One of the techniques I use to avoid writer’s block is taking a short nap to clear my thoughts (or, more often, just to catch up on sleep). The protagonist in “Cannery Vale” does the same as he tries to finish his upcoming horror novel, exploring the novel in his dreams and making the revisions those dreams suggest on waking up.

Gameplay: Most of the gameplay involves exploring the plot of the story, running into an impasse or death, and then fixing the problem after waking up. It’s an interesting, literary take on the programming mechanic a few other games in this competition (e.g., “I.A.G. Alpha”) feature, and there are many opportunities to tweak the game beyond what’s in the shortest solution path. The setting is substantial, and the game has a much larger scope than it may first appear. It might be a bit too open-ended, given its scope, but exploring the novel and outside world are genuinely interesting. 8/10.

Mechanics: The game is choice-based, with the occasional text input or other check box instead of the usual list of alternatives. Its central mechanic is clever, though it’s occasionally unclear how to progress (without checking the walkthrough provided, at least) and what the exact mechanics surrounding the novel segment are. The interface for customizing the novel is set up well, and it’s enjoyable to see those changes later reflected in it. 7/10.

Presentation: The game is atmospheric, and the NPCs in the novel are believable characters. The game’s protagonist is not as well-developed, although the novel’s protagonist is as strong as any of its other characters. The author put considerable effort into providing rich details in the game, and the text and interface are constructed well. 8/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You’ve tried to write a novel and had writer’s block.

Score: 8

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