LnScramble, Reviews

Ludonarrative Scramble June 8-12

This is Ludonarrative Scramble! Over the course of the week, I play a handful of (mostly) free, small, indie narrative games (visual novels, IF, text adventures, etc), and talk about them.

This week’s theme: Breaking into the Bundle for Racial Justice.

TV Guide

Dev: nyle pudding

Genre: comedy; kinetic novel

My Playtime: ~7 min

When I was browsing through the games and saw this one was made in flickgame, I definitely wanted to add it to the “to-play” list. I had played with the engine a little, but I hadn’t seen it in action, yet, by anyone. And this game uses it very well! I was pleasantly surprised. You wouldn’t think something with the resolution of a Gameboy would be able to adequately pull off visual-only storytelling, but they do a great job. It’s cute, quick, and an interesting used of a strange little game tool. 

Devtheism

Dev: fahmitsu

Genre: drama, spirituality; walking sim

My Playtime: ~20 min 

I read, briefly, about this game somewhere, so the little bit of expectation coming into it ended up being a double-edged sword. Right off the bat, I recognize that there’s a little bit of a social, cultural, and language barrier. English is not their first language, and they’re experience of being an Indonesian Muslim on the internet is very different than what I experience in my day to day life. I do understand game dev and religiosity, though. 

Beyond the obvious obstacles, the game still feels like “awesome idea, okay execution.” I love the use of RPG Maker for narrative delivery. I always do. It’s really cool. It was a little slow, though, which made moving through the world a little slow and awkward. Which is a shame because when you actually do get to the meat, there’s some really cool stuff there about beliefs and faith and coexistence. There’s also this really great running allegory about developers as divine creators, but some of the world building doesn’t quite prop it up all the way. Some of that could also be a symptom of the language barrier. 

What I’m left with, then, is a game that was very lovingly made and has a lot of really good stuff in it, but could have benefitted from a little bit of narrative restructuring. 

A Short Hike

Dev: adamgryu

Genre: comedy, slice-of-life; walking sim, adventure (platforming elements)

My Playtime ~20 min

I really WANT to like this game. It looks like it could be very endearing with cute writing. There’re two things getting in the way, for me, though. It is not a game that’s compatible with a keyboard. It’s extremely difficult to navigate with the arrow keys. While I could, maybe go digging my controller out from where it’s gotten, I’m already annoyed by a game built for the PC that doesn’t natively support its default interactive devices. I should be able to play a PC game with a keyboard and mouse. I I also found the sort of voxel style it used to be VERY difficult to physically look at. 

However, all this being said, it really feels like a darling game. It has a lot of charm, I already really like the characters from what interaction I’ve had with them, and I get the notion that there’s a lot of really nice little things in there. 

So I might try to come back to this one when I can find a controller, but it’s still a shame that I have to put it away. 

Equaboreal

Dev: girldebord

Genre: fantasy, abstract; kinetic novel, walking sim

My Playtime: ~10 min

So I love the little plant people. Immensely. And this whole little experiment has a really good “mouth feel” in a sense. You know that you’re getting into something a little weird, right off the bat. I can appreciate the hell out of weird. There’s also some pretty solid world building for something so short.

That being said, the weird lacks a little bit of cohesion. They do a combo of 2D “billboarding” and 3d low poly models which can be really cool (see a game I worked on called Dungeon Profiteer), but there was a lack of consistency in the mishmash application. Which sounds super weird when I say that, but playing it you might understand what I’m talking about. 

The writing, overall, was mostly solid. It’s a little exposition heavy in the lead up, and they do the ing (that I always do no judgement) where they use five words to say what two words would suffice. However, overall, I’m left with a very positive experience from an odd little thing that I don’t feel was trying to be more than it was. Just some tweaks I would have made. 

Also, “Q to contemplate” cracks me up. 

The Night Fisherman

Dev: Far Few Giants

Genre: drama, historical; kinetic novel

My Playtime: ~10 min

This is a very good looking game. A couple of minor things that I would tweak, but nothing that kills it, especially when one considers they’re a two-person team making one short game a month. The writing is tight, the tension build up is solid, and it makes good use of music.

 It does one thing, though, that will always bug me when I see it in visual novel style games, and that’s give me choices without those choices really meaning anything. Just don’t give me choices. It’s fine. I can appreciate a kinetic experience on its own merit. So there’re a few ways I might have tweaked the interface to still accomplish what they were attempting to accomplish, but other than that, I’m probably going to go back and play more of their games and put it on my list of examples to show to new devs. Because other than my nitpickery, I feel it was an excellent interactive experience.

BONUS:

Stage Fright

Dev: Broan Games

Genre: horror; rhythm

My Playtime: 30 minutes 

This wasn’t even on my list of “narrative games to play.” I just like rhythm games, and it seemed interesting. Oh WOW, though. The world is falling apart around you as you’re trying to just play the piano, and it’s an excellent use of gameplay to evoke emotion and lay down a loose narrative structure. It was frustrating and horrible and filled me with anxiety and if that’s really what they were trying to do they did it wonderfully. It is almost too hard, though, and it’s in no way perfect. A lot of little buggy things that sort of get in the way of having optimal gameplay. BUT! I would still recommend it for a look at what you can do, just come in with measured expectations for the rhythm aspect of it. 

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