Staff Pick: Say When

Broken Pencil - - Table Of Contents -

Say When (by Toronto-based writer and gamemaker Kaitlin Trem­blay) is an ex­am­ple of a Twine-based game that pro­vokes a world of emo­tions. When Say When starts, you meet your char­ac­ter Lily, a woman who is empty and hol­low. Your job is fill Lily by choos­ing from a se­ries of mods — Brain, Heart and Body — all of which add and take away points from Lily's san­ity. The game warns: “You can­not kill Lily, no mat­ter how much san­ity you take away from her. Be kind to Lily.”

Each choice you make for Lily pro­vides in­creas­ingly dire con­se­quences – and re­wards – as the game pro­ceeds and her mods pile up. At var­i­ous stages the game evokes de­pres­sion, self-harm, sui­ci­dal ideation and the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing an eat­ing dis­or­der. Say When is a marvel for many rea­sons – it's beau­ti­fully writ­ten, harrowing and and ex­hil­a­rat­ing in the way it pun­ishes/re­wards the player based on the level of thought in our de­ci­sion-mak­ing. And in the end, we are in­ex­orably bound to Lily's well-be­ing, forced to slowly and de­lib­er­ately build upon the ways she can heal, one mod at a time. Play at kait_zilla.itch.io. (Alison Lang)

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