“The Surprise” is a choice-based game in which its protagonist takes a pregnancy test and reacts to the results.

Since this is the first game in the competition featuring it, I’ll specifically note here that delayed text in interaction fiction games is awful. It doesn’t create dramatic tension; it kills it, and it just bores the player. I’m a fast reader, and I find myself pulling up other websites or distractions when the author decides to force me to stare at a block of text I’ve already read before deigning to allow me to continue their game. Delayed text accomplishes nothing besides frustrating me and wasting my time. This year, I’m taking off a point from the Presentation category for any entry that uses it.

Gameplay: The game is starkly simple: You take a pregnancy test, make a call to your ambivalent husband with the results, clean up, and leave the bathroom. The blurb mentions that the game is autobiographical, and I wish the author the best, but it’s just not an interesting story without any characterization or context. 2/10.

Mechanics: Although it’s clear at every stage of the game what needs to be done, it’s often unclear how to do so. The actions required— taking a pregnancy test, washing up, etc.— are obvious to both the human player and the protagonist, but it’s unnecessarily awkward to find the right series of links that will allow her to execute them. There’s not much to do in the game, and it’s unclear what advantage its limited interactivity gives it over, say, an ordinary short story. 2/10.

Presentation: The text is terse and utilitarian. The only description of the main character, for example, is that she’s a “35-year-old woman with long pink hair and glasses.” That’s an odd combination of very specific but unilluminating details, and there’s little characterization of her or her husband during their brief conversation. The game also features significant sections of delayed text, which I’ve already complained about above. 2/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You had a similar experience to the author’s.

Score: 2

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