Free To Play Array, Part 06 – Emily Is Away
This article is part of a series. The first part can be found here : Free To Play Array, Part 01 – AdVenture Capitalist
Apologies for the delay. I have been without internet for almost two weeks, on and off. The normal schedule should resume from now on.
Emily Is Away is an indie text-based experience. The game plays out the interactions between a pair of friends who move away from each other, after going to University.
Emily is a short experience but I deemed it curious enough to warrant an article.
The game takes place over five years, though you only partake in one conversation within each year. Much like Bioware and Telltale games, your choices in early interactions effect the future interactions.
You play yourself, or whoever else you may wish to be, and you chat with your friend, Emily. Each year, you log onto your Windows desktop and open up the classic Yahoo Messenger client. You type in your username, choose a profile pic and sign in.
Within a few moment, you receive a message from Emily and chat. Like any modern RPG or Telltale game, you are presented with three dialogue choices and select what you wish to say. And that covers it, really.
Depending on the choices you make, the dialogue changes from minor details to major events. The differences are quite staggering and allow for multiple replays, to see how choices change the story events.
My favourite feature of Emily Is Away is the sense of immersion it creates in such a small amount of time. The sounds used in the game are taken straight from the classic instant messenger clients and are so reminiscent of the settings.
The profile pictures are heavily pixelated versions of album artwork, or film posters that were released around each “Year” of the game. They are occasionally referenced by Emily and can add flavour to the simplest of choices.
But the best point, in my opinion is the simplest; the input method. When you select a dialogue choice, you have to actually type it out. Not via typing, but merely by pressing the keyboard. Each key you press types out a letter, writing out the dialogue choice.
It is a simple detail to adds so much to the game’s immersion. Before long you will be trying to rewrite a dialogue choice, only to find it is totally out of your hands.
When I initially played Emily Is Away, it was downloaded from itch.io. The majority of this review was based on those experiences, until I found it had been updated for Steam. I didn’t think much would have changed, but checked the Steam version, just to be sure. Much to my surprise, a lot has been added. The game now has achievements, altered dialogue choices and a wide array of easter eggs.
The first I noticed was the inclusion of your Steam friends in the contacts list, each year. I had a genuine double take, when I saw a handful of my actual friends, scattered between Online, Offline and Busy statuses.
The other main easter egg is unlockable profile pictures. By putting in specific screen names, you can unlock exclusive pictures. This seems superficial, but actually offers up unique dialogue trees and reactions, during the interactions, throughout the years.
As mentioned previously, Emily Is Away has multiple branching story arcs and offers a reason for the curious to replay it a few times. I have four or five playthroughs “under my belt” and I’m still not sure if there is a definite, canon story.
But I think that is the point. The story is special to you and maybe there isn’t supposed to be any one right way. I think it is a nice little distraction for those with an interest in short-form narrative.
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Last played and completed on 01/02/16 for Steam.
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