To me, the most compelling works of interactive fiction are ones that take advantage of the unique features of the medium. “Tethered” tells a story that a conventional, noninteractive work of fiction would not be able to accomplish. The story begins with a woman being stranded during a snowstorm, but it quickly turns into something more unsettling.
Gameplay: The game is a classic parser-based one. Although it starts out as a standard survival adventure with some classic cave exploration, the game later explores the ramifications of the protagonist’s injuries and predicament. It’s a bit of a one-note game, but it’s good while it lasts, and it’s memorable. 5/10.
Mechanics: The game is fundamentally a simple one. It starts out in the most classic text-adventure setting possible— exploring a cave— but the real focus in on the main character’s deteriorating mental and physical state. Still, the game is more about experiencing that state rather than solving puzzles or exploring the setting. (It should be noted, however, that one of the reasons the game is so effective is that the player does have to actively participate in the main character’s self-destructive behavior, rather than just being along for the ride.) It’s also noteworthy that the author also managed to pull off the impressive programming feat of a multi-room rope that seems to work as advertised. 5/10.
Presentation: The text is consistent and solid, but its main success is simply being memorable. The game is genuinely unnerving, like a good horror game should be, and it succeeds in showing rather than telling the plight of the main character. I usually don’t have much of a reaction to works in the horror genre, but I found this one unsettling. 7/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like games with unreliable narrators.