The Dolls' Quest

Player Rating6.09/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 38 ratings since 09/14/2018
played 250 times (finished 18)

Story Difficulty4/8

"march in the swamp"

Play Length6/8

"It'll be a while, better grab a Snickers®"

Maturity Level5/8

"aren't you a little too old to be trick or treating"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 13. If this were a movie, it would probably be PG-13.

Two sentient dolls who remember previous lives as a prince and princess in another universe, go on a perilous quest across the United States to learn more of their origins. My first storygame so any constructive criticism is welcome. Now with 30% fewer typos! Thanks to Mizal for editing advice. 

Player Comments

So, I was very pleasantly surprised with this story. I honestly was not sure what to expect when I first start reading this but I was pretty instantly hooked. The premise reminded me of the plot of a children's story but set in the dark and painful real world instead of the land of make believe. The writing was fantastic and really immersed me into the world. So, I'll say a few things that did bug me a bit then finish it off with the heaps of praise I have for this story.

So there are only a few negative things negatives I can say regarding this story. I did find quite a few spelling mistakes. Now, nothing that made the story unreadable, not at all. But there were a lot of times where I'd read the sentence and have to read it over agin to try to figure out what a word was supposed to be. There were also just some words that were simply misspelled. It also kind of bugged me how the genders were swapped for the characters. It bugged me because it really didn't seem to have much of a point. The characters were pretty much like, "Well, I guess I'm a girl now. Cool." or "I'm a boy now, guess I'll call myself that." There really wasn't any conflict with it. No slip ups or misgendering. It seemed almost like an arbitrary decision. But I could totally be wrong on this so please don't take my word as gospel. It simply felt that way to me.

Now, onto the praise. I felt that the characters were all extremely well written, with their own motivations and backstory. Our protagonist and their wife-boyfriend were two people forced into the bodies of a doll with no memories of their past. They were trying to find a way to put things back to normal. Uncle Shrevetz, the kindly store owner who cared for us like his own. Ruiz, the spiritual recording studio man who helps two magic dolls get to where they need to be. Eugene and Harlow, with their constant bickering and Eugene's dark secret. Heck, even the kids and their mother had unique personalities. The mother was clearly unstable, the son loved werewolves and the daughter played violin and seemed rather well learned for her age. It's not often I remember so many details about relatively minor characters. All of your characters felt very real and were all memorable. Fantastic work with that.

I managed to get about four or five endings so far. My favorite were "The Star Palace" and "You and Wilky's fate 'Dr. Rozier'" (thats what I call it since it had no epilogue preface). Now the Star Palace ending is probably the happiest one I got so far. You wake up from your illness back home with your loving wife at your side. You send aid out to your people to help with the plague and you send your treacherous head of state off to his (unknowing) demise. It was all very happy and it seemed to give the most closure. The "You and Wilky's fate" one had you going to Dr. Roziers house and meeting with the puppets of your former subjects to live amongst them. You have your place in the world. The unstable mother is taken to away where she will hopefully get treatment and the kids are taken to their father who, from the "Field of no return" ending, seems like a pretty alright guy who just made a mistake (But I could be very wrong as I don't have all the information). This ending was much more bittersweet than Star Palace but I still thought it gave a very satisfying conclusion. So great work on the endings.

So, to avoid making this review much longer, I'd like to say this was a great story. Compelling characters, descriptive writing, fantastic world building, satisfying endings, and an overall wonderful (if strange) tale. Excellent work Thomas, and I really look forward to seeing your future work.
-- TurnipBandit on 8/9/2019 5:49:34 PM
I’m so glad that Mizal recommended this. Very few games give me the feeling of an adventure like yours did. Journeying to so many places, coming across so many different characters and trying to overcome all the obstacles in your path made this a really captivating story. I also love how you made it a “dark fantasy” where you combined the whimsy and innocence of a children’s fairy tale with the two adorable living dolls, with all the harsh and dark realities of the world, such as drug/alcohol abuse, violence, kidnap, murder and suicide… Kind of puts me in mind of Pan’s Labyrinth.

