Hypertext explorations

Once again, two small hypertext games.

The first is vale of singing metals by foresthexes (Twine; IFDB; play here)

Written for Porpentine’s Twiny Jam, vale of singing metals presents a dream-like maze in a strange landscape. Landmarks like boiling streams and oil lakes give the impression of a volcanic landscape, life creeping in fields of  grass and flowers. And, yes, it is that now-rare thing in IF, a maze. Yet, it feels less of a hassle than an exploration through an empty space.

vale of singing metals is a lovely little piece, scenic in the way that Kitty Horrorshow’s work is, and an interesting take on how mazes can be implemented in very little space.


The second is Traveler by Caelyn Sandel (Twine; IFDB; play here).

This is part of The Yearbook Office, a collection of writings published by Alice Lee.

You wake in your spaceship, sluggish. What are you here for? You can’t remember. Your ship’s not in the best shape; you’ve got to explore the stars. You may not have enough power in your engines to blast off once you land…

Traveler is a small, procedurally generated exploration game, with randomly generated descriptions of the stars. The individual planets are sometimes quite shallowly implemented, but Sandel uses each star as a pacing device. As you travel through the stars, your ship’s stats decline, giving a tension to Traveler. Sandel’s writing is strongest, I think, as she describes what you, in your travels, have missed; thoughts of home occur at the strangest times.

Overall, Traveler feels like a much more sensible version of Porpentine’s Ruiness – both are about travellers who never make meaningful connections in any one place, for whom travel is work, whose constant moving around alienates them from everyone around them. A melancholic work which nonetheless ends on a hopeful note.

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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.

creak, creak

By Chandler Groover (Twine; IFDB; play here)

In recent months Chandler Groover has produced quite a number of unusual works, with quite a few edging into horror territory. creak, creak is a Twine work written for Twiny Jam which bears some similarities to Tailypo, another of Groover’s works.

Something is creaking in the house. Your mother always said it’s just the wind. You can’t leave it at that. You have to look.

Groover uses timed appearance of text and various transitions to pace out the story, to great effect here. I found myself with a creeping sense of dread as I waited for the text to appear. The writing style is simple and some of the rhyming lines give the sense of a child’s nursery rhyme – making the monster a creature of a child’s nightmares, a la The Badabook.

This game may be a baby sibling of more full-fledged horror games, but creak, creak packs quite a punch and works well for such a constrained format.

Wolfgirls in Love

by Kitty Horrorshow (Twine; IFDB; play here)

Two wolves go out for a night on the town. Neon. Cobblestones.

Written for Porpentine’s Twiny Jam, in which one creates a Twine game within 300 words, the author eschews spartan sentences, instead using single words, linked with timed appearances.

The combination of music, macros and the individual words makes Wolfgirls in Love incredibly evocative, and evokes loss and love and relief with the briefest of brushstrokes.

This game relies as much on graphics and music as it does on the text; the timed appearances give a rhythm to the text that the words alone do not. Wolfgirls in Love is a fascinating illustration of what 300 words in Twine can do, but equally also a gripping, bite-size story in itself.

Jetbike Gang

By C. E. J. Pacian (Twine; IFDB; play here)

Written for Porpentine’s Twiny Jam, Jetbike Gang is a branching story about jetbikes, written within 300 words. It has a similar vibe to Kitty Horrorshow’s Wolfgirls in Love, with the PC living on the edge of the law in a buzzing cyberpunk-like city and being on the run. But while Wolfgirls focuses more on a particular relationship and hinting at things, Jetbike Gang uses more concrete imagery and more clearly described actions.

This game slants toward the gritty and grim, but even then there’s space for some (very indirect) wordplay and a surprising amount of branching.

Elsewhere

By Stacey Mason (Twine; IFDB; play here)

image

(Screenshot of game – white text on brown background: “Rations for your building reset at midnight. It’s 11:56. You’re itchy, dirty. Your clothes smell. If you want water tonight, you’d better be ready.”)

A little break from IFComp games – I found this game thanks to Games We Care About (@games_we_care).

This game was written for the Twiny Jam, meaning this game was written within 300 words. In South America, the Water Wars are raging, but, for you, you’re more concerned about your own building’s water ration. It starts at midnight, and if you start early enough, maybe you’ll have enough for a shower, to flush the toilet and wash your clothes today.

The thing I found interesting was how it used the cyclinglink macro – Mason used it to implement steps of a routine, such as preparing for a shower. This, combined with timed text, created a sense of urgency appropriate to the situation. The game is limited in scope, but there are hints to a mildly dystopic future – hints of a wider world, and that made it feel less like a short game per se, but rather a limited window into the author’s world.