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About the StoryI train to fight angels in a monastery by the sea.
TW: Suicidal ideation, ableism, abuse, possible epilepsy trigger.
9th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Award - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Implementation - 2013 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 2
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The game isn't too long, about half an hour. There's a lot of surreal elements in it, which I thought were brilliant: it made the whole experience very powerful and vivid. The prose feels raw and emotional, which I understand seems to be Porpentine's writing style; it works great here, because the game focuses on trauma and its consequences, and it really makes you feel what the character feels. Sometimes there's weird details thrown in, and they never fail to make the text more evocative. Sound and animations are sometimes used to complement the atmosphere, and I thought it worked well when they were used.
Also, gameplay is very cleverly used to convey emotions (that bit where (Spoiler - click to show)you just can't stop crushing the angel was absolutely brilliant). Finally, I found the final sequence very smart and powerful ((Spoiler - click to show)the game where you must be the last one bleeding, so to speak - it felt like a weird cross between Marienbad and Chuck Palahniuk).
There were also a few flaws in the game; for instance, it feels kind of disjointed, and I'm not sure I understood how everything fit together in the end ((Spoiler - click to show)the basement in the first location with the bottles containing your faces is interesting imagery, but I still don't really see the connection to what I felt was the main theme of the game). Also, Porpentine's distinctive style, of raw, no-bullshit sentences and emotions, means that sometimes it feels a bit sore or like it's missing its target and fails to evoke anything to you, or evokes the wrong thing - I guess it's a risk to take. (One of the things that really didn't work for me is (Spoiler - click to show)the use of the term "your nemesis" in the final sequence: in my head, this particular word feels overly dramatic, and I associate it with James Bond villains - I get that the intent was to stress that this character was absolute evil to you, but at that point I was so into the story that I didn't need a reminder that he was evil: a simple "him" or "the bastard" would have been more effective than "nemesis", which I felt made the prose go a bit over-the-top).
But anyway, this game worked very well for me for most of the things it attempted to do, and is really a very good and powerful game.
On to Howling Dogs!
It seems Porpentine, when not in the mood for blatant puke-inducing passages, is able of showcasing fine word craftsmanship. The short poetic prose is quite excellent, and the metaphors creatively apt. Each verse pulsates through the screen vividly, each given proper screen estate as you usually don't find in static poems.
There are quite a few game-like aspects -- the few lock-and-key puzzles, a few tasks to complete -- and a few meta-game aspects -- like chosing this or that setting or your personal features -- but the poem really shines in the writing and message.
On the whole, an enjoyable renunion of fine presentation choices (including the loveable font, font effects and sound effects). Even though what it presents us is a bleak story of (Spoiler - click to show)rape, abortion and dehumanization. Poetry that matters, after all.
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