All Alone

by Ian Finley.

You are all alone in Harvey’s apartment. It is small and messy; Harvey’s still entrenched in his bachelor habits. It is raining. The news is on: the ‘Slicer Killer’, who has young women living alone as his prey, has claimed another victim. You hear this on the news.

There is a fair attempt at creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere, à la Shade, but it was difficult for the player to feel a real sense of dread. The suggestion that the PC is in danger is merely implied, so this player did not get a sense of urgency.

One grouse I had with this game was the lack of backstory, which is vital to creating a sense of threat as the player hears about the news. The author used the TV to deliver key story elements- the conflict- which can either be considered lazy or ingenious, but this player wished he could have delivered a richer background using other details, because as it stands, the PC knows a lot more about Harvey (whoever he is) than… herself? himself? itself???

The main problem I had was with the gameplay. The player need not make any decisions and does not need to do anything significant to advance the story. This robs the player of a sense of agency and gives him/her no real stake in playing the game. Why else should I continue playing if the ending will happen to me anyway?

Without a sense of agency, the player has little motivation to continue playing the game, let alone see it to its end. This game could have done much, much better.

Horse Master

horse master_iconBy Tom McHenry.

Playable at: http://noncanon.com/HorseMaster.html

As the game itself states: you have trained your whole life for this moment: you will be a Horse Master. And so your journey starts, through buying a horse and training it and, yes, even naming it.

The game starts out light-hearted, but things quickly turn dark. The PC’s commentary swings between mad hope and sheer depression. At one point, I was unsure whether I should actually hope for the best for the PC, or whether it would all come to nought.

It’s an emotionally taxing and compelling game. (SPOILERS BELOW) Continue reading “Horse Master”