Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Circus Reviews - So You Killed a Guy
The issue with reviewing interactive fiction games is that they often have no pictures, and thus inserting pictures throughout the review ends up being boring and likely to spoil things. However, I feel like I haven't played nearly enough text-based games lately, especially with IFComp upon us. So here, I present to you an interesting gem plucked from r/interactivefiction: a Creative Writing thesis as presented in Twine.
In an unforeseen twist, So You Killed a Guy opens with the narrator telling you that you have just killed a guy. This narrator purports to be your guide, claiming to have instructions that will allow you to get away with this crime unpunished, and as long as you follow these instructions, you will be perfectly fine, probably.
To me, a lot of second-person fiction sets up the protagonist as a concrete character while still referring to "you" when telling the story; this game, however, doesn't really have a protagonist, unless we count the narrator himself. The story is set up in such a way that you alone fill the "protagonist" role, and it feels more like the choices themselves are the character, if that makes any sense. A number of your options are filled with sarcasm and apathy, and you are presented with a number of opportunities to mercilessly screw with the narrator, but you can also play along and be cooperative.
The narrator is probably the real character here. He begins by presenting an almost too enthusiastic front, being quite into the fact that you're a murderer and rushing to offer his assistance, but the facade shatters pretty quickly if you refuse to play along with what he's telling you. What develops is a neurotic voice that lashes out and gets angry, but at heart wants nothing more than to write a good, original story. That's something that hit particularly hard for me, especially considering the recent slump I've been in. What's different about the narrator's fits of rage, though, is that they actually affect something. The narrator is in control of the game world; if he doesn't like something in it (like, say, YOU), he can change it...unless, of course, he lacks the creative inspiration to do so. Isn't that an ability we all wish we could have?
There are several different ways the story can end depending on whether you heckle the narrator and how much, and each one explores a slightly different aspect of the issue of writer's block in a unique and compelling way. You might successfully make it to your planned ending, or you might poke fun at the narrator one too many times and end up being severely punished for your actions. I personally started feeling rather bad for the narrator in at least one path, only for this to dissipate somewhat when he began threatening me with violence.
I fully admit that I am not qualified to judge the merit of any sort of thesis, but I do know at least one small thing about video games, and I feel that this holds up as a game pretty well. It treats a subject I know very well in a new way, and I'd strongly recommend it to writers of any kind, or to people who enjoy IF games and are looking for a quick one to try out. Also, I hope that the author considers continuing to write for Twine, because their first project is an enjoyable one indeed.
So You Killed a Guy is available to play for free on philome.la.
Final verdict: While perhaps not intended as a game in the traditional sense, So You Killed a Guy stands out with its relateable narrator and its short but fascinating exploration into the struggle for creativity and inspiration.
So You Killed a Guy is developed by tomfrom1995. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.