Within a Circle of Water and Sand

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After a lengthy Preamble, which is a bit “tell’y” and dense to be honest. “Your name is Mananuiva and, since the day of your birth, the wet season has come and passed seventeen times.” it tells us….hmmm – there are better ways..

“Hey, Mananuiva,” says Sarah Exposition, “come on, you’re seventeen now. Isn’t it about time you left home and went on that rite of passage thing you’ve always been talking about.”

What do you reply :

‘Oh, god…..it’s sooo unfair!”

“Nobody understands me!”

“I hate you!”

“Jeez, I’m going in a minute! Leave me alone!”

…anyway, after that, Mananuiva, a seventeen year old islander, is on a right of passage to find her own way in the world – a path that will fit her, that will give some meaning to her life. Ugh. Good luck with that Mananuiva. I’m vaguely hoping to find it one of these days and I’m *cough* *mumble* years old.

You meet a young woman who is also about to undertake a rite. She takes you back to her island, and you are roped in to competing in a race with her – apparently an outsider must. What follows is an interesting, but occasionally problematic exploration of the atol, with puzzles and many many insta deaths.

I have found a bunch of items now, and some of the puzzles in order to obtain them are quite clever. I’ve not yet completed the game, though. I have reached numerous endings, including what I assume is a good ending. I haven’t seen them all yet, judging by the number of achievements that are still greyed out.

I will say that the reveal during the race is interesting. It turns the game into almost an action/horror game from what it has been up to that point. These islanders are not all they seem. But, the final end game does feel like a bunch of random choices. Do I punch her or grab her? I’m assuming one will end well, the other badly. No idea! I make what seems like the right choice.

Some aspects of the platform (I’m not entirely sure what this was developed in – is it a bespoke platform?) are interesting. It’s a compact, but relatively open world – I can explore using a neat little graphical interface. There are achievements, and I will say that my choices did feel consequential – this is a puzzle game. The images are very nice and it is a nice touch that I can see them again once I’ve found them.

I wish it wasn’t replay to win – I’m just getting more and more irritated having to do the same things over and again.

A nice delivery platform, but the gameplay needs to be fairer. 6/10.



One thought on “Within a Circle of Water and Sand

  1. I think that absolutely everyone hates the length of my entry’s introduction. Now that I’ve tried the other entries, I realize that it does look like a wall of text by comparison. My intention was to provide all the necessary information about the heroine right from the start, to allow the reader/player to focus entirely on the adventure itself afterwards.

    There’s only one good ending, and you reach it by winning the race. I made it fairly open, to reflect the fact that the heroine’s journey is far from over (as you observe, finding the meaning of your existence takes a while… to say the least).

    Though I can appreciate interactive fiction where you can’t really lose (ie, the main character can’t die or suffer a similarly terrible fate), I have a personal preference for interactive stories that are also games and present a real challenge. While I didn’t try to make “Within a circle” so difficult that nobody could complete it on the first try, I wanted most people to need two to four tries (whether or not I balanced the difficulty correctly is another matter).

    In the last part of the story, there are quite a few choices that can cause the heroine’s death (though having acquired certain items during the previous part can greatly increase your chances). I did try to ensure that the reader’s choices would lead to logical consequences (though I suspect that my reasoning was rather obscure in some cases).

    For instance, you mention a scene where you can either punch or grab your opponent. The right thing to do is to punch her ; trying to grab her will lead to negative consequences (though it won’t instantly cause your death unless you’re exhausted when you reach this scene). The reasoning is that your opponent has just emerged from the water and that her skin is consequently slippery, making it difficult to grab her.

    Thank you very much for your comments !


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