First-parser linguistic shooter. Queer pirate plane. You’re a good fleshchaos Charlie Brown. They say if an Emily Short pokes her head above ground at the start of a new year, the > crop will be plentiful.
Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short
Anglophone Atlantis has been an independent nation since an April day in 1822, when a well-aimed shot from their depluralizing cannon reduced the British colonizing fleet to one ship.
Counterfeit Monkey is interactive fiction where you’re trying to escape from a language-obsessed island armed only with a device that removes letters from words, transforming the object described by the word. JP LeBreton compared it to “Portal for English”, which is a great way to describe how fast and fun this mechanic is.
Say you have a stone and you’re about to kill me, I can turn it into a tone and let it harmlessly vibrate away. Is that boat a boa or an oat? Depends if I need to scare you or feed you.
The first joy of Counterfeit Monkey is gazing on your environment with the knowledge that it can be linguistically reshaped.
The second joy of Counterfeit Monkey is that puzzles have multiple solutions, making success feel personalized, one of the hardest and most rewarding things to pull off in puzzle design.
The third joy of Counterfeit Monkey is being a secret agent who relies on wits, not weapons. Kind of like Gravity Bone–avant-garde espionage.
Some parser games are tedious to navigate. Counterfeit Monkey has fast travel, suggests possible exits if you’re getting lost, and an exquisite typographic map that tracks your position. This is a friendly parser game, not the kind of > that eats your verbs and nouns and drools mindlessly for more.
I can think of no higher endorsement than the number of times I yelled HOLY SHIT with each zap of my letter gun. With over eight hours of delicious wordplay, Counterfeit Monkey is a powerful start to interactive fiction in 2013.
Queer Pirate Plane by merritt kopas
A game about friends, freedom, and a queer pirate plane, “…put together in a couple of hours…for friends to play at a NYE party”. Escapism that turns outwards, not inwards, untangling and rewriting the real world instead of seeking another. Gift-games, handcrafted games, games that close distance.
Plane mood: drunk
The Circular Ruins by Robert Yang
A superb scifi bedtime story that blends the perspective of a little girl and her powerful uncle (whose identity is intriguingly left to details like “Emperors have been known to bow at my feet”). His tale recounts the hunting of a mysterious criminal known only as…Orchid.
Robert Yang has been hiding this story on his site for three years with no actual links to it that I know of. Too modest.
Mom is Home by Marras
A story about living with hypermobility and an unsupportive family. Marras’ dry, matter of fact style balances humor and fragility, and her background as a visual artist shows in her understated, harmonious color scheme.
I’m thrilled by all the artists delving into Twine, no longer forced to rely on programmers to carve a niche in the game world. Their work is fresh and exciting.
And in what is hopefully part of an increasing literacy of character development, Zolani wrote about choice funneling in Mom is Home, how options are used to convey a “whirlwind of ideas and worries and decisions”.
The Sixth Sleep by Sloane
A visceral alien world of bio-ships and fleshtunnels. You play a monster, right, the drippingest kind, and as the story progresses you catch flashes of what you are in gruesome glances, tantalizing tidbits of “vigilante veins”, “millepede majesty”, “bioluminescent glory”.
This xenomorphic prose leads you through living corridors until you realize a human is running through your maze. How will you interact? Can aliens and humans even hang out?
Sloane, like Marras, is another comic artist playing with interactivity. This story was inspired by her free short comic The Labyrinth’s Lament, a delightful look at being a sadistic alien warden in a biological prison.