Today I begin to read the works of Endmaster, wholly unspoiled, reading his CYS stories in the order they were written. As I do so, I will talk about my responses and thoughts and so forth.
I will start with Tales from the Basement and work my way forward from here.
1) I will be reading slowly and carefully, thinking about why I make each choice, commenting here when it is interesting to do so.
2) I'll talk about prose style, choice design, and overall plot structure.
3) I will do one playthrough of each without going back because I want to really own the choices I make. The exception is if there is an early death or something where I would miss a huge chunk of the story. I can go back and replay to explore other forks after I read each game at least once.
4) Please don't spoil me!
Just going to say, you’ll probably be dying A LOT in my stories, so likely you’ll be encountering early deaths as you’re “owning” a story branch. Fortunately, death is a quick fix and a simple back page will make things okay again.
John Dies at the End. It's a book.
I'm mostly just posting here to keep track of Gower's progress.
For Ground Zero, Eternal (and probably Rogues), I suggest that you read to at least three epilogues before continuing (two for Ground Zero). Part of the magic of those stories is the nearly incomprehensible plot variety that you will encounter. The best reviews of those stories touch on the consistency between characters in multiple paths. Depending on the circumstances under which you meet the same character on different paths, they may behave extremely differently, but it always makes sense and it's really, really satisfying. I think if you only go to one epilogue, you'll really miss out on some of the appeal of those stories.
I've just finished reading Tales from the Basement, and I've already broken my rule about one playthrough because these paths are short enough to zip around and sample stuff. I haven't played every last bit, but I played a whole bunch of it.
I started with the Ebay Escapist. I usually hate the lolrandom style of storygame, so let's see how End does it.
I really like this first page. The narrator is really funny, and I like the choice to buy or sell useless shit. Obviously it's better to be a seller. I'll make some serious bank and get out of here. Naked pictures of my mom will clearly sell for the most money, but I'm on to this--selling for "10,000" but "10,000" *what*? YES, I was right. I like that I had the opportunity to pick the right choice there because I was paying attention.
Going back, I see I can also sell naked pictures of myself for $2.00 which is a "mexican nickle," which is not exactly how I think currency exchange works, but I laughed. The Kill the Kudzu ending was surprisingly heroic. I did not expect that at all, and in the "buy useless shit" branch, there's much more total weirdness like unraveling an island. I think the Kudzu part was my favorite.
This was kind of funny. Let's see how the Good Girl is. Wow. This is way more intense.
On the Good Girl path, I was raped (twice, once by Chulocks), beaten to death (twice), and had my throat cut. And got a computer upgrade. This path was brutal, and several of the forks didn't click for me, but oddly, the most brutal of all--the ring girl path with the shooting end was really effectively written. I was impressed with that, and the way the sister was written there. I thought that fork was just going for the sheer awful titillation of it all, but the twist was good, and the choice to take revenge was really good too. I was impressed with that.
The Anime path: the typical storygame on CYS often has a path where you can wholly opt out of the adventure. You can say, no, no, I'm staying in this basement, I insist. The Anime path has a fakeout path that instead of ending the game, leads to my picking my fetish.
Wow, this path is really good too, even though it is stomach-turning. But it's not bad stomach-turning, it's effective stomach turning.
"Over the past few months you’ve come to find out that your lovely Patricia is bat shit insane." <-- I laughed at that
At this point your mom opens up her purse and takes out her handgun and gives it to you. “Here, take this. If you’re going to break up with her, you might need it.” <-- and that.
All in all, I liked it. The ebay branch is not going to stick with me as much as the other two, which had more interesting characters and cooler, more detailed action.
"You take the briefcase of money, drag him out to the curb for the derelicts to have their way with and think nothing more of it." <--that sentence epitomizes this game for me. It's totally out of nowhere, as casual as can be for the narrator and followed by End Game.
Interesting that you didn’t seem to get the “canon” ending for The Good Girl which involved the path with the serial killer uncle’s rivalry with the cultist neighbors. (Unless you did and just didn't mention it)
Oh, I did play that one. I enjoyed that path, but it didn't stick with me as much as the other one did in terms of sheer reading with eyes very wide open as the ring girl path.
Next up (later this week, I'm guessing)--I read "Repression."
Now I've got to read Repression, and in a hurry!
Shhh nobody mention the best ending!
YOU KNOW which one I'm talking about!
It was the first one I found.
My verbal reaction was, "What the fuck" then I laughed and said, "I hope that they aren't all like that."
But they weren't! I wrote a review. I liked the story pretty well.
(I'll post the sum-up at the end in the comments on the game itself as well, since I think it gets at my take on the game pretty well.)
So it turns out that this going to be the odd one out of all of the Endmaster stories, because I actually have read this one before, although I forgot that I did. When I first joined the CYS Discord, Cricket told me to read Repression, and I did, one time. I don’t remember it, but I do remember Cricket telling me I didn’t get the “best ending” which she referred to with barely repressed glee.
