house among the thorns

Player Rating3.55/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 23 ratings since 10/21/2019
played 117 times (finished 24)

Story Difficulty3/8

"trek through the forest"

Play Length3/8

"A nice jog down the driveway"

Maturity Level4/8

"need to be accompanied by an adult"
Contains content that may not be suitable for persons under age 13. If this were a movie, it would probably be PG.

Tags

Horror

an attempt at cryptid-related horror based on the feeling of driving up a gravel road at midnight while your headlights illuminate every eye in a herd of cattle as they lift their heads to watch you pass, the eerie half-twilight of a cool summer night, and the knowledge that no matter how you try to kill them the blackberry vines are just biding their time until they can break through the dirt and begin to creep slowly toward your home once again

Player Comments

My lazy mind has been bamboozled left and right by this story. House Among the Thorns sounds metal as hell, but I suppose it's only Rule #1 of horror that the concept is almost always figurative and therefore less interesting than the title. The Wasp Factory, A Descent Into the Maelstrom, Deadly Premonition, City of Glass... Well, okay, the Wasp Factory was sort of a hardcore concept in its book even if it didn't literally assemble wasps, and A Descent Into the Maelstrom sure SOUNDS cooler than what happened in the story, but I suppose it was literally exactly what the title promised. This title seems to fall into that sort of deal, where it's a badass way to describe literally just what's in the story.

I also assumed that this would be a small and crappy story that was very easy to pick apart since nothing was capitalized and the intro here was grammatically shabby, but I was foiled again as the writing on the inside turned out to be perfectly serviceable. But shallow first impressions aside, let's get into how this story actually goes.

Just a minor nitpick about the beginning, you may have to go into further detail about the mooing monster. It does its job well enough, but people who've spent a particularly long time around cows will note that they're perfectly capable of rattling their vocalizations like a screaming human if they're particularly upset. Male Deer are known to do this too. They don't do it a lot, but you can hear some surprisingly nutty things if you live around these animals long enough. There's a monster sound effect in my head at the moment that I can't quite put my finger on, I think from either Star Wars, Skyrim, or Spore, that illustrates the sound of a bovine scream perfectly. I mean, it's certainly not a noise they make every day, hence the fact that they pass for alien sounds, but.

That aside, a cow farmer would probably have the expertise to know at least more of the range of cow noises than your average fucker, and might have more reasoning to offer as to why this *definitely* wasn't the sound of a cow. Because, given what you've given me to go on, it could sound quite exactly like the sound a cow makes. It could ALSO sound like, say, the Zombies from Half Life 2, which fall under the same catergory but are definitely not so cow-like. This tangent is largely unimportant, so I'll move on.

The first of the two options brings us to an actual, real blunder. Essentially a death page. First page "death" choices are lame, especially when they're something like this, which isn't death and could just as easily be the start to an adventure as the "correct" option could. Worse, the apparent predicament of this neighborhood was exposed to us in a very nonchalant way. Two police officers casually discussing their business, impotently cursing a "little" witch in only the most milquetoast PG swearing. This downplays the threat, takes away from the mystery, and lowers the stakes of further playthroughs.

My revision of the scenario would be to raise the imagined threat of this scenario by really showing how the scenario is treated. Don't gloss over how many police cars there are. If what happened was really so bad, there could be an entire squad of them. Maybe they set up a roadblock. Is this an epidemic? Maybe the DNR is there. Animal Control trucks.

Or hey, maybe you're not in the mood to describe who all is there, let's focus on just the two officers. Preface what they're doing with their actions. What's their body language like? Are their hands on their guns? Are they looking around? Are they staring off into the distance? What's their expression? What are they doing while they're talking? This builds up suspense for what they're saying. The little misdirection in between also creates more mystique around this witchly conspiracy.

"God, it's always so gruesome, every time," Said the officer, shifting from one foot to the other and trying to focus his on the ground, "Damn that fucking witch."

This shouldn't be casual conversation for the police unless your focus is on the mystery or the puzzling nature of it rather than suspense- And in horror, suspense is critical. Therefore, the people sent to deal with the object of our horror shouldn't be on just another day of the job. They should be confronted with a problem- And if this problem is as serious as the story wants us to think it is, they should treat it that way. The people you'd think should be best equipped to deal with this problem should be just as worried as the protagonist is, or else the protagonist being worried starts to lose its value.

That's not something you should do, considering the protagonist is alone for most of the branches on this path, and so their reactions to the horror are the only thing we have to empathize with. We experience the story through the characters, especially the protagonist, so if they act and feel bewildered as we are, that'll create an empathetic reaction when the protagonist is supposed to be fearful. If our only input from outside sources is "Oh, it's no big deal, just gross." the story loses a lot of narrative punch in a subtle way, especially when the story stops before it even begins.

