A House of Many Doors

Weird fiction continues to invade videogames with A House of Many Doors

It was going fine until the Gangleman came. He arrived in the total darkness that my crew and I had been plunged into after the Heartlight had gone out. As Captain, I had made the decision to not sacrifice my own heart nor that of any of my crew to restore the light, and so we made haste towards the City of Keys, the closest refuge to our desperate position. That’s when he came, to the tune of “Gangleman, Gangleman,” a portentous poem written across the ages about his infamous acts of terror. And with that he stole one of my men…


Get ready to unlock the secrets of A Normal Lost Phone in January

It’s cold. You burrow further into your scarf, hoping to shield more of your face from the harsh winds biting at your cheeks. The streetlights do little in their attempt to guide you along the cobblestone street—the fog is too thick to distinguish shapes. As you walk, you squint against the way the light disperses among the thick mist, resembling soft glowing orbs that float in the night sky. The weight of your boot crunches against something that is not pavement. You glance down to find that it’s a phone. Removing your hand from your pockets, you bend down to…

Burnt Matches

Pippin Barr’s new game brings concrete poetry to life

Concrete poetry is the method of using a poem’s shape or visual arrangement to convey meaning or, at least, to form an image relevant to the poem’s themes. A famous example is Silencio (1954) by Eugen Gomringer, which repeats the world “silencio” (silence) 14 times to form a square block with a void at its center—the block evoking ideas of silence as an oppressive tool, but the emptiness in the middle also read by some as a form of peace. Pippin Barr uses the technique in his new Twine game Burnt Matches but expands on its utility through the use of…


Inquisitor is a hypertext engine that puts spatiality first

“I think games are uniquely suited to doing interesting things with spatiality, it doesn’t matter what form this takes—pure audio, pure text, pure 2D, pure 3D, or any combination of these, games are just really good at spaces.” These are the words of Orihaus, a game maker who has made some of the interesting 3D spaces I’ve visited in recent years. Mostly, they are pitch-black alienscapes that writhe with elegant onyx architecture and an outright ominous aura. Games like the “dark striptease” of Obsolete (2012), the “constructivist megastructures” of Aeon, and the “virtual memory palace” of Xaxi (2013). But more recently, Orihaus has turned…


Code 7, a sci-fi text adventure that aims to inject fear into your mind

There’s a scene in Alien (1979) when Nostromo captain Arthur Dallas climbs into the ship’s tangled air ducts to seek out the Xenomorph on-board. The crew, looking on from a computer terminal, sees only two dots on a map—Dallas and the Xenomorph—until the tracking system malfunctions, and neither Dallas nor the crew have any clue how close or how far the alien is from him. Dallas waits in panicked silence while the rest of the team manages the glitch.  All of a sudden, it’s too late. Code 7 uses a similar approach to explore the terrifying nature of the unseen.…


TextureWriter might be the best interactive fiction tool for beginners

Header image by Paul Downey An announcement on Twitter last week revealed a new piece of software called TextureWriter, which supposedly makes creating interactive fiction easier than ever. Joining other IF (interactive fiction) tools like Twine and Inform, TextureWriter offers a different and more intuitive way to navigate through a story. Like Twine and Inform, TextureWriter doesn’t require any coding knowledge to create a story. But it also incorporates a much more user-friendly interface than the others, using a simple click and drag button prompt called an “interaction word.” Interactive fiction simulates environments where players can choose different paths for characters,…


A cyberpunk text adventure explores life outside of the gender binary

“Well, here we are again,” NUGK tell me. The last time I was here, TODN was saying the exact same thing. Usernames here, including my own, are made up of a mixture of four letters, shifting each time. The post-apocalyptic world is dark, fashioned only with unnerving sounds and dimly lit text. This is the world of  _transfer. Selected as part of IndieCade 2016, _transfer, developed by Hyacinth Nil and written by Reed Lewis, of the newly-formed Abyssal Studio, tackles uncomfortable issues of identity and memory. _transfer’s post-apocalyptic theme is more than just a stylistic choice Using a DOS-like interface, the player interacts…

Katamari Adventure

Katamari Damacy gets rolled up into a text adventure

Game designer Keita Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy (2004) is easily one of the most charming videogames of all-time. It had a silly premise, a colorful aesthetic, and a grin-inducing soundtrack. Katamari Damacy was like no other game in existence. An underrated aspect of it, though, is its whip-smart writing. From the bizarre story of the King of All Cosmos knocking out all of the stars in the sky after a drunken binge, to the descriptions of all the mundane items the Prince’s magical ball rolls up on Earth, Katamari Damacy’s quirky writing embellished everything else that made the game so notable.…


Twinescapes, or The Rise of Spatial Hypertext

At least 100 pages of four novels. At least 20 pages of maybe half a dozen others. Not one book finished, not even in rough draft. These are the vital statistics of my long war with fiction. For most of my life now it’s been my fondest wish to write and to publish a novel. Sometimes I’ve wanted to author a book of the Great-American-sort, other times my ambitions have been more humble, or more genre-bound. Sometimes my drafts have been muddy slogs through self doubt, other times they came as if poured from a vase by a woman in…