I didn't get the “best” ending. So today, I’m going to see if I can do so.
Whatever that means.
So I’m a character a lot like in Basement Dwellers, interestingly. That’s neat. I’m going to turn this kid’s life around. I’m going to go downstairs, not get involved in the fight, and just do this family proud. Also, my sister appears to be a whore, according to my mom. That’s very hurtful. I’d better find my sister at school and tell her that wasn’t right.
What is this world I’m in? It’s horrible. Aaron is being beaten up, I’m his only friend, and I don’t even like him at all. Of course I’m going to help him. And then I was beaten to death.
OK! So the important thing to know about this game is that it is a merciless, bleak, horrible world where it’s dog eat dog. Forget everyone. I’m a survivor, and I’m going to live and ignore everyone else. I’ll stay out of the fight with my family, go to school, and ignore my “friend” and ignore Jessica, ignore Butch. Just keep my head down. And then obviously I have to beat Henry down so I don’t look like a loser. And now I’m in prison for attempted murder. I’m doing better!
I should have ignored Henry last play. I’m trying to ignore everyone and keep my head down. Don’t confront, don’t talk. Just shuffle along. Except now I have to tell my sister something—do I tell her I’ll relay the message to Mom about her staying with Butch or tell her Butch was cheating on her. I guess I’ll just relay the message to Mom. It seems the most neutral, and then I listened to Mom and ended up doing chores.
This game is interestingly structured in these short paths. I suspect that first choice about getting out of bed, and getting involved with the family fight was really important. So I’m going to go investigate that.
This playthrough made me laugh out loud, because I shot mom out of nowhere, and then shot my sister out of nowhere. I feel so powerful and pathetic. Yep, and I shot myself, just as I thought.
Shooting up the school. Ah, I get this game now. Before this, it felt like it was almost another Basement Dweller game.
Ewww, disposing the mom’s body paths. That’s a lot more like the Basement Dwellers style gross-out comey
The catatonic ending is *really* interesting. Here, I end by feeling “free” which is the only positive sounding ending so far. Can I get a more positive ending, I wonder.
This line is hilarious: “"It was a peck on the lips! Nothing more!" Your Mom shouts.”
I’ve got this now—obviously, I need to support my sister, which—yes, made me be able to help with the fight and confront Butch, and of course I ignore Jessica, because who needs her when I’ve got my sister?
Man, the going home and having a fight with Mom, backing up my sister is intensely written, and I feel absolute joy. This is a great ending.
I went out with Jessica, respected her wishes, and I feel hopeful. So there are ways to break out of the repression and the horrible feeling.
Eleventh – Fifteenth Plays:
Therefore, I obviously have to figure out how to seduce my mom and sister. Sister is easier. I took her “home.”
There we go. Group hug. I remember Cricket talking about this in hushed tones. That is a good ending. “Complete euphoria.”
So, here’s my thoughts. This game is actually kind of artistic in an unexpected way. It’s got the gross-out comedy and the over-the-top sexual and violent situations from Basement Dwellers, but this is way more sophisticated.
The constant refrain in the endgames of “You feel…” followed by the emotion you’ve found was great. That was artistic and interesting and tied the whole game together, making it feel like one unified entity.
I think the game sort of folds into three part, and I discovered the three parts in exactly the right order. First you experience stumbling through the horror and the bleakness, and the no-way-out of dead-end emotions.
You can’t help anyone, and you can’t impress anyone, and everything is horrible.
Then, you figure out, wait, I can do stuff with these emotions. I can shoot people and defeat them physically, and degrade the bodies of the people who humiliated me. It’s a kind of hollow victory, and the game clearly shows that that sort of victory kind of sucks. Or do nothing at all and end up a catatonic shell. This part shows what happens when the repression of the main character is ripped suddenly away.
Then you figure out that you can create more real victories by taking a stand and supporting your mother or sister and not escaping or keeping your head down. And this way, yes, you get the incestuous stories, which is another kind of repression lifted, but aside from the shock value there’s surprisingly hopeful and happy endings with no shock at all. Now I’m dating Jessica, and things seem brighter. Or now I’ve allied with my sister, and I have a friend in her and the air is getting cleared. I would *never* have expected those ending to be here, and I actually found them better written than any other endings. (aside from the shooting at school, barricaded with Jessica. That was pretty brutal and really well written too.)
So I went into this thinking I know what I was going to be reading, and about 1/3 of the way through, I realized that there was more depth here than I thought. I’m authentically impressed.
Next up for me: TRASH.
Going through the comments section where multiple people talk about the Group Hug is amusing all by itself.
I love this thread too. It's like experiencing End's stories again for the first time.
You know those stories where the mild mannered scholar decides to read forbidden tomes and just keeps reading despite all the wrongness in them?
Yeah, this is the first part before he starts going insane.
Well I’ll be keeping this thread spoiler free until your return.
Sucks what happened, but hopefully after taking the needed time for yourself and family, you’ll be back to laugh and joke around with all of us again.