IF Comp 2016: The Skyscraper and the Scar (Diego Freire, Ruber Eaglenest)

The Skyscraper and the Scar is a post-apocalyptic adventure game made in Twine. Spoilers past the cover image.

Cover art for The Skyscraper and the Scar

First Impressions: I’m fond of the cover art, especially its colour palette. The subtitle and blurb sound rather grim, though the elaborate style of the blurb makes me think it may be more contemplative-gritty rather than depressing-gritty.

The interface is attractive and easy to read. It autosaves progress, which is a very nice user-friendly element which, as far as I found, works perfectly. I also appreciate the content note at the start! I’m in the mood for some grit, so on I go.

You’re plunged into the action straight off just after having murdered someone in your flat under mysterious circumstances. Aha, and there are zombies. I’d have liked to see a reference to zombies in the game description, as it’s an important element, but since it’s only in the second paragraph of the game I don’t really hold it at fault.

Getting stuck in: It seems we’re in a post-apocalyptic environment, complete with a tragic backstory, sinister Neighbourhood Patrol officers and an atmosphere of misery. I’d enjoy having a greater sense of the community in my depressing tower block: sure, I’m isolated, but it would be nice to know what other ordinary people are up to.

Early on I discover several opportunities to reject the plot, which I experiment with to see what happens. Usually games end up railroading in this situation, and this is no exception; although it does so with reasonable grace, I wonder why the player is allowed to stray off the path when ultimately they’re going to be pushed back.

The atmosphere feels drearily claustrophobic, with hints of a broader world but for most of the game confined to the tower-block home and its immediate surroundings.

The story is serviceable enough, though little surprised me and it could do with more specificity (who’s your loved one? What does your apartment look like/smell like? How do the other characters look/stand/sound?) On a sentence-level the writing could use brushing up – for instance, when choosing to tell the truth to a visitor to my apartment, I reached a page where instead I lied, which I thought was a bug but turned out to be intentional, and there are various bits of awkward wording that could have used further editing.

Later: Following my earlier urge to escape the confines of my protagonist’s miserable life, I avoid what feels like a plot-marker (a zombie-infested shopping mall) and instead leave for the outskirts. In contrast to my earlier wandering-off experience this makes for a rather satisfying ending, escaping into nature rather than delving into the more violent thread of vengeance. I’m pleased my protagonist found some peace, however brief.

 

Overall: This is a solidly put together game from first-time comp entrants: it’s pretty, it’s user-friendly, and it works. (On a purely self-interested note I want to know how they did the autosave/menu feature, because it’s extremely handy.) I’m interested to see more from the authors – I feel there’s potential, especially if they embark into more distinctive territory. Feel free to point me at any reviews of the Spanish-language version, as I’d like to see if commentary about the prose differs between the versions.

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