This option was a major low point in the story, and honestly if you were going to go this route, you should either have used the opportunity to approach this adventure from a different angle, and made the post-event investigation a new branch in itself, or have included the option and just put the second page as another paragraph on the first page and skipped right to the choices that mattered.

Luckily, the rest of the story was perfectly average. Aside from some less-than-stellar formatting, it was readable. You ought to use more paragraph spaces, really. There were some genuinely atmospheric moments, and my one complaint about the overall narrative was the use of first-person combined with the very formal style of writing. Maybe it's just me, but it seems stuffy and creates a layer of unbelievability.

The strength of first person is in its personification, I'M telling YOU a story. And it implies that whoever "I" is, is a character that exists in this world. The character doesn't have to be an expert narrator, they have to be a character. And, I really don't get a solid sense of personality from this one. They're using verbiage that would just as easily be used by an omniscient 2nd or 3rd person narrator, and it seems far too stuffy for the quite urgent situation that the character finds herself in.

A first person narrator isn't going to spend a sentence musing about her punctured trachea, or however else she was murdered in precise detail, she would be far more concerned about how much pain she was in, and the direct effect something like, say, having teeth in important muscles, would affect her ability to move, fight, escape, etc.

The first person narrator seems a lot more casual and comfortable, however, on the path to the perfect ending, which I'm lead to believe was really the one you had in mind on the way to writing this. She displays more personality, and it feels slightly more like a person telling a story, with less artificial and highly constructed language that an omniscient narrator uses.

So I'd say it's a matter of balance, though she's still just not quite expressive and down-to-earth as she could be for my tastes. It would be easier had this been in third person with interjections on the protagonists's thoughts and feelings rather than attempting to tell this story from an objective standpoint despite having to be in character the whole time.

In short, I guess my advice would be, less passive language, more sympathy for jackasses like me who intentionally take all the wrong paths first. I'll have to google what a Cowpacabra is later.
-- ISentinelPenguinI on 12/9/2019 3:17:45 PM with a score of 0
Couldnt even title your storygame properly, fucking scrub.

Look, I have a mandatory review to do but Ill do this one for free.

Well, its not so much a review, I just blindly clicked buttons because I cant seriously read a story with an all lowercase title, which is a shame because the big mean text walls gave me the impression that it may have been written well.

I can feel the vitriol in the air tonight, oh lawwwwd
-- corgi213 on 12/10/2019 2:26:31 AM with a score of 0
While the intro to this game is one long capitalized run-on sentence, the game itself is decently written. There are a few atmospheric moments.

At times it is also confusing as to what is happening, or it rushes through significant events. Some longer paragraphs could have been broken up.

It would have been nice to be able to 'use' the inventory items, rather than having their use be listed in choices.

The story itself is decent, starting from a cliche' noise in the night into a more unique mystery/horror as it goes on.

It could be improved with a bit more branching and higher stakes, as well as a good proof-read for clarity and variety. Higher stakes might also help increase the tension. But it hits the mark for a quick horror.
-- Camelon on 10/24/2019 6:35:48 PM with a score of 0
This was a good game to click through if you’re bored. The details were sparse and the content was a little bland and boring. The suspense just simply was not there most of the time for me; I didn’t particularly care for the protagonist. There were things I enjoyed, though, like the cat scaring the main character while they investigate through the woods. However, a lot of improvements can be made to this story to make it much better.

The background for the main character was nothing more than “moved into a new neighborhood”. I feel like if you built more on the main character, the reader would care more both about their choices and feel more suspense over whether or not they would survive. Some of the paragraphs were very long and could be cut up into more digestible chunks, and some sentences were short and choppy. With more imagery and description, I feel like this would go from a 3/8 to a 4/8. If added, the previous elements would probably earn you a point or so more. Please take these into consideration and I hope you continue to write and pursue your goals! :) Thank you for writing and publishing this piece.
-- At_Your_Throat on 10/22/2019 1:04:19 PM with a score of 0
pretty good, i liked the different choices and how it is not super hard to beat.
-- Nerd26 on 10/22/2019 9:14:37 AM with a score of 0
There were several things I liked about this story -- evocative and suspenseful writing being chief among them. All that wandering around in the night, waiting for something to happen, worked well. Since spelling and grammar are often the weakest part of many stories on this site, it's worth pointing out that both are employed in a competent fashion here.

There were a few things I wasn't a fan of, too. Apparently, there is no end game link until I continue to that "perfect" ending. The items serve no purpose, except to illustrate an action in the story. Some of the paragraphs run long and should be broken up.

All in all, this is a competent storygame, and I gave it a 4 out of 8. I might have happily given it a higher score had the branching led to more unique outcomes, and had I not felt constrained to keep reading until I found that so-called "perfect" ending.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 10/21/2019 5:39:13 PM with a score of 0
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