Base of the Comet, by Andrea Corbin, aka @rosencrantz, was one of the first Twine games I read that experimented with what it means to have different links in a hypertext. Then Corbin went on to try something I hadn’t seen before. It’s basically the story of a space scientist, Cal, who wakes up confused and alone on a spaceship. Here there be weird space monsters!
When you load the webpage, the first visible lexia, or story passage, loads and you instantly see two types of links, coloured purple or blue. Clicking on the purple links will find those paragraphs extending from a simple description to something more, and then to a full-blown investigation of whatever it is describing. Instead of navigation, purple is “explore”.
I really like this style of hypertext, and I what I liked the most was the very quick introduction to one key fact for this Twine text: there are a whole bunch of link types.
So, making Cal explore the environment (or not, as there is some element of control) we can move her on to explore the rest of the space vessel. Very quickly, it’s possible to dive into a loop of backstory.
With a new link colour (green) we enter flashbacks and see some characterisation, motivation, and minor plot. All of this is completely optional, of course, and that’s what I love about these games.
These optional lexias are fun, interesting, and deliver the meat of the story. We get the hint of past and current relationships, for example, which in reality has no business being in a short story of this type. However, as backstory it completely changes and becomes hugely important.
But, this wouldn’t be an experimental Twine game without something new, something quirky.
When we reach a section of the narrative that Cal enters a dark tunnel (I’ll leave the details to you to discover), the entire webpage goes completely black.
This combination of narrative and design brings a new level to the text that I wasn’t completely expecting, but it makes perfect sense now that I think about it. Of course it should go dark when there are no lights, right?
Not only does Corbin experiment with the narrative here (it’s speculative fiction after all) but the form of the hypertext, too. I don’t want to spoil every little design quirk that just adds to the experience; I want you to discover that for yourself.
The story is rather short, as it’s more of an experiment than a novel. But in the space that we have to explore, we find out some rather intimate aspects of backstory that flesh out the character of Cal, and we empathise with her easily.
The narrative doesn’t branch off so much in the beginning as it offers exploration of an area before one moves on; this gives the reader a sense of engagement with the story that is always welcome in a hypertext.
But, whilst the main narrative is mostly — key-word mostly — linear, there are multiple areas and rooms that are very easy to pass by. This text rewards the reader who explores with extra story, extra characterisation, and extra stats.
You have a very game-like statistics page at the end of a readthrough, telling you what you did and didn’t manage to do. It encourages replays, but at the same time could be slightly annoying to those who aren’t interested in replaying, I suppose, by taunting them with how much they missed the first time through.
As an aside, I once found 11 out of 7 things in this story. That’s right. If you can beat that, please leave a comment letting us know how you did in Base of the Comet, whether you liked it or not!