This review contains spoilers

There's some neat stuff in TWC. There's legitimately lovely artwork, the surrealism of it all is quite lovely, it well establishes a weird world and some likeable characters very well in it's short runtime, and the story is, whilst kinda wishy-washy, engaging enough to carry it through it's 50-minutes or so of stuff to do.

But it's also hamstrung from some very weak structure and seeming to straight up borrow tropes of the RPGmaker adventure/thing genre without really putting much thought into it, and i sadly feel it fails as a result.

The main elephant in the room is the puzzles. They're blatantly terrible and add basically nothing to the game. Obviously in a game this short there's not many of them, but they just add nothing to the story and generally feel like a bit of a weak way of the characters making progression. There's a few story tidbits within them but I do feel it takes away from the story for the dumb puzzles to be the progression for the most part rather than some growth or progression within the characters.

The RPGmaker presentation also feels a bit underthought. For what's otherwise a very engrossing world the menus and text boxes in particular are great at pulling you right out of it, and I'm not convinced a top down perspective with Pixel-art characters was the best way of doing it. It clashes with the lovely art pieces quite hard and just kinda makes me wish the game was a point and click or something in that vein where I could really fall into it all. Because when the art is on screen, its legitimately very pretty and surreal in just the right way.

There's also the pointless inclusion of a secret ending by doing some random stuff that isnt really signposted because idk, it's a trope of the genre. The secret ending is pretty important and I feel the whole thing could have been better incorporated into one more satisfying concluison but whatever.

Even with all those issues, it would probably be pretty good. It's short, cute, kinda interesting and the two core characters are great. BUT THEN.

So at the end of the secret ending, the developer has a literal signpost which explains the plot and what the game was about. I hate it with every fiber of my being and I have no idea why it's there other than to maybe highlight that it's a personal tale, but that does nothing compared to how condescending it is and how much it shatters the suspsension of disbelieft the rest of the game has been pretty great at.

The game is pretty abstract but it's also definetly piece-able together without this shit. It's watching an artsty movie and then finding the movie theatre goes immedietly onto a watchmojo "ANNIHILATION ENDING EXPLAINED" youtube video. Fuck off. It's a terrible inclusion and feels like something that should have been entirely culled in playtesting.

It's still a neat little experience. The art in particular is lovely and there's a emotional core to it that is well captured. But it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth somewhat, especially as I despise it's final moments. Probably worth playing with being only about an hour long, but it could have been much more.

Reviewed on Sep 18, 2021


9 months ago

i don't think the "secret ending" explains the whole plot. either of them, either the alien ending or the afterword. like i think the afterword isn't doing what you think it's doing, and i think it's a bit incurious to think that like what you see is what you get as far as that goes. like yes it more definitively sets down what its about, but it's all stuff that is.. already wholly explicit throughout the whole text. like if you think "it's a story about grief" is an explainer i think you're kind of just taking the sour note of having something be explicitly stated and then not really pushing on your thoughts on it otherwise. like i think it's more of a move of confidence than you give it credit for because there's a lot here that can be unpacked that either of those sequences only adds to really.

i do agree about the puzzles being mechanically superfluous and the ending requirements being kind of obtuse in a rly annoying way but i think they do thematic work, which you kind of note, but that IS the character growth. like they're constantly revealing themselves to one another through these trials and through their conversation. not sure i understood that point at all. but more than that i think it's a little capricious to say like the game being in the rpgmaker engine is a failing..? like that's not constructive that's kind of akin to saying "learn to code" at the developer in this case. it's totally valid to personally not like rpgmaker presentationally, and i don't think noting that it might benefit from a different genre is "wrong," but rpgmaker is an accessible tool for people with less of a budget and background. etherane is a writer and visual artist first so i feel like it's just kind of a weird critique.

which also isn't to say like you aren't entitled to not liking this, like if it doesn't work for you it doesn't, and your thoughts are still totally legitimate to log, but i do rly want to challenge the idea that the endings are watchmojo explainers lol like that's just.. not true unless your thinking is that naming a theme is explaining a theme, which is like, not how that works, i don't think :s

9 months ago

meant to say "isn't* "wrong"" lol

9 months ago

i feel like the puzzles as dull as they can be are a pretty clever spin on the limitations and functions of a rpgmaker game in a way, given the themes of simulation as well as organized religious orders. doing inscrutable, pseudo-meditative tasks are a hallmark of say monkhood or attending catholic school. that said i agree that they aren’t fun to do per se especially on a (essentially required) second playthru with recycled dialogue, it became a little more obviously tedious for me in those moments

9 months ago

@ghost girl I'm not saying "Learn to Code", I'm saying I don't think RPGmaker was the best medium for the story that's being told here, and the bones of it lead to immersion breaks and inconsistent presentation which is unneccessary. I like RPG maker games quite often, it's a great tool, and part of the reason I mention point and clicks is that those are games that can be built with "maker" tools as well.

As for the final thesis from the dev, part of my issue is that it feels reductive and condescending for the very game it's in, that's why I treat it with the same contempt as a watchmojo explainer. When your themes and stuff are explicit in the text that you've wrote, I find it a bit insulting to treat the player in the way it kinda does when the rest of the game sets it out fairly well. That's what I find particularly frustrating about it, and it's wholly unneccessary.

9 months ago

my point was that its not reductive tbhh if you think that the totality of the game is summated in those sequences youre only scratching the surface of the game. like theres a lot going on in the game that isnt remotely touched upon in those conclusions; religious trauma and queer sexuality, coopting of religious iconography by authoritarian (and here often objectivist) movements, post soviet social power structures, adolescent development within religious institutions that stifle, liberation (or freedom) and its conflicting but necessary relationship to escapism and how they brush against ingrained obedience, censorship and the intensely political nature of "truth," science and faith and the dialectics produced between them, how body horror has a kind of particular "queerness" to it, the collapse of faith and the grief that produces, etc etc. these are all kind of readable within the text and push past just like naming "this is about society and grief," because that is really not explaining anything imho.

9 months ago

i feel like the puzzles as dull as they can be are a pretty clever spin on the limitations and functions of a rpgmaker game in a way, given the themes of simulation as well as organized religious orders. doing inscrutable, pseudo-meditative tasks are a hallmark of say monkhood or attending catholic school.

feeling this as well ! but they also suuuck to play so they couldve had more thought into it IMO, feel like it wouldve been better if you didnt get flung to the title screen when you fail since thats kinda unnecessary

also, on the review part, i didnt really get the secret ending explaning the whole plot? like, i didnt get that at all. it definitely clarifies some stuff, but its definitely not ending explained material

9 months ago

backloggd ditched my > at the start of that one 7_7 but i was quoting skia

9 months ago

@ghost_girl Could you expound on your thoughts on the queerness and post-soviet power structures of the game? I think you picked up on a lot of stuff that flew over my head but those two in particular never even crossed my mind, so I'm interested to hear your analysis.