Wade Clarke, who brought us last year’s Leadlight, comes back with Six. Apart from the fact that both games are set in Australia, they couldn’t be more different. I should probably note before I start that this game has music, but I played it on an interpreter that doesn’t support it. Whether this makes the experience better or worse, I can’t say. Spoilers follow the break.
You play a little girl named Harriet on her sixth birthday, as six friends, all in fancy costumes, join her in the park to play “Hide and Seek Tip”. This is Hide and Seek hybridized with Tag, so some of the players try not to be seen, while others choose instead to just run away when you get close. One even challenges you to a duel in which you pretend to zap each other with wands. In real life, I’d expect this to result in arguments about who zapped who, but the kids here have strong enough imaginations to think of zaps as something objectively real and beyond dispute. (I suppose it’s because the kids themselves are fictional. The zaps are no less real than they are.)
It’s charmingly written, and a good study in autonomous wandering NPCs to boot. But the thing that really draws my attention is New Game Plus mode. After you’ve won the game with Harriet, which frankly doesn’t take very long, you can start over as her twin sister Demi, who was an NPC before. This changes a lot of the descriptions, Suspended-style, and also all of the puzzles. Harriet didn’t really have any puzzles worthy of the name; several of the players could be simply chased down. But Demi is wearing a costume that limits her movements enough to prevent the direct approach. To compensate, she’s cleverer than her sister, and not as nervous about things like spiders. It’s essentially a different game with the same premise and setting, which is fortunate, because the first game really wasn’t meaty enough to satisfy.
I don’t recall seeing this sort of unlocking in IF before, although it’s common in console games. Finishing the game the first time even changes the splash screen from a picture of Harriet to a picture of Demi, a blatant consoleism. I haven’t finished the game with Demi yet, so for all I know there may be more characters to unlock.