Fear of Twine (Richard Goodness, lectronice, PaperBlurt)


Summary: A slice of life with your lemonade?

[spoiler]This game simulates, day by day, a week or so in the life of a person who works at a lemonade shop and is otherwise mostly interested in enjoying a drug called zest. (Which Google tells me, is in fact another name for speed, though I’ve never heard it, and it didn’t look like that’s what it was supposed to stand for here.)

So you have, as is commonly the case with these simulation things, a limited range of options. You can decide, more or less, how clean to be, how high to get, how far to indulge your spiritual side. These decisions seem somewhat to affect what happens to you, and from time to time some little event occurs — at work, or on the way to work — to break the monotony, but not very much.

Within the rather narrow limits of what this is attempting, it’s neatly done: there are some simple but appropriate graphics, some distinctive text effects, and the writing conveys a sense of character, particularly in the small incidents that from time to time occur. The PC was, for me, neither revolting nor fascinating, and the story developed just enough to make me want to play through a couple of times to see where it could be pushed. But the replay value is, in the end, pretty low. That’s partly because, whatever way you push this, as far as I can see nothing very dramatic will happen. And it’s partly because of the sheer time that is taken waiting for text (which becomes, rapidly, very familiar) to be gradually revealed — one doesn’t appear to be able to take a short cut, and many times I was left watching all-too-familiar words appear slowly on the screen. And at this point the monotony becomes, well, monotonous, so having played through to a few different endings, I gave up.

The “slice of life” genre is a tough one. The mere simulation or replication of the every day seems to serve little useful function: at best it manages to fall just a bit short of the mediocre. For me, these pieces need either to transcend the everyday — to take it and transform it by showing not its mediocrity but its vitality (I can’t think of an IF example — but think Mrs Dalloway, or, I suppose, Ulysses) or to build up modest assumptions precisely in order to play hard against them, by pushing the action in a way that is either dramatic or surreal (think Shade, or 9.05). One might, I suppose, include parody as a third approach, and perhaps that is what this game was going for; but it’s hard indeed to pull it off: occasional flashes of mild humour do not cut it.

So the question I’m inclined to ask the authors of a game like this, which does none of those things, is: why? Why did you write this, and why do you think I should spend time with it. As things stand, I’m guessing the answer would be a pretty modest one: it’s got some somewhat cool graphics and text, a couple of moments that might make you smile, and there are worse ways of spending quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. And I guess, judged by that standard (modest as it is), Zest succeeds.[/spoiler]