Arcane Intern (Unpaid)

We're an intern at a publishing house, and the twist is that the publishing house caters to the magical community: wizard, witches, eldritch horrors, and all manner of supernatural bogeymen. We ourselves are not part of this world, and are aware of it only because of the sigil given to us on the conclusion of our job interview. It's a little bit like the Harry Potter universe, but with a bit of Lovecraft thrown in. The separation of magic and muggle is not quite so comical as in Harry Potter, though. There's a slightly malevolent edge and, in a way, it comes off as more realistic.

It strikes me that there's a different sort of expectation when it comes to player agency, between parser games and hypertext/choice games. With a parser game, there's less expectation of a branching plot, though we often expect to have the flow of the story dictated by our ability to clear puzzle-hurdles; contrariwise, it seems that hypertext games are expected to involve more branching plotlines, and fewer puzzle-hurdles. "Arcane Intern" divides itself into chronological chapters which, despite being chronological, may be accessed at any time once we've played through the thing. This suggests that gains and losses do not carry from one chapter to the next. This is fine in a game on the "puzzle-hurdle" model, but pretty much says that there will be no branching of plot here.

Not counting the prologue, in which we have the job interview, there are basically three chapters. The first, much like the prologue, is basically just story-telling and setting, establishing aspects of the magical world and the fact that this one guy at the office is a jerk. The second is, quite simply, a puzzle-hurdle in which we have to navigate a magical warehouse and maybe try our hand at this magic stuff. The third and last chapter is where we have the plot-branching, the decisions that actually change the way the story ends.

Apparently we really can have it both ways.

Aside from this, the writing was overall pretty good. The various characters, lightly-sketched as they were, still stood out and I did feel as though I was dealing with different people with different personalities. It often seemed as though the people on the lowest rungs of the office hierarchy were always the nicest ones, but I suspect that may be something of a general rule. It was slightly disappointing to know that friendships (well, friendly relationships anyway) established in the earlier chapters would count for nothing at the end of the story.

But the opportunity, in the end, for a little minor rebellion, to take a little something from this world that thinks nothing of discarding me like the remains of yesterday's ritual sacrifice? That was immensely satisfying.

It's like a sweet banana-granola smoothie and a tall glass of cold orange juice. A touch of urbanity, and a refreshing wake-up call without the heaviness of coffee.