I’m a little late for a spooky edition of Twine Weekly but I’m going to do one anyways. Ghosts Are Good Hosts deals with manipulation through conversation, self preservation, and well…ghosts. Having been invited to an reunion dinner, you embark to the Chateau de Carnelle just outside of Paris. Upon arriving, however, there is only one other person, Annabelle, whom you do not know. Then the ghosts appear and it grows more evident that you are the meal for this dinner.
From the initial screen we can tell that extra care was put into the presentation. Unlike most Twine games that use hyperlinked text for options, Ghosts Are Good Hosts uses buttons. Not only that but a full screen button can be found as well. There is also quite a bit of art used throughout the game. The dining room, a central hub to choose which character to talk to, is a static picture and the player clicks on who they wish to converse with. Character portraits are even used to help keep track of who the player is talking to. All of these features help reduce the typical “Twine feeling.” In fact, there were times when I forgot it was Twine at all. This is no small feat and is one of Ghosts biggest strengths.
The core of the game revolves around talking to the four ghosts, learning about their personalities and interests in hopes of talking your way out of being eaten. You can ask about their personal histories, hobbies, or their feelings towards the other ghosts. As the player discovers more information additional inquiries are unlocked that open up new dialogue trees. The ghosts are prone to asking about your opinion about them or their pastimes. There are wrong answers that will lead to death. It turns out that even in death souls do not enjoy being insulted. Aside from upsetting the ghosts, the player can offer either themselves or Annabelle to be eaten. Allowing yourself to be eaten will result in death however and is only used to end the game early. I’m assuming there is a way to escape but I couldn’t find it. After playing for an hour I am confident that I had exhausted all of my conversation options and couldn’t find anything else to do.
If presentation and characterization are its strengths, then a lack of direction is its weakness. The first ten minutes is comprised of simply clicking on every dialogue option and slowly collecting data about each character. After speaking to each character though, I talked to each again and noticed that some had new dialogue trees while other didn’t, and there wasn’t any way for me to know what was updated. So I was forced to go back through and aimlessly try every option again looking for new choices. While it is a bit game-y, I would have liked an icon — possibly an exclamation mark — on top of parent choices to signify of new options further in that tree. This could require a bit of work if the game doesn’t already keep track of which conversations have been read but it would greatly improve the player experience in the latter half of the game.
Ghosts Are Good Hosts is a solid example of using graphical elements to distinguish a Twine game. The same game could have been designed with plain text but the effect would have been diminished. The solid writing lends itself well to fleshing out the characters but neither of those can fix the pacing at the end of the game. Learning about each ghost is engaging as each has a unique personality however the hunt for clues to open up new dialogue options — and the search for said options — feels a bit grindy, especially when you get stuck and don’t know how to progress.
Ghosts Are Good Hosts
Created by: Leonid Pilchin
Can Be Found at: http://leondaydreamer.itch.io/ghost-are-good-hosts