I love Twine games. They let me experience perspectives I wouldn't get to play around in otherwise, and there are certain things text is just really good at. Then again, I tend to bookmark a lot of games and actually play very few of them. Some days I'll see a default Sugarcane layout and switch off, flipping through quickly or giving up. Which is ridiculous, because some of the best Twines look like that.
[Contains spoilers for Dracula: Love Kills]
I can't fully explain my weakness for adventure games about Dracula, but I seem to be growing a collection. Some of them are really good, mind — I'd easily rate Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon in particular as one of my favourites — but it's clear that Dracula is an easy target for uninspired, formulaic game design. The mythology comes complete with easy choices for villains (Dracula and his servants), heroes (Harker and/or Van Helsing) and of course a damsel in distress (Mina). The aesthetics and locations are typical adventure game fare, including creepy graveyards and old castles. Plus there's the overhanging sense of sexuality without having to try too hard. Not that it stops some people from trying too hard anyway.
[Contains spoilers for Among the Sleep]
I remember flashes of what it was like to be two years old. Particular moments stand out, like when I got lost in a shopping centre, or when my sister was born. I particularly remember the way the kitchen furniture towered above me. I don’t know if it was scary then but it’s a scary thought now. It’s one of my worst nightmares to be in a world that’s too big for me and with so few things I can understand. Having to rely on others and lacking proper agency.
I expected Among the Sleep to destroy me by having me play the role of a child. I’m a soft touch for horror games at the best of times and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be that vulnerable.
You are in a cave. The obvious path is to the right but it’s unclear from where you start whether there could be other offshoots at the top or bottom.
Take a step. Sit down.
The primary challenge of any game is simply to put in the time. Maybe there are other difficulties, but the simple concept of spending time is fundamental and always required. Patience can be hard, whether for a long grind or a series of repeated attempts. And there are so many other things that could absorb us and take us away from a particular experience.
In which I chart some of my experiences with hidden object games, starting as a genre newcomer and meandering through several attempts to understand what I’ve been doing here. This post has been in development for years, and changed direction several times. It’s become a journey from my first experiences with the genre, until now when I find myself moving away from it.
[Post contains some spoilers, particularly for A Vampire Romance, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town and Deadly Association]
There are some defensibly good hidden object games, like Tiny Bang Story or the Drawn series, but I'd much prefer to write about trash. Most of these games feel churned out, with little depth or originality. Disposability itself can be part of the attraction, but in a conflicted way. I waver on whether these games are playfully cheesy or just cringeworthy.