

Fortunately, Cactus Blue Motel is saved by its heartfelt and (for me) relatable finale. Wrestling free of the Peter Pan fase, refusing to keep clinging to childhood certainties, facing the adult world with all its complexities, dangers, and scary opportunities can be a painful process. The metaphor of steeling your will to escape from the soothing motel (or refusing to, and staying behind…) landed true with me. It helped me remember the 20yo kid I once was, and helped me assure him that it turned out not so bad after all.


One of the earliest Twine games that I gave a 9 or 10 rating to when it was in competition. I thought the story did young adult angst really well, reminding me of my own young adulthood. And as you mention, the graphic design is also crisp and professional…


I played this one years ago. Don’t remember everything but I think I’m one of the only players who chose to remain in the end, which really changes the tone of the story, haha. I didn’t even look at the other ending. It’s odd because it’s the only choice that really matters in the story, but at the same time you’re clearly not supposed to pick the remain option. Dunno if it’s explicitly called the bad ending or anything, but by the game’s messaging it’s not really meant to be a happy one, even if the protagonists are “happy” with their situation…

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Some see it as a viable option.

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