Welcome to the heart of summer! The warm air wafts through
the trees as the sounds of children echo throughout the neighborhood. And if
you’re anything like me, you’re in a darkened room somewhere hunched over a
keyboard, typing away. Hopefully, you’re nothing like me and you’ve experienced the beach, the forest, or at least a daily dose of vitamin D. Because just because you’re
away from the keyboard doesn’t mean that the games have to stop.
This week we look at five games that look like books you
would bring to the beach, but play like adventures you never thought were
possible. Who needs a bookmark when you have save points?
Ever walk into a room and forget why you went there in the
first place? Now imagine a whole mansion just like that. This is Device 6, a
game where “Myst” meets TV’s “The Prisoner.” Instead of having to go into local
politics (Six for Two and Two for Nothing!) or being chased down by a white
balloon, you work your way through a mysterious mansion filled with talking
stuffed bears and tape recorders, while unraveling the mystery of how you got
there as well as how you’re going to get out. There’s nothing terrifying or
horrible waiting for you, just strange moments with a bit of that 70’s mod style.
Style is something “Device 6” has in spades. Instead of making
your way through hallways, you read about them. Occasionally, a picture
accompanies the text to give you a clue or puzzle to solve, and the text itself
acts as the world around you. Words work their way around corners or up if you
happen to find stairs. A wall of text can be an actual wall. And with all of
this, you’ll hear the right sounds just as your eyes pass over the words. Check
out “Device 6” if you’re looking to get truly lost in a book.
The thing about interactive fiction is that it’s not often
that interactive. You find yourself working through piles of text just to get
to bottom of the page with a handful of choices. Players feel like they’re
being dragged along for the right rather than actually taking the wheel of this
Enter Versu, a new style of interactive fiction that gives players
more control over their destiny. As you read the drama unfolding in front of you, the game
lets you take an action at any time. It can be something small such as
observing a piece of art or you can start flinging wild accusations from the
very start. Think of it as a play where your part is conveniently missing. As
you make your choices, the actors improvise to fit your character and the
changing situation around you. By tackling the situation differently each time,
you’ll find new routes appear and ending to discover.
In that style, “Blood & Laurels” throws you into the days of the Roman
Empire. As a struggling poet, you’ll need to come up with a patron or at least
some cash to stay alive to write your next poem. Cults, romance, a little backstabbing all come into play as the game unfolds around your actions. You’ll find that the characters
you meet are smart enough to both react and remember what you do. Make the
right moves and you might find yourself in politics. Make the wrong ones and
not even the Gods can help you out. While the story isn’t always perfect – big
choices don’t always create big changes – anyone looking to slip into a good
pulpy drama while lying around the pool will be rewarded with this story.
In space, no one can hear you scream, but they can surely
watch you die. Lost out in space, alone in your vessel; you’ll need to find
your way back home or die trying. You start every game in a randomly generated
universe of stars with a final point marked on your map with a big red circle.
All you have to do is get there. While you might be thinking about warming up
those laser rifles and loading up the torpedoes, “Out There” focuses more on
resource gathering and how you handle random situations that come flying your
way. Forget the lightsaber and break open the Excel document instead.
Like the real world, you need to worry about fuel, since
everything you do eats into it. And for every ding or scrape your vessel gets
into, you’ll need to patch it up with a little iron. Different components that help
your craft move farther, faster, or just survive the elements of space will
require different material that you’ll need to mine.
Along the way, you’ll meet a host of new alien species who
will try to help you out. As it turns out, you can’t understand your new friends until you try interacting with them. Get a lovely
gift or have them run away in fear. Either way, you learn one new word to add to your growing lexicon of alien languages. With each piece of the puzzle, you
gain a greater understanding of those who want to be your friend or just take
your technology. You’ll uncover secrets hidden within the universe, find new
space crafts to take on your voyage, and maybe – just maybe, you’ll find your
You might have dabbled in the way of D&D once or twice
in your life. Maybe you came across those god-awful movies. Either way, you can
relieve the experience (the table top game, not the movie) again with “Sorcery” for your iPad. The game takes you into a magical world of fairies, dragons, and
other people who want to see your dead as you try to defeat the evil archmage
who has taken control of the land. You won’t fight him here however since the
game is broken up into four books. The first book is all about trying to get to
the main city and surviving all the nasty traps along the way.
Every little space you pass on this card board kingdom
represents an adventure just waiting to happen. Will you free the fairy or
leave the pest alone? Will you try to fighting your way out of the enemy camp
or use the cover of night to sneak out? Choices will not be simple or obvious.
A decision five moves back could completely change how you deal with the enemy
in front of you. After passing a little node, you get a “redo” to go back to
any part to make a better decision or see where life might have taken you if
you picked left instead of right. With several other books on the way, magic
spells to cast, and lots of story to dig through; Sorcery! May just find a way
to put a spell on you.
It begins with a howling dog. You are a prisoner, enduring
the same day every day. But then something happens. Did you find a crack in
their security or are you having a mental breakdown? Howling Dogs is one of the
finest demonstrations of the new Twine format, interactive fiction that anyone
can put together.
Twine lets you string together series of text through words
or links in the story. Instead of “Turn to Page 38,” you are more than likely
to click on an action to continue or a person to find out more about them.
People who never had any interest in making games are now looking at Twine as
their first foray into the digital world. While there are already thousands of
titles out there for you to experience, Porpentine’s Howling Dogs delivers such
a visceral approach to the story while adding in new twists that you’ll need to
see to believe. Taking only minutes to get through, some of these titles stick
around with you long after you leave them.
Forget writing that great American novel for once and start
learning how to build a Twine story. For a little inspiration, you should check