You’re Tiny People. Can You Open The Fridge And Get The Lemon?

By Clickhole. (Custom CYOA; IFDB; play here)

viewgame.jpg
Cover art: a tiny hand sticking out from a white grating

Clickhole has built a reputation for prolificacy, having released 20 games in 2015 alone. Their games are usually absurd and light-hearted. Their games usually have long titles which presents its central premise. Then again, I have not played many of Clickhole’s games, so I shouldn’t really generalise like that…

In Tiny People, you play a… group (swarm?) of tiny people, navigating someone’s apartment. At your size, everything is huge. How will you get to the lemon? And what’s Music Duck doing there?

Tiny People favours photos over textual room descriptions to illustrate the environment, which was really a welcome change to the usual Clickhole house style of generic stock images. It also features an especially location-based world model, even if it mixed cardinal directions with relative directions (you can go leftward and east in this game).

The perspective brings to mind other games with smaller-than-human PCs – A Day for Soft Food and Snack Time in particular. The close-up photos of everyday objects from a non-human perspective remind me of Mateusz Skutnik’s 10 Gnomes series.

The central premise (i.e. the fact that you, the PC, appear to be a swarm of tiny people) is already surreal enough, but the ending is even more so, almost to the point of incoherence. Your mileage may vary, here: fans of Clickhole’s writing will probably enjoy this, but those who are not may find it over the top. Still, I found this a reasonably enjoyable, short, slightly absurd piece.

Howwl

By Tipue. (Choice-based web interface;  IFDB; play here)

[Warning: this game contains sometimes unexpected descriptions of death and gore.]

You wake up in a North London flat, unable to remember how you got there. Tottenham is devoid of people. It’s time to go.

The game is initially a lot about exploration. There isn’t much of a clear goal, but as you explore, it’s clear that something very bad has happened. The game never makes it clear what you’re aiming for – perhaps a vague attempt at safety – even to the end.

Howwl is written with a vaguely Twine or Undum-like format, where you click links to progress.The links suggest what would be common actions in a typical parser game – taking inventory, inspecting objects and so on. The layout is attractive and neat, in which links add to a growing transcript which can be scrolled back. Header images mark changes in location. You can create an account to save your place in the story, but given that the scope of the game, as it stands (I played Beta 0.81), isn’t too long, you might not need this.

Howwl aims for the gritty urban apocalyptic atmosphere in its abandoned buildings and filthy interiors, and does it quite well. You never get to see the source of ominous (and sometimes uncomfortably human) noises. You stumble over unexpectedly gruesome sights. The writing style is detached – is it resignation on the PC’s part? Hopelessness?

I found the PC to be way too generic to give the reader a stake in how the story progressed- not that you get to make many significant choices, anyway; the author’s method of removing options if they’re not necessary makes it impossible, for example, to escape a certain place or to explore more buildings than the author intended you to.

Some mildly spoilery stuff below the cut.

Continue reading “Howwl”

The Sacred Staff of Deck Koji

by David Guyadeen and Alex Barrick (IFDBplay online)

[Time to completion: 5 minutes]

Styled as a spoof fantasy adventure, complete with wise old sage, you play a hero venturing in search of the titular Sacred Staff of Deck Koji. True to the spirit of the thing, the obstacles you face are silly. The writing is competent and the game isn’t buggy, but it was a rather unmemorable game – it felt more like a test game – but the ‘Making Of’ section included in the game is worth reading.

I just have one quibble, though given the size of this game, it may be a trivial one – many decision points have choices which result in dead ends. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why this should be, which made it, in the authors’ words, ‘mildly irritating’.

So, is it fun? Er. Hardly. I had more fun reading the ‘Making Of’ than playing the game, so… your mileage may vary, I guess.

Everyday Misanthrope

by Liz England. (itch.io page)

Go forth and make people miserable! Armed with ‘misery tokens’, make choices and ruin people’s lives! 

Sarcastic and witty, Misanthrope twists the initial encouragement for your life-ruining into a subtle guilt-trip. In the beginning/middle, the game gives sometimes cruel options – options that people in real life clearly opt for, but at that level of casual cruelty. At first, it’s weirdly satisfying to wreak havoc, but towards the end, the author turns this around by humanising all the people whose lives you have ‘ruined’. Despite the title, Misanthrope is, in truth, surprisingly compassionate. 

A fairly short game – about 10-15 minutes if you read as fast as I do, with plenty of branching and some replay value.

Can you Find The Mole In This Spy Organisation?

By Clickhole. Playable here.


I loved the blurb. Spy hands! Spy keys! It pretty much encapsulates what the game is about.

This Twine-style game is a silly, entertaining romp through the tropes of noir fiction and espionage stories. While it superficially channeled John le Carré, it grew tiresome after a while, precisely because the ‘parody’ aspect was laid on too thick. Any semblance of humanity in the NPCs or, indeed, in the PC, was quickly quashed by the lack of a sensible storyline. A lesson, perhaps, to us that genre-breaking and lampshading are nice to have, but without a good story, they are merely gimmicks.

Maybe this is just my inner curmudgeonly old man speaking, but while this short game is good for a quick laugh, it is, in the end, rather unmemorable.

The format is, I suspect, original to Clickhole, but similar in spirit to Twine. The website, as a whole, seems to veer toward clickbait titles reminiscent of Buzzfeed, so I wonder how effectively this game has been promoted through Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr so far.

Can You Find The Mole in This Spy Organisation?

Infuriatingly does not give author, but playable at this link.

London, 1971. You sit at your typewriter, typing up a report while reflecting on your mysterious and troubling past. Your hands glide over the keys, but they are no normal hands and no normal keys. They are spy hands and spy keys.

Can I just say that I love this. 

This Twine-style game is a silly, entertaining romp through the tropes of noir fiction and espionage stories. While it superficially channeled John le Carré, it grew thin after a while, precisely because it was laid on too thick. Any semblance of humanity in the NPCs was quickly quashed by the silly story. A lesson, perhaps, to us that genre-breaking and lampshading are nice to have, but without a good story, they are merely gimmicks. 

This little game is good for a quick laugh, but is thin in actual story, making it rather unmemorable.

Magic Makeover

by S. Woodson.

tl;dr: entertaining, if wordy, parody.

Magical Makeover is a self-styled parody of over-the-top Flash games ‘for girls’, namely those whose interactivity consists wholly of choosing outfits. It starts with floridly described makeup products and a rhyming, snarky mirror but delves into a touch of body horror, and into riffs off fairy tales.

It eschews any fancy Twine effects, relying wholly on the text. Although the background was very likely a nod towards the games it parodies.

This game is generous, in various senses of the word. The writer revels indescription, evoking sparkly, colourful images. While the passages got lengthy at times, this was made up for by the wit: the game lampshades tropes from fairy tales and adventure stories. In fact, ‘lampshades’ doesn’t even begin to describe it – much of the game felt more like an exuberant riff.

The level of story branching was certainly generous as well. As the author says, there are seven possible endings, but I was impressed by how distinct and well-developed each of them were, with their own backstories.

Holography

By Emily Short (Inkle; play here)

In the truest sense of ‘choose your own adventure’, Holography starts with a simple statement: The king died and then the queen died of grief. You can then choose an explanation for the situation, which alters the text to reflect the new reality you chose, and another choice presents itself, and so on… The level of branching creates a multitude of unique stories, some hinting at court intrigues, some poignant. Simply done, and enjoyable for what appears to be a demo for the inkle system.