I didn’t really notice much in the way of mistakes. A few spelling and grammar errors scattered about here and there, though not nearly enough to detract from the story. I’d have liked to see more interactions between Mary Beth Brown and Wilky William. I mean, they travelled together and discussed what they were going to do next, but it would’ve been nice to see them have more conversations about their thoughts and feelings.

Also, it kind of felt like the game only had one “true” path and the others, while interesting, weren’t very fulfilling. I feel as though, if you don’t go to seek out the ventriloquist dummy and discover more about your past, then none of the endings really feel satisfactory.

Other than that, I have nothing but praise for this game. The plot was extremely unique, the different characters and scenarios were all really interesting, and the story was so engaging and well written that I had to go back and forth multiple times in order to see every path and reach every possible outcome. I really enjoyed reading this. ^_^
-- Avery_Moore on 8/8/2019 5:16:59 PM
I think it was probably the sheer weirdness of this story that initially got me interested. After the first paragraph, I was expecting something very different than what the story revealed itself to be. I did kind of get confused after that bit, but I think that was more to do with the odd gender-swapping thing.

I didn’t really feel like there was many characters that I spent much time with apart from Wilky and Mary Beth (although it was clear most of them were real nut-jobs!). Everyone else got moved on from fairy quickly, before much of a relationship was built up. At the same time, I wasn’t terribly bothered by that. Wilky and Mary Beth were in their own little journey and although others came and went, it was ultimately just the two of them, which made their relationship that much more special. It was cool how they just stuck together no matter what, and just had so much trust in one another.

Personally, I get confused easily when there are a lot of characters with similar names, which happened in this story. There were so many R names it must’ve been done on purpose- a Rick, Rath, Roger, Rob, Ruiz and a Docter Rozier thrown in there too, and possibly a few others I’ve missed.

Sometimes the choices were carried out a bit weird and different to how I expected them to be. For example, I chose to jump in the river, but when I clicked that link it was not my character that made the decision, but Wilky.
There were also some occasions where the actual carrying out of the choice happened after a few other paragraphs on the new page. Not really a bad thing at all, just thought I’d mention it because I found it unexpected.

The ‘Questions and Answers’ were implemented at a good point in the story. They weren’t too late, which would’ve made me frustrated about the lack of answers, and they weren’t too early, which I meant I didn’t skim-read over it or lose interest.
The story got progressively more bizarre, but I loved it. The alternate dimensions were a bit iffy for me at first but when Ebony and Copper Maidens had a death duel riding flightless birds? Man, that was awesome. The birds reminded me very much of the Moa, as they too resembled an ostrich. I’ve always thought the Moa would be really cool to ride (that is, if they weren’t extinct).

On my first read-through I made it through most of the story without dying, but when going back to find all the branches I was mildly disappointed by the lack of branching in some parts. However, all the numerous endings were wildly different and for the most part, unexpected so I wasn’t all that fussed about it, just would’ve loved to see more of the story.

I read through the other reviews on this story, and it seems the general consensus is that it’s somewhat dark. I actually got the opposite kind of vibe, which I thought would be worth mentioning. I’m left feeling like I just read something very sweet. To me, this is just really heart-warming because of Mary Beth and Wilky’s special relationship. They go through everything together, even when they’re dead and in some wacko doll bodies, and throughout the entire story it’s clear they just understand each other incredibly well. The numerous nice characters were the ones that stuck out to me rather than the messed-up ones. The Uncle was a sweet old guy (why’d he have to die like that!!) and the band were a cool group. It was really nice how for such a rough group of guys they took good care of the dolls. I was half-expecting Mary Beth and Wilky to get thrown out of the bag and abandoned somewhere, so it was a nice surprise when it turned out they were simply just sweet guys who weren’t bothered by kids toys.

