Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cinnamon Tea (review)

"Cinnamon Tea" is a Twine story written by Daffs O'Dill for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. I chose this game next by closing my eyes and pointing my finger to a random entry on the screen.

As the story begins, the narrative "you" has just brewed a pot of magical tea, which might have the power to render visions of past and future lives. The player can choose from among three options concerning how the tea feels after the first small sip.

Very mild spoilers after the page break.

Selecting how the tea feels would seem to be a low consequence choice, but in fact it determines which of three entirely different stories are delivered in the follow up.

The three stories run a parallel course: PC falls asleep, PC has a dream about another life, PC wakes up and experiences something which reminds them of their dream, the player is treated with a splashy abstract graphic representing the story they just read. There are no other choice points past the first. Besides clicking to advance, the reader is allowed to become passive.

The story-telling is strong enough that I went back and read them a second time to look for common themes or symbols. Each story only takes five minutes and could be from the reading list of an undergraduate gender studies class:. An inexperienced pair of transgender lovers. Body image issues. Same sex romance under the oppression of a Nazi concentration camp. Sexual power games between opponents of a recent civil war.

These themes, as emotionally rending as they could be, are less effective in a Twine environment where they've become kind of cliche. That, together with the overall lack of interactivity and absence of onscreen text effects make me wonder whether Twine was the right medium for telling these stories.

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