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: keyword search-stars and constellations
Did you guys see Comet NEOWISE? We did. Took three tries, but we finally were able to get out into the country where it was dark enough, find a dirt road, and pull into a little dugout area. We scared some cows in the process, but there she was, a fuzzy smudge in our binoculars. In honor of her majestic beauty (as she’s slowly drifting away from us now), some games that popped up when I searched for “stars.”
Dev: Crystal GameWorks
Genre: fantasy; visual novel, RPG
My Playtime: ~30 min
Here’s the thing about Asterism…I should have played it a million years ago and didn’t. And now all the people I’m friends with who are working on this game are going to know this and be mad at me. That’s the reason, when a side story came out this week, I was like “FINE I’ll DO IT.” And I still didn’t get around to finishing the demo this week. I’m bad.
But here’s the other thing around Asterism. It’s decided to take an engine that doesn’t normally support it and add an overworld and combat. And I can’t decide if they’re insane or brilliant or both. It’s also an interesting study, however, in engines and what they can and can’t do. Should this game have used Ren’py with such heavy gameplay? Would a system built from scratch in Unity have worked better? Would RPG Maker? WHO KNOWS? Play the game, make your own determination. Learn. Enjoy the very cute art and slam-in-your-face worldbuilding.
Genre: poetry-esque; Twine IF
My Playtime: ~ 5min
I love a good atmospheric twine, and this was one of them. While this is very simple, it doesn’t look like a lot of other twine games. They put a lot of effort into polishing up a very simple engine to create a poetic, atmospheric mini-experience. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to start seeing in modern art museums.
Dev: Robert Yang
Genre: slice-of-life, drama; conversation sim…sorta, kinetic novel?
My Playtime: ~30 min; 1/1? ending
Oh this is an interesting little guy, and I kind of love it. You know that quick cut thing you see in Aronofsky films? This interactive does that a few times to great effect. I almost think it could stand to be a little more stylized and there are a couple of player feedback things that felt a little weird to me, but this was a SUPER intriguing way of presenting interactive fiction outside the formatting one usually expects as a seasoned player. I would check it out just for that. I actually played it twice, because I had a notion that there was something I was missing, but in the end, I think I was mistaken. I’m still not 100% sure.
Dev: The Broken Horn
Genre: fantasy; visual novel w/ puzzle
My Playtime:~20 min
Okay, this is another one I actually only got to play for a little bit before something pulled me away but oh my god? Apparently they put a demo out for this in 2017, and I’ve just somehow never seen it come across my various dashboards. For a three-person team this is an incredibly polished demo that I am very impressed by. And, for a Russian team, the English is solid. Either their translator was good or they’re proper polyglots which is always impressive to me because I’m a dumb American who still struggles to remember all my Spanish. There’s a lot going on when you first start, and I got a little overwhelmed (because I was in between doing other things. That’s more on me than the game). There’s a lot of lore, but they do a pretty good job of feeding it to you slowly enough that you’re like okay cool, I get it. The characters are fun and expressive and I love them. I’m definitely coming back to this demo and silently hope for a full release. There’s a puzzle I didn’t get to. And I’m not even the type to play furry games.