Anyway, I’m rather sad I didn’t discover this story before it was discussed in the Book Club for week 2. Man, it was super odd in some parts and I don’t know how the heck the author came up with some of this stuff, but that made it all the better and I consider The Doll’s Quest to be one of the best stories on CYS that I’ve come across.
-- ghost11 on 8/8/2019 2:59:27 AM
I loved it! This is such a good first book. WAY better than mine. I noticed a few spelling errors here and there but the story makes up for it. I got the ending where Mary Beth dies as a doll and comes back human. Great job.
-- Unkindcrab on 8/17/2019 5:12:11 PM
The opening page starts out strong. There is heavy use of imagery and description. It almost feels out of place with how detailed the visuals are described. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s a tremendous way to start this game in particular because what’s different about the beginning page that sets it apart from the rest of the story? It’s pre-doll. I find it kind of amazing to gaze upon the wonders and majestic, royal living before it’s contrasted with the perspective of a crude doll. Plus, it can’t hurt to “wow” your reader with elegant writing to grab their attention (unless your audience is 13).

It’s hard not to comment on the gender swap. It’s an interesting dynamic to include. It’s also very weird to call the princess and the love of your life “Wilky William”. I like drugs too. Obviously the fact that you turn into a doll suddenly should be the main “Uh, this is weird” moment. The gender swap just adds to it and I like it. You can also see the love between you and the princess is strong because even in the doll state, their feelings never change. It shows that their love is deeper than physical attraction (unless they’re both bisexual and have a doll fetish).

I do find the formatting a bit distracting from the story at certain points. There are several bulk-sized paragraphs with dialogue mixed in. I think it would be easier to read and flow better to break them into different paragraphs. Besides, isn’t that proper grammar? It’s not as distracting as misspelled words, but it definitely requires a deeper level of focus from the reader. On a site desperate for reviewers, I don’t think this helps. On the subject of formatting, the paragraph breaks are really far apart. I think it’s due to the Advanced Editor. I think the quality of writing is high and the formatting issues are a negative influence to it. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

The pathing seems to have great effect on the story. There’s not really a “re-branching” link that forces you back on the main thread of the story. I think the level of storylines and different circumstances fit the overall theme of the story. It’s a ridiculous story (in a positive way) and I think bottlenecking it into one branch would be a disservice. There does seem to be an underlying theme of humans being assholes, but we can just chalk it up to the demographic that still associate with dolls.

The Dolls Quest is definitely a quality storygame to read. It’s very unique. At this point in time, you won’t read another story on the site that it resembles. Although depressing in some sections, it’s a fun read and I would recommend. Looking forward to reading the next story this “sick and depraved human being” puts out.
-- ninjapitka on 8/14/2019 11:41:38 AM
Perhaps a better name for this story would be "The Dolls' Odyssey," because the strange adventures these two wooden dolls experience seem less like a premeditated journey and more like a sequence of bizarre episodes. This is easily one of the more unique plotlines you're likely to find on this site, and probably one of the more memorable.

To be sure (and I think another reviewer already beat me to this analogy) this ain't no Toy Story (although like the current movie, it does involve an antique store and a creepy dummy). The dolls realize they are unlike other toys, although they are never for a second slavishly devoted to a child's happiness.

Instead, they have questions and need answers. There is a healthy amount of branching allowing the reader to follow the two dolls into a variety of scenarios, some of which are violent, others which are truly... well, strange. Few of the endings are tidy.

I did have some reservations about the story. First were the spelling errors, which weren't grievous but were plentiful. Then there was a shift from present tense to past tense on the first page that confused me for a bit. None of these things prevented me from understanding what was going on.

And in several of the episodes, I thought the choices were a bit stark and somewhat repetitive. For instance, more than once the dolls witness someone about to get harmed by someone else, and in each case it seemed there was a choice of trying to intervene (even though you're the size of a Smurf!) or doing nothing at all. The fact that the dolls seemed to know quite clearly what was about to happen contradicts the set-up that they are so innocent and naïve about Earth that they have to reference their knowledge of children's books to know what a dog is.

This is also true when they see a sign for a bus stop and immediately grasp that a bus is a mode of public transportation capable of getting them where they need to go. Basically, I saw a disconnect between how the dolls were described and how they actually behaved at times; if the story requires them to be somewhat worldly, then so be it. Too much innocence and helplessness would have been a bit much.

All in all, this is a good game. And REALLY, read through several endings.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 8/12/2019 11:34:45 PM
“The Doll’s Quest” was an entertaining, well-written, and creative story. In fact, it was so creative that I have to wonder what the hell Thomas was on when he wrote it.

