Review of:
Sting by Mike Russo
(IF Comp entry, IFDB)

If you’d like to see the other games reviewed this year, head to the main page.

Spoiler warning

Sting is presented as an autobiographical exploration of vignettes of Mike Russo’s life as a twin brother to a boisterous Liz and bee-sting-magnet. Each of the six stories end with a bee sting, but the greatest sting comes at the end of it all — these are stories not about bees but about his twin sister and the sting of losing her later in life.

The structure of the game was neat and suitably emotional. I was initially worried about it being autobiographical, but there’s a quiet, observational tone that illuminated enough character and life-truths without being a detailed, voyeyristic study of real-world people.

Sting works well as a parser game, surprisingly. Each vignette is just big enough for you to play around in, but not have to explore, wait or fiddle too much. Scenes like the sailing scene actually work better as a confusing, stressful mess of HOISTING JIBs and ROLLING TACKs. Your panicked interactivity gives the scene an extra boost and plays out the twins’ relationship effectively. In a scene where a bee disaster is imminent, all my attempts to avoid it just accentuated the main character’s anxiousness and underlying disappointment. And in later, more quiet scenes, just waiting or walking plays out the scene with a quiet, gentle pace.

All the characters came alive for me, and you got the sense of decades of interactions in short scenes. Though it must be said, Mike’s angered some ancient bee deity to have been stung six times!

I enjoyed the well-polished and aptly-scoped stories. This benefitted from being interactive fiction and had a good emotional core.