itch

by Liz England (Twine; IFDB; play here)

England’s previous work (Mainframe, Her Pound of Flesh) has featured aesthetically slick Twine works about body horror, and itch certainly ticks those boxes. This game w2as written for Twiny Jam, one of a few very compact interactive horror game.

You have an itch. The story presents you with two choices: to scratch it, or ignore it. Vaguely reminiscent (to me, at least) of B Minus Seven’s Voice Box, the choices boil down to being either active or passive.

Body horror commonly involves self-harm, whether by your own volition or not. itch calls into question what makes something horrifying. Is it lack of autonomy, and knowing that something bad will come for you? Or is it being forced to do something horrific?

As body horror goes, most of it is implied, but do exercise discretion. itch is a short, slightly icky horror flash-IF, with an unexpected ending.

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Mainframe

By Liz England and Jurie Horneman (Twine; IFDB; play here)

You wake up in an unfamiliar spaceship. Something is wrong with the ship’s mainframe and it needs help.

Developed for ProcJam 2015, this game features procedurally generated locations and objects, the writing of which nonetheless felt natural. Indeed, the writing is one of the high points of Mainframe. It went in a similar direction to Her Pound of Flesh, in that what was inanimate takes on life and flesh, and your treatment of it must change accordingly.

This game contains squicky body horror and gore.

(Side note: there was a discussion earlier on the IF Euphoria chat on to what extent procedurally generated writing is the work of the author, and that was interesting, because the author does need to put a lot of work into the writing to make it sound good, even if the end result is assembled by a computer.)

Mainframe progresses through a series of repeated scenes which often have wildly differing endings. Because of the structure of the game, it’s hard to avoid lawnmowering, but at least the locations are bizarre enough to make this varied.

Mainframe has a solid story at its backbone and excellent writing; it’s certainly a good look at the kinds of things procedural generation can produce.

Her Pound of Flesh

By Liz England (Twine; IFDB; play here)

viewgame.jpeg
(Screenshot of game)

Here’s a game set in another cyberpunkish, dystopian world, where biotechnology is so advanced that all you need to clone an organism – and indeed a human being – is a bit of their tissue and a special reagent. This is what you’ve resorted to, in an attempt to bring back your fiancée.

But nothing’s ever as easy as that, and you may not always get what you expected…

Her Pound of Flesh had a theme familiar to that in many of this year’s IFComp games, with the theme of sacrificing something to get your heart’s desire, yet ending up with less than you started with. Because the author establishes the PC’s motivations and dreams so well, the PC’s helplessness in the face of events taking a rather squicky turn evokes sympathy: it’s clear that thoughts about her are consuming the PC’s life, even to the point of appearing in the PC’s dreams.

No matter how far you run, you can’t seem to escape her.

Maybe you don’t want to.

“Today will be different,” you tell yourself.

The game progresses in ‘days’, with each day comprising about three to four choices. In dealing with her, there’s often the choice to treat her as the human you remember her to be, or as something… less. Each day reveals new and terrifying things about what she has become.

In some ways, Her Pound of Flesh wonders what the limit of humanity is. Is it worth it, to have the physical form but nothing else? But more than that, this game is a story about longing. Despite there being less and less of her humanity day by day, the PC keeps turning back to what reminds him of her: things like her scent and her hair.

Overall, it may involve quite a lot of body horror and gore, but ultimately this game is heartfelt… and tugs at the heartstrings. Read that how you will.

Her Pound of Flesh was made for Asylum Jam, which challenged game devs to create horror games unrelated to mental illness or mental asylums.

 

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.