By Chandler Groover. (Twine, play here)
Before I say anything else, I would like to give a warning that this game depicts violence (specifically, animal abuse) in a way that you may find disturbing. Please, be warned and really do avoid it if that upsets you in any way.
Taghairm is a dark Twine game with a brutal, sparse way of words (see quote). The writing is purposeful and builds atmosphere well – it implies a lot from very little. It suggests the ghost of a storyline: something (or somebody) has been lost, and this… this that you go to your cousin’s field to do, is the only way.
You can see them moving in the firelight
although they’ve long since stopped crying.
It took months to gather them all.
What moved this game from linguistic beauty to visceral horror, though, was the emotional stake. The game punishes the player at first for wanting to disagree with what the NPC is doing by not allowing the story to progress, and by having an NPC who dismisses your misgivings.
There is a key decision-making point at a certain repeating routine which essentially allows you to choose what outcome you want. The more brutal path ends up showing the toll of the ritual on the PC and the NPC. It never returns to the context in the beginning, the reason why the PC did this in the first place: perhaps, in the search for something – your heart’s desire – you lose everything else, and you lose everything that made that desire so worthwhile in the first place.
Is a game ‘bad’ because there’s no good ending?