Shelter from the Storm

And now a wartime tale from Eric Eve, author of last year’s Nightfall. The year is 1940. A British lieutenant, on his way to report for duty, gets stuck in a thunderstorm in the countryside. Finding a house nearby, he persuades the maid to let him in; there follows a section where he meets the family, follows people around and engages in lots of the sort of menu-based conversation where there are more options than you can choose in the number of turns allotted. This goes on for a while, then stops abruptly, the soldier left alone while some mysterious noises upstairs draw his attention.

It’s strange, but at this point, despite having played the game for a while, I still had no clear idea of what sort of game it is. I’d have said it was basically a character-based drama, until I was abandoned to the world of objects and forced to take Action. Strange noises in a large house could mean anything from H. P. Lovecraft to C. S. Lewis. After a while, I started to suspect that things were a bit more prosaic than either of those extremes, and that I was simply dealing with a Nazi spy ring. My first clue was that the housemaid, supposedly a Jewish refugee, is contentedly listening to Wagner on the radio as she irons. And, once I had gotten my head sufficiently out of character-based-drama mode to start searching closets at random, I started finding more clues suggestive of this conclusion. I still don’t know who else in the house is involved, though, or even if the people I’ve met are who they claim to be. The noises I heard could be the house’s rightful inhabitants, tied up in the closet.

I should mention one of the game’s larger peculiarities: that it lets the player choose the person and tense of the entire game. I’ve chosen to play it in first person past tense, like it’s an episode from the soldier’s memoirs. I know I’ve seen at least one other incomplete fragment game that allowed the player to choose the tense, but the effort to produce this degree of variation over a full game seems strangely decadent. Still, it makes it a valuable resource for anyone investigating the effect of tense and person on the feel of a game.

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