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A Calling of Dogs

by Arabella Collins

2020

(based on 10 ratings)
5 member reviews

About the Story

You don't know where you are, or how you got here, but you do know you've been kidnapped. Trapped in a cage, running out of options. What will you do?

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: Ink
IFID: Unknown
TUID: to4jlgxhov4a5yhn

Awards

63rd Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(0)
4 star:
(1)
3 star:
(5)
2 star:
(3)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A visceral experience, October 8, 2020
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
I suspect that this piece could be retraumatizing for some, so please note that this is an uncensored portrayal of violence, both emotional and physical.

I have to admit that when I first loaded up this story I was convinced I was going to hate it, and it didn't help that there's a few glaring spelling mistakes in the first few minutes. The prose was also jarring at first, not so much because of the profanity (apropos of the situation), but because of the often aggressively stilted manner in which the victim's thoughts are voiced. Punctuation is also inconsistent, with missing periods (sometimes) and random capitalization or lack thereof; intentional or not, it helped elicit the raw emotions the authors were trying to convey.

Beyond the words themselves, I'm impressed with how well I was drawn into this character and being in the moment with her. While I've never been kidnapped, I have been held at gunpoint, and reading this brought back a loud whisper of the terror I felt that day. The pacing is effective and the choices feel raw and honest.

One more comment on the game structure below the spoiler:

(Spoiler - click to show)I am quite grateful that the only possible endings appear to be positive (relatively speaking). I don't think I could have coped otherwise.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't like it at first, then got into the suspense, but the ending disappointed, November 19, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 30 minutes
So I think I'm coming to learn something about myself: I don't like IF that starts in media res if, whether through flashbacks or clues in the writing, you are never given enough context to help anchor you to the story. I don't need long, detailed backstories, but I need something to help ground me. I don't feel like I got that in this piece. Eventually, the pure atmosphere of it did hook me a bit, but I feel it could have been much better.

You play a girl, kidnapped and imprisoned in a large dog cage. Your choices are largely how you decide to interact with your kidnapper as you attempt to plan an escape. This isn't my favorite kind of environment to be thrown in to, so the lack of any information about who these people were really left me confused and disconnected to the story. Eventually, just the sheer tension of the situations did grab me and made me eager to see what the next turn would be. However, the ending (at least the one I got) was (Spoiler - click to show)so abrupt and out-of-the-blue, with no denouement, that I felt cheated out of a satisfying resolution to all that tension. I needed more.

Your mileage may vary.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Intensely unpleasant (but in a good way!), December 6, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020
So this is quite a good game that I really did not enjoy in the slightest. It starts in medias res, but the premise is immediately grabby: your character has been kidnapped by a serial killer with (thankfully) unknown predilections, and must try to manipulate him into creating an opening that would allow her to fight back and escape the murderdungeon. The prose makes this premise no idle backdrop: it’s sweaty, immediate, and immersive, planting you inside the main character’s head in the middle of a deeply, traumatic event – and it doesn’t let up over the course of the days you spend in the basement, until you reach the incredibly violent climax.

ACoD doesn’t wallow in awfulness, let me be clear: there are ways of doing this setup that would objectify the main character’s suffering, or that would linger on the awful things the killer has and will do to her, and the game steers clear of them. And I got to a “happy” ending that was quite grisly, per the prominent content warnings, but did allow the protagonist to get out. I wouldn’t say it’s a tasteful take on the in-the-den-of-a-killer genre, because what would that even mean, but it’s not out to purposefully alienate the player or push any buttons just for the sake of getting a response. In fact, in my playthrough at least, the killer, while clearly plotting something awful, never made any overt moves towards violence, and stayed relatively polite throughout. The violence came from the protagonist, who in addition to envisioning the awful fate awaiting her, also vividly fantasizes about wreaking bloody revenge against her captor (and then, of course, actually does so). This is an interesting reversal because it puts the violence more under the control of the player, or at least the player character. It also highlights that while the killer presents a bit of a social puzzle to solve, as you try to figure out how to build his empathy and lull him into letting his guard down, so too is the protagonist something of a conundrum.

She’s by no means a blank slate, and there are hints of backstory sprinkled through the game. They’re appropriately vague and allusive – she’s hardly going to be putting her memoirs in mental order under the circumstances – but I found them the most intriguing bit of the game. There’s one that I think provides the title for the game, where she reflects on the way attractive women get cat-called, while unattractive ones (like her, the implication goes) are called dogs, which triggers her towards anger. She also seems very comfortable self-consciously playing a role and suppressing her actual feelings so that others will see her differently, so much so that for the first few minutes of the game I half-thought that this might be a really, really intense S&M roleplay session. And while being fixated on violent escape makes sense in the circumstances, my impression at least was that she was far more likely to dwell on inflicting (deserved!) harm on the killer than on the possibility of being able to get away and live. These hints weren’t paid off in the ending that I got, unfortunately, because while I obviously was invested in trying to help her escape, I was more interested in figuring out what was going on with the protagonist.

Implementation-wise, there are a few stray typos and possibly-intentional comma splices. I did find a few places where the choices went wonky or there appeared to be continuity errors (the options for what to eat for lunch sometimes repeated oddly, and in the first sequence, the main character starts referring to a cookie that I don’t think had been previously mentioned). But on the whole things were solid, and the choices really feel like they have weight, forcing you to sweat as you realize that one wrong move could have catastrophic consequences. So all told this is a well-put-together entry in the Comp, with more going on than it needed to have and strong writing that really puts you in the situation. As I mentioned in my opening, I very much did not enjoy it because this is not my preferred genre or style in the slightest, but that’s on me – and of the number of games in the Comp with somewhat adjacent themes, ACoD seems to me to be the strongest so far.

See All 5 Member Reviews

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