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IF Only: Bears and Shoes

Flashback to a bear's childhood

Featured post Cover art for Bear Dad

IF Comp 2016 is still running as I write this — though by the time you read it, we’ll be down to the final days. Most years recently, I’ve been certain what game was going to win by this point in the process. This year, I truly don’t know. Partly, that’s because the crop is so very large. With nearly 60 entrants in the pool, there are still a couple of games I haven’t even had a chance to look at at all. But partly it’s also just a wildly diverse group of games and stories, trying very different things. How to compare the grief-filled short choice-based memoir Ash with the story-sparse parser-based logic puzzle that is Inside the Facility?

Still, I have a few more recommendations from this year’s collection.SCREW YOU, BEAR DAD (Xalavier Nelson Jr, Twine) casts you as a bear, but a bear with backstory and feelings and resentments. Through no fault of your own, and for reasons that aren’t revealed until much later, you are air-dropped into a peculiar island factory in the middle of the Pacific while suffering uncontrollable flashbacks. You kill one of the workers accidentally by landing on him, but again, this really isn’t your fault. Still, the other workers in the facility are freaked out and not sure what to do. The story flickers back and forth between the bear’s experiences in the facility, the bear’s flashbacks to its childhood and relationship to Bear Dad, and the reactions of the humans in the control room.

It’s a pretty linear game. You do get to make some choices, including some emotional choices that I really liked. But there’s also a lot of stepping through timed text or text produced in very short chunks. Also, the game does a lot with text wiggle effects. I read fast and click fast, so this didn’t particularly bother me, but I suspect it may bother some people. Personally, I found that the piece really grew on me.

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Emily Short

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