IFComp 2020: The Eidolon’s Escape

An evil spirit sits trapped in a crystal in a wizard’s tower, waiting to possess the first person who gets too close. You play the spirit, striving for escape.

Your first victims are a pair of young lovers, the wizard’s apprentice and a girl from the kitchens, sneaking into the lab to find a place to make out, a practice which disgusts and bewilders our nonhuman protagonist. Ah, but which of the pair do you possess? In fact it doesn’t matter much, because you’ll be back to possess the other one before the story’s over — although it does affect the immediate aftermath of the switch, whether you’re the boy trying to persuade the girl not to freak out, or the girl trying to do the same to the boy.

I’ve complained recently about Twine pieces that put a forward link after every sentence or two to disguise the fact that there are only like three actual choices in the whole story. This piece is a good example of the alternative. It’s willing to put up a full page of text at a time when it has that much to say before the next choice, and the choices are numerous. Mind you, many of them are purely tonal, without lasting effects, just choosing how to approach a conversation — but those are the most delicious ones!. Mainly you get to choose whether try to play it smooth and manipulative, or brash and domineering. I was particularly pleased by a bit where, in control of the girl, you choose whether to address the boy as “Kitten”, “Puddin'”, or “Meatbag”. You might think the latter attitude would be ineffective, but in most cases, it confuses people into submission.

There are some choices that lead to immediate and well-deserved re-imprisonment. They’re mainly things that you know perfectly well are going to be risky, like going into the wizard’s bedroom to try to smother him before he wakes up, but I still found it irksome, because there’s no way to save and no going backward. Going backward is in fact something Twine supports — the Harlowe format puts an Undo link on every page by default. But we don’t have that here, and the result is that I wound up playing through the early parts of the game multiple times. But at least I got to see multiple dialogue options that way.

Speaking of smothering the wizard, it seems like violence is the one thing that the story always punishes. The Eidolon is contemptuous of humans, but it can only escape the tower if it learns to temper its malevolence and let them live anyway.

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