Sunday, 6 October 2013

Dad vs. Unicorn by PaperBlurt


Click here to play Dad vs. Unicorn online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

This is a short (10 minutes) CYOA Twine (I think?) piece about a small-minded masculinity-conscious dad, his overweight and troubled son and how they are eventually attacked by a unicorn. I can let on about the unicorn attack because it's in the blurb of the game and also strongly implied by the title in the first place. I found the experience mildly unpleasant and lacking some other resonance to sufficiently make up for that. Dad vs. Unicorn does carry the fire of anger, manifest as sarcastic energy, and it uses highly crafted minimal prose which is sometimes hard to follow due to its frequent stylistic omission of the verb to be or other sentence-launching entities. This is not the first 10 minute Twine game I've played brandishing the particular combination of anger, swearing, sexual politics and characters throwing their entrails around, and my reaction to each one tends to be half instinct, and half – if I have ideas about what I think the game was on about – what I think the game was on about. This game has swearing, sexual content and violence, so the rest of my spoily commentary on it might, too.

I read Dad vs. Unicorn as a short assault on traditional ideas of masculinity and how they can screw people up. You can click your way through either the dad's thoughts as he prepares a manly BBQ or his son's thoughts as he looks for his dad around the house. The dad's recollections show how boxed in he is in his thoughts and how disappointed he is in his unmasculine son. The son's recollections are a series of vignettes about being embarrassed or shamed. Both stories lead to the encounter with the unicorn, who kills someone, and you get to pick who dies. After those two experiences you can play from the unicorn's point of view, where you discover that he's not just literally a dickhead, but figuratively one, too. Hypermasculinity leads only to stupid destruction, perhaps?

The dad has only small thoughts and appears to have stopped evolving completely, which obviously isn't impossible, but makes me feel that the pervading angriness is the game's main point, since games in which you can choose which person to play usually use that opportunity to let you experience varying perspectives.

The act of writing about this game showed me I took more from it than I thought I did, but it felt too much like having one angry note yelled at me.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, not a fan. I get the message, but the violent ending makes me feel no better about myself. Stupid unicorn.

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