The story is like a crazy dream. The soul of a prince and princess of a dream kingdom where telepathic communication is a thing inhabit the bodies of wooden dolls that gather energy from sunlight and can run into everything from a yandere ventriloquist dummy to a woman convinced she is being chased by a monster to a catfight between ostrich riding shieldmaidens.
The epilogue gives some more context and brings things more to reality—relative to everything else, but the story never loses all of its trippiness.
At some point in the story, there appeared to be a random Green Aesop bit out of nowhere, but that turned out to be a Chekhov’s Gun, which was nice.

The story was structured so that most branches led to unique paths, which was nice. There was an exception to this in the Ventriloquist path, in which some choices yield the same results and end up joining back with another branch.
There was a wide variety of endings, which I liked very much.
There were quite a few one-page links. There were not nearly as many as I have seen in some stories, but it is good to be mindful of that, as they can make a story seem more linear than it is.

There were a few typos and such here and there (lose, not loose!), but there wasn’t anything too distracting.

Overall, this is a weird but good story that I would recommend. While it didn’t come off as a children’s story, it is probably suitable for a younger audience, as well, as there was not more by the way of violence, sex, or profanity than many children's stories have.
-- Cricket on 8/12/2019 8:59:04 PM
I really enjoyed this story. It felt unique and had a beautiful flow to how it was written.

At times I felt a bit like my choices were just death or what the author wanted, but I went back and replayed the game and realized that it is, in fact, not linear. There are multiple endings and several paths to get to them. I do wish I had had a few more choices that weren't between a bad end and continuing the story, but it wasn't bad enough to take away from my enjoyment of the story itself.

The characters are interesting and I loved the concept of reincarnation into these sentient dolls. The other characters were also good, though they all felt very brief. I didn't have time to form much attachment to most of them besides the protagonist and Wilky.

I did feel like the main characters were a little too eager to accept that they had been reincarnated as dolls. There was no initial moment of panic or even much soul searching, just acceptance. I know if I died today and woke up tomorrow as a wooden doll I would have at least a small initial freak out and a period of denial probably before I just rolled with it. I was also confused, as a few others have already stated, about the purpose of the gender swap. First off, dolls wouldn't have sex organs so they would be fairly lacking in gender except for their apparel and whatever facial features are given to them. There is, again, an almost bland acceptance of this swap. There is no exploration of how they feel about waking up as the opposite sex, they just accept it and move on. I may have missed it somewhere, but it isn't even mentioned again after the start of the story. When I first read it, I expected the dolls to have some kind of existential crisis in the story somewhere. A moment of "I don't want to be a doll, I want my old body back" or something similar. But it never seemed to happen.

Overall I really liked this story. There were a few typos, which Mizal has already pointed out. There were also a few spots where there seemed to be some unnecessary empty lines at the end between the writing on the page and the player choice. Not a huge deal, but it sort of took me out of the story when I had to scroll through blank space just to get to the choice. The writing was very good and the story itself was honestly captivating. A lot of the imagery was beautiful and I could picture what was happening quite well. I do wish the pacing had been a tad bit slower, so that I could become more attached to a new character before they were either left behind or killed off. But, other than that it was well done. I hope to see more stories from this author in the future!

Overall Rating: 6/8
-- simplesabley on 9/7/2018 9:03:01 AM
This was an extremely entertaining and well-written piece of work. I love the idea of the past life connecting into now, and the many metaphors scattered throughout the story that reflected that were on point. This was very well written, and though perhaps it was a bit too quick for a story as bite-sized as I experienced, was overall a fantastic read. I fell in love with our brave little protagonist and his wife, and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The pacing, I felt, maybe was a bit too quick. Characters changed so frequently I couldn’t quite develop a shine to them, and even though I adored their glimpses of personality and quirks, I don’t think they will ever match up to the Uncle character in the first few pages. You wrote this fatherly and protective person incredibly well, and it broke my heart to read his end. Fantastic job!
-- At_Your_Throat on 9/5/2018 7:15:20 PM
An enjoyable read. I'll be sure to come back to it sometime, and see what other endings I can find. Well done.
-- Havoc on 8/10/2018 11:15:44 AM
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