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Nowhere Near Single

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Number of Reviews: 2
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Nice, long story, but forced my hand too much for my liking, November 20, 2015
This game takes a while to complete, about an hour and a half, which I think makes it the longest Twine game I've ever played. I must admit I wasn't too invested in the storyline; the game deals with being a female pop star and being in a polyamorous relationship, which aren't topics that I'm too familiar with: the former is pretty broad, saying that you are in a stable of other female pop stars (which felt like inspired by J-Pop or K-Pop) and have to keep working to achieve #1, and the latter takes most of the space, with mostly linear segments about the relationships in the 4-way you're a part of.

Because of the playing time I won't be replaying this, and so I can't really tell how much changes from one playthrough to another; some choices felt like they mattered, but I don't know up to what point. (Spoiler - click to show)(I'm assuming you can end up with either girl as your primary relationship? Does everything break down at the end?) I wished the game had let me know, or was more clear about this; I can't even imagine how big or linear the game is, because I have no idea what choices mattered and what their repercussions were (I feel like other choice games I've played did that better). There were other, cosmetic choices that weren't referenced at all the moment after they were made, which I'm not a fan of; I prefer it when those choices act as personalization/customizing your experience to you.

Again, I don't know if that's specific to my playthrough, but I (Spoiler - click to show)didn't spend a whole lot of time working and I spent more time dealing with the relationships, only for my career to explode, and then later the relationship. I liked the personalities of Nayeli and Taya, two of the love interests, but I felt like there wasn't a lot to choose except having sex with them or not (there's about half a dozen implied sex scenes); other choices that surface in a relationship (routine, fighting, compromising, balancing career and life, etc.) didn't really appear. And it felt at a couple points like the characters were kind of avoiding problems by just being with someone else instead; I have no experience with polyamorous relationships, but that's not what I like to do, and I didn't feel too happy about what was happening. Also, you have no control on the protagonist's personality; she has her own personality, and you have limited choices over whether she'll start fights or get involved in drama, which again doesn't correspond to me so it was hard to empathize. For those reasons I'd say that the game is supposed to be pretty linear, although maybe with a few different "routes". The writing was very good, although I felt like some scenes were a bit too long for their relevance in the story.

The character of Sarai made me uncomfortable. Basically what happens is that (Spoiler - click to show)she picks up this girl (you) at a bar, who is homeless at the time, and invites her to stay at her place in a polyamorous relationship, expecting her to 'bond'/'girlfriend' her other girlfriends, while paying for the whole thing. This kind of arrangement spelled more "cult leader" or "harem" than healthy relationship: the amount of control she has is very big, (Spoiler - click to show)all of this kinda feels like it's for her/her pleasure only, and she "doesn't realize it" and gets mad when, inevitably, two people feel the need to try to have semi-coerced sex, or one of them resorts to whatever she can because she hates feeling like a freeloader. But in the end, at least in my playthrough, (Spoiler - click to show)the whole thing implodes and almost everyone leaves her; I don't know if it's meant as commentary on power dynamics in relationships or just something that happens. But feeling uncomfortable almost from the get-go made the ending unsurprising, and I felt like I was dragged through something I didn't like only for the game to show me that what I thought was justified.

Anyway, it's hard for me to review this game because I don't know how typical my playthrough was, and I don't really know anything about polyamourous relationships. I would have liked choices with more explicit consequences, and maybe more choices with regards to the relationship (I guess because I wasn't satisfied with the way things were going); and I thought the "pop singer" aspect was not bringing much to the game, since it wasn't a big part and everything was fairly generic: I wish it were either more developed and more precise, with more choices about your career, or less developed (treating it as a day job in the background) to make the relationship the focus of the game.

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Doug Orleans, November 21, 2015 - Reply
The fact that the author's previous IFComp game Venus Meets Venus had zero branching, and that the first few choices in this game either have no visible effect or are explicitly ineffectual, made me also suspect that this was going to be strongly linear. But in the alloted 2 hours of judging I managed to skim my way through a second playthrough enough to find out that although most of the scenes will always happen and always in the same order, there is indeed some significant branching and remembered choices, though mostly not until the latter parts of the game. In particular, I think what you say about avoiding problems by being with someone else instead is partly under your control, and the final fate of the foursome (and the pop career) definitely depends on your endgame choices. I also got the impression that none of the characters were meant to be completely sympathetic (including the PC), and that Sarai in particular does some questionable things that the player is not expected to feel good about.

It's interesting to think about why the knowledge of how much the choices matter affects our opinion of the game. I'm also not really sure whether the author even intends for people to play through the game multiple times. In this case I did find it rewarding and it added more insight into the story, but it was also somewhat tedious to read through so much of the same text (and I might have missed some new text because I thought I had already read it). Maybe the idea is that you'll replay it like you reread a book, not immediately but only after having put it down for a while so that you've forgotten many of the details. But not enough so that you end up making the same choices...
dutchmule, November 21, 2015 - Reply
Cool, thanks for letting me know about what you found by playing it twice. Yeah, that might be a style intended by the author: maybe if you don't highlight choices too much ("Sarai will remember that"), then the player will just pick whichever choice suits them best and will have the story that they want. It's a very different style from, say, Choice of Games, where the choices are big and clear and all that. Different styles, I guess, but I kinda got the "oh, something bad happened, what could have I done to avoid that" reflex, which is kinda the gamey reflex, and - hey, that's kinda the same topic as "A Figure met in a Shaded Wood". Interesting to think about :)
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