Kotodama

By Aidan Doyle. (Twine; IFDB; play here)

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Cover art: the kanji characters for ‘kotodama’

Tokyo has been hit by a poetry outbreak. You, a robot, have been sent to deal with it.

Kotodama is set in a world in which poetry is akin to a contagious disease, and that shapes much of the world-building. This much is evident from the first line:

The lobby of the Tokyo Skypoem is filled with panicked humans, their faces scarred by unbridled metaphor. Paramedics carry stretchers bearing limerick-riddled corpses and haiku-exposed skeletons.

The writing sparkles with wit, and the game’s use of metaphor (that is, making it have literal consequences) called to mind Patanoir. Kotodama also gives a welcome depth to the world-building by giving a nod to familiar narratives such as racism or the role of immigrants. This seems to have some link to the title: according to the Oxford Dictionaries blog, which the game quotes, the concept of ‘kotodama’ applies especially to Japanese in its ‘purest’ form – that is, the language without any loan words – yet, definitions of what counted as ‘pure’ varied over the years.

Kotodama is relatively short, but is highly polished (I found the Poetry Dojo to be a stroke of genius) and very cleverly written. Highly recommended.

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QUIMER-B

By David T. Marchand (Twine; IFDB; play here)

From the creator of When acting as a particle / when acting as a wave comes a polished work of linear fiction about the creator of QUIMER-B, a virtual consciousness so powerful it could take over the running of a city, and, ever since its conception, a source of moral outrage. To prove QUIMER is capable of running a city, you’re going to put your whole facility under its control for one day. If you can prove that, then maybe it can handle the pressure from everyone else.

Except it never really goes to plan, does it?

QUIMER-B is part epistolary, part first-person narration of an apocalypse in action. This game has a good grasp of pacing, creating tension through static and dynamic text. It sometimes uses the mechanic of clicking to draw out a scene, or to contrast it with the timed appearance of a piece of text.

Compellingly written and story-driven, this game’s strength is in sketching out the story – and the relationships between the PC and NPCs – and in letting the reader draw their own conclusions from these snippets. It’s a bit like watching an opera with minimal backdrops, where it just takes a few props to suggest a palace, or a battlefield.

It’s worth having a click through this short, polished game.

Allison and the Cool New Spaceship Body

By Tempe O’ Kun, art by Samuel Pipes (Twine; IFDB; play here)

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(Screenshot of starting screen: illustration of a small, hovering yellow and black spaceship with a black screen on the front showing cheerful eyes; the spaceship has two little arms holding a purple backpack)

You are 10-year-old Allison. When you were very young you were in a horrible accident, and since then you’ve used a cyborg body. But today, your parents have prepared a surprise for you… your own spaceship body!

The game is set in a space colony, in which AIs make up a major part of society. Despite that, there is still a distinct division between AIs and ‘true’ humans, leaving cyborgs like Allison in a grey area. The author takes full advantage of the world building by focusing more on exploration rather than plot – its approach felt a little like some of the moon scenes in Creatures Such as We. The writing is rightly described as charming.

Allison is, on the surface, about a girl’s adventures, but the story world has enough detail to allow it to touch on more contentious subjects like discrimination, about identity, about growing up. It feels like a gentler version of Birdland, with its focus on relationships at school (even if, unlike Birdland, those in Allison are entirely platonic), its child protagonist and its themes. Allison is a thoughtful, charming game with a nicely fleshed-out world – recommended.

Reset

By Autumn Nicole Bradley (Twine; IFDB; play here; play time: ~20 minutes)

In a cyberpunk world where you are inextricably linked to implants, where your memories aren’t just in your brain, someone’s meddled with your implanted hardware, and the doctors had to do a soft reset. In the process, they damaged quite a lot of hardware and took away a big part of your ‘dry’ memory. You are a blank slate now.

[This game is about a D/S relationship.]

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this. Reset is an exploration of relationships in a world where you can surrender all control, physically and mentally. Underlining the inseparability of the PC’s implants and the PC, Reset uses the second person cleverly – there is a ‘metal-you’, a ‘you-you’ and a ‘body-you’ – bringing into question what identity means, in this universe. What does it mean when ‘body-you’, your physical self, remembers things which ‘you-you’ doesn’t? Are your feelings just as valid when only one aspect of your identity derives pleasure from them?

Bradley delivers the story brilliantly. One bit which was particularly excellent was the description of the PC surrendering their control to Alison – the author brought out the interactions between the different aspects of the PC’s personality very well. The story was also extraordinarily well-constructed. Recommended.