For these two pieces, I’m writing shorter capsule reviews. See my initial post for info on my approach to writing about those.

The Little Lifeform that Could

The premise here is pretty much the same as Spore: You start as a primitive single-celled organism and work your way up to a spacefaring civilization, with each discrete step involving a choice between similar options oriented around aggression, diplomacy, or trade. The overarching tone is cutesy and “soft”, in a lot of ways like a children’s story, which reinforces the comparison to Spore.

There’s a reasonable depth of interaction which I didn’t really have time to explore fully, but not a lot of content in any given branch or path. It’s very slight, and probably more appealing to younger readers.

Grade: Recommended; if nothing else, it should be pretty clear early on whether this is your kind of thing.

The Shoe Dept.

I didn’t manage to finish this in the time alotted; without getting into spoilers, the plot pretty quickly devolves from a mid-aughtscore retailpunk dystopiascape into a less-than-compelling absurdist mystery. This is a Twine, but there’s a world model and puzzles that work very similarly to traditional parser games, though I found the world a little difficult to immediately navigate and the puzzles seem out of place given how they’re spaced with linear story sections.

There’s not much here to hold my attention; while the plot nominally has stakes, it’s not really doing the work to set them up emotionally, so it feels very mechanical to me. This is compounded by prose that’s pretty workmanlike in places. It’s in no way bad, but I felt like there wasn’t much to latch on there, and I’m probably not going back to finish it.

Grade: Not recommended, but there’s probably people out there that this is for.