Like “Haywire,” Sly Merc’s “Shackles of Control” is more of a genuine Choose-Your-Own-Adventure work that most short choice-based games, with a variety of branching paths and choices that redirect rather than merely embellish the plot. The main difference between the two games is that while “Haywire” stayed within the same setting and genre, “Shackles” is more meta, with the endings dipping into a variety of genres and offering comments about the game itself.

Gameplay: The choices certainly have a significant effect on gameplay, but gameplay is matter of choice a branch of the decision tree to explore. There’s little state, and it’s often completely unclear what effects the decisions will later have or why the player should choose one over another. That isn’t necessarily a drawback; the goal of the game is to see the variety of endings and meta-commentary on the game itself. Furthermore, the brevity of the game and the high degree of branching makes it easy to replay it. 5/10.

Mechanics: Playing the game is straightfoward, and I didn’t encounter any bugs in it. There aren’t any real mechanics to the game; the choices are there simply to move along the plot tree. 4/10.

Presentation: The text was concise enough to avoid bogging down gameplay but also description enough to make the scenarios truly distinct, and there are a variety of endings available. 5/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You like quick, somewhat meta games.

Score: 5

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