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Cactus Blue Motel

by Astrid Dalmady profile

2016

(based on 64 ratings)
12 member reviews

About the Story

Somewhere between New Mexico and Arizona, three friends were driving through a barren desert of red rocks, and wide empty skies. It was the end of summer, the end of high school, the end of so many things.

And then they found the Cactus Blue Motel.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2016
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: 7e699ifb6u3767yr

Awards

Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting; Winner, Best NPCs - 2016 XYZZY Awards

3rd Place - 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2016)

36th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)


News

Cactus Blue Motel V2 January 30, 2017
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Editorial Reviews

The Breakfast Review
One issue with a lot of morality games is that temptation is so clearly temptation, and so distant from the player, that it's laughably easy to simply pick the right answer no matter how the protagonist has been characterised. Here, the temptation is more subtly drawn, and even though there seems to be hardly any assertion that we are tempted, we wonder if, after all, staying might be the right thing to do ... and in the end, it really is up to the individual player to decide whether one ending is any better than another. Well done.
See the full review

Rock Paper Shotgun
IF Only: All about Setting
In common with several of her previous pieces, itís playing with the awe-inspiring and the mystical that underlies reality. But the dialogue goes deeper, the characters are more developed, the pacing more confident.
See the full review

Giant Bomb
IFComp 2016: Five Authors and Six Games
Itís a magical realist story about the end of adolescence, feeling unmoored from a longtime group of friends, and the uncanny feeling of being in a strange place with a group of people you think you know very well.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(23)
4 star:
(30)
3 star:
(8)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 12
Write a review


Most Helpful Member Reviews


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
I was there, November 7, 2016
by streever (America)
This piece transported me to my own confused teenage years. Trying to sort out my future, scared of adulthood, pushed by forces beyond my control, I desperately could have used two close friends, a road trip, and a magical motel.

Strengths include fantastic writing throughout, a sense of place, strong characters, and a powerful voice from a talented writer.

Weaknesses: Where is my soundtrack? What is the url for the motel website? How can I visit here? Why isn't there more? Will you write more? Can I subscribe to your email list?

OK, so maybe those aren't actually 'weaknesses' in the commonly accepted meaning of the word, but come on, let me visit the Cactus Blue! :)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
roadtrip, conspirations, twilight zone, October 7, 2016
by namekuseijin (anywhere but home)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2016
3 girls on a roadtrip stop by an old motel in the middle of the desert to spend the night. Once the neon flower is lit, the hotel comes to life with a plethora of eccentric characters reeking of nostalgic times. Should the girls move ahead, should they stay? Do they even have reasons to go on? What's going on? I thought it might hide some horror behind it, but instead it treads along a Twilight Zone path.

You know, the setting and writing are pretty solid and really captivated me, despite being a bit too much of the short prose style and link-exhausting side. But then, as I kept playing to see where it leads, there it comes, tucked away in the literal middle of the road, blunt as a slap on the face: (Spoiler - click to show)the scene where they're walking to the phonebooth and they pretty much SCREAM OUT LOUD THAT ALL THIS FANTASY SETTING IS REALLY JUST AN EXCUSE FOR YET ANOTHER GAY COMING OUT SIMULATOR. just like Birdland last year and the myriads of twine output that make up most of IF these days. guess this is what we get for decades of puerile dungeon spelunking abuse...

5 stars despite it, thanks to gripping, vivid setting, lush presentation with fine typography and color schemes, some memorable characters, fine dialogues and storytelling, good dosage of drama, comedy and conspiracy... I don't know what to tell without giving out much, only that this is a must-play and well worth it.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Some places are like people: some shine and some don't, September 7, 2020
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
When I played Night Guard / Morning Star last year I noted that I was captivated by the writing and atmosphere and turned off by the multitude of endings. I feel similarly after playing Dalmady's Cactus Blue Motel and I'll dive further into the reasons why.

The general conceit of interactive fiction is that you are the primary character. The playing character may be a cipher, such as in Zork, or a specific character, such as Maria Elena here. Regardless, you are making decisions for that person.

In a pure puzzler, the author hopes to engage the player in the game's objective. In a comedy, the author hopes to make the player laugh, and character development may or may not be necessary. Drama, I suspect, is the hardest genre for IF authors, as they must make the player care about the characters, unwaveringly, for the entire game. The CYOA format highlights this difficult task, as there are no real puzzles to distract the player.

Dalmady succeeds, as usual, in building a fun atmosphere with compelling characters. A mystical desert motel where time is squishy is ripe for intrigue. But the game's format, unfortunately, usurps the development of Maria Elena. Eight endings are written for Maria Elena and the decisions that impact those endings are based on how you interact with her two friends, Lex and Becky, throughout the game. There are no puzzles and nothing to deduce, so all of the game's real choices are impacted by Maria Elena herself.

For my first playthrough, I made choices for Maria Elena by projecting my desires for her character. Subsequent playthroughs to find different endings required me to project different desires onto her. This requires me, essentially, to divorce myself from how I feel about our protagonist. I am no longer rooting for her, but rooting for myself to find different endings. Dalmady sidesteps the awkwardness a bit by making these choices not impact the course of the plot or even much of the game's dialogue; however, this in turn has the side effect of the eight endings feeling somewhat arbitrary (not to mention a chore to find via repetitive restarts), and Maria Elena's relationships wind up seeming so fragile that a couple of fairly innocuous comments drastically changes the course of their lives.

In the end, the focus on these three characters and their fates detracted from the game's best character, the motel. Such is the bane of CYOA: the focus dedicated to plot branches necessarily gives everything else less importance.

See All 12 Member Reviews

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Recommended Lists

Cactus Blue Motel appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Cactus Blue Motel:

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Settings of 2016 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2016 which you think might be worth considering for Best setting in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not mentioned here...

The game(s) that changed your mind about Twine by MathBrush
I've seen many people discuss their feelings for Twine. Many of them say that they didn't think it was a 'real' platform at first, but then certain games changed them (see, for instance, the commentary in "IF is Dead. Long Live IF") For...

IF about human beings by namekuseijin
I'm looking for IF about human beings and human struggles in a more or less common setting. No zombies, vampires, orcs, demons, robots, slimy aliens, gods or monsters of any kind; just plain human beings please. Yes, I know many works...

See all polls with votes for this game

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This is version 5 of this page, edited by dastridly on 21 November 2016 at 1:59pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item