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About the StorySomething is bothering Hana. Can you work out what it is? Take the part of four important people in her life and guide their conversations. After each scene, peek at Hana's journal and find out how she felt about the things you said.
Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 2015 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Altgames are hard to write, as it is so completely easy to step over one of the many intricate narrow lines and overdo pathos, or reduce a situation to complete absurdity. Absurdity can work in a game's favor, but is its own delicate balancing act.
Hana Feels sidesteps much standard awkwardness with solid, honest writing, and by not casting the reader as the protagonist. Instead, the reader has several conversations with Hana, reacting as different people in her life. Hana then spells out her own reaction to the encounter in her journal based on the choices made.
I was moved, and I was compelled to replay four times to get the best ending. The thing I learned is (Spoiler - click to show)sometimes the worst thing you can do for a person in turmoil is to actively try to solve their problem for them. Listening without judgement is often the best course of action. I found the friend very hard to roleplay because there isn't a way for her not to get angry and push Hana too hard. (Game-wise, it seems you need to play the previous conversations leading up to this one well enough so Hana has enough positive reinforcement not to take the bad experience so poorly.)
Often a person is too close to another person to act successfully as their pseudo psychiatrist, and accepting that one can not always be a white knight is hard for any friend to swallow.
Hana has been acting unlike herself lately. Can you find out why?
We, the player, see Hana's feelings through the eyes of four different people. Each is meant to play a supportive role in her life, but their different personalities means that their support can express itself in very different ways. The catch: the only thing you can control is what other people say to Hana. Some of the NPCs would have been self-centred had we only been able to see from Hana's point of view, but being able to play through their perspectives - and seeing their doubts and awkwardness - made them much more sympathetic, even when they say things which would be frankly hurtful.
Hana's journal entries provide immediate feedback about your conversational choices. I found myself wondering how I could optimise outcomes for Hana - or, indeed, if it was even possible. But there's something to this, isn't there? No matter our intentions, our words of comfort can so easily be interpreted in the exact opposite of what we mean.
Depending on the branch you end up getting, the overall tone of Hana Feels could be either cautiously optimistic or achingly sad. Despite occasionally getting to experience Hana's perspective, she remains distant; we can only ever reach her indirectly, through the filter of other people.
Hana has been nominated for Best NPC in the XYZZY awards, a fact which delights me, even if I'm never really sure what makes an NPC 'good'. The most I can say, though, is that the emotional investment the PCs pay into their interactions with Hana pays off. Each character reacts believably and sensitively to what the other says. A comparable game would be Hannah Powell-Smith's Thanksgiving or Aquarium, in which conversation is fraught and intricate as a dance.
Hana Feels ultimately deals with some weighty stuff - Hana, after all, has to deal with a lot and she doesn't always do this in a healthy way - but there are areas of levity, and perhaps even hope.
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