This is Ludonarrative Scramble! Over the course of a 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: More games from the Bundle for Racial Equality. Even though it’s no longer on sale there were just SO MANY I wanted to play, I had to come back to it.
Genre: political, fantasy; interactive fiction (choice-based)
My Playtime: ~15 min
Funnily enough, there’s a narrative element I had been wanting to experiment with and hadn’t quite figured out how to execute it. This interaction fiction goes and does it, which was a delight to see that it could, indeed, be done nicely. Which nicely done it does! Words! Great use of the Ink scripting language, and an elegantly achieved approach to a more complex narrative structure.
I do think, however, I would have liked a scooch more character development and world-building. I think they did a really great job of giving you diverse dialogue options, but there wasn’t quite enough to sort of grip onto to get a feel for how those dialogue options might play out. It doesn’t look like they wrote this for a jam, so they might have benefitted from a little more of the “writer’s circle treatment,” get a little more feedback on world and character.
Other than that, a really interesting diversion.
Genre: slice-of-life; walking sim
My Playtime: ~5 min
Right off the bat, I love a well-done Bitsy game. They take you some time to get used to, but the lack of defined art gives you the room to place your own “skin” on it, so to speak. This one is no exception. Through very simple means, a moody color palette, and natural dialogue, it perfectly captures that sort of somber feel of being in a dead or dying shopping mall. Of seeing something that was so inextricably linked to your nostalgia fading away. Very well done.
Genre: survival; text adventure, stat raiser
My Playtime: ~5 min; 4/? endings
I love these kind of quickfire games, something you can play quickly, get a laugh, maybe play on stream with your friends and have a good time. This was definitely one of those. There seems to be a lot packed into a very tight little game that doesn’t take itself seriously. Definitely one of those, “if you think you’ve seen all the endings, hold on there’s more.”
My only complaint is in the interface. I did find it a little physically difficult to read the text. I understand Aesthetic™, but I think there might have been a way to do it to make things a little more legible. Other than that, goofy little adventure.
Genre: abstract; puzzle
My Playtime: ~15 min
This is a very odd little game. Sort of absurdist and bizarre. A simple conceit in a polished-looking package that keeps you always wondering “wait, what?”
The thing is, though, despite the interactivity being very smooth and attractive, from a gameplay and feedback perspective it’s a bit difficult to grasp at times. It’s fairly inconsistent with how you’re intended to interact with it, so you occasionally get cornered into a “wait, what am I supposed to be doing?” It was like getting stuck in a puzzle with no context or hints. So when I did finally figure a tricky section out, it read less as “aha!” and more like “oh…okay.”
That’s always sort of the trick with puzzle games. Bridging that gap.
Genre: fantasy, comedy; visual novel with mini-games
My Playtime: ~30 min; endings 1/?
This was really cute! I was a little skeptical of the first mini-game at the beginning, but the way it was wrapped up into the later mini-games, it worked great. They worked really well in the overall narrative.
The characters were relatable and I love them! There were a few points right in the middle where I think the writing got a little long in the tooth, but otherwise the dialogue was fun and snappy.
The art and inclusion of so much animation was exquisite. Lots of times, I get overly distracted by things like heavy animation and don’t like it, but this was the exact right amount for me, especially at the climax of the story at the ball.
There’s also a very slight undercurrent of meta right at the end that was done very very well. A light touch.
Overall, I really loved this!