[IFComp 2015] The Insect Massacre

The Insect Massacre is a short Twine work by Tom Delanoy.

Cover art of

This cover art doesn’t actually fit the game very well, in my opinion.

A short murder mystery set aboard a space station.

You can play it here until the end of the comp.

Review with spoilers after the cut.

To start, I enjoyed The Insect Massacre quite a lot, and think it’s well worth playing. Since it’s short (I think it took me around 15 minutes to explore all the endings) and is a murder mystery, I highly recommend that you play it before reading the rest of this review. I’ll save big spoilers for the last paragraph or two.

Screenshot of "The Insect Massacre"

As I hope you now already know, The Insect Massacre is set on a space station where a woman has just been murdered. I’m a Star Trek fan, a Doctor Who aficionado, and a devourer of Agatha Christie novels, so this opening immediately won me over. Dear universe, please send me more space mysteries!

The player is the station’s computer system, listening in on crew members and law enforcement talk as they investigate the death. The entire story is told through dialogue, presented color-coded by character. The aesthetics of the piece pleased me and did evoke the idea of being a computer, only getting limited and unadorned information about the world.

I also liked how the text fades in one line at a time, forcing the reader to experience the conversation as if it were really happening. I am a fast reader and sometimes let my eyes bounce around a page, but this technique forced me to slow down and react to each character’s thoughts one at a time. There was a downside to this, though. The game encourages replaying, and it became tedious to wait for a conversation I had already read to slowly reappear before I could choose from between my options.

I thought the reveal of the ending was nicely paced. I would have liked, especially in an interactive medium, the opportunity to have to figure out the murderer’s identity myself before the characters did, if not in character (since that wouldn’t exactly make sense), then outside of the story. It’s always one of my favorite things about my Agatha Christies – guessing at whodunit and watching as further clues confirm or tear down my hypothesis. I’m also not 100% sure what the very end meant: I know that I killed Sally, and I’m pretty sure that it was because I was in love with her, but was she somehow complicit and agreed to being… uploaded, or whatever? If so, what was our long-term plan? Were we planning to take over the station? Wouldn’t that cause problems with whatever bigger society the station is part of? Or did I recreate her hologram with the emotions I wanted her to have? If the latter, couldn’t I have just made a hologram and let the real Sally do what she wanted? I’d love to hear other players’ thoughts in the comments!

A good little game, though. Thank you, Tom Delanoy!

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