Well here’s something different – a choose-your-own-adventure story. Dann told me about this game and pointed me to the website (www.pingaling.co). The description given intrigued me and I asked Dann to put me in contact with the developer for a code. He did so and I received the code and this is the review. It’s not exaggeration to say this is quite unlike anything I’ve played for a long time.
It’s hard to describe the story of Ping Ping without going into too much detail. At the most basic level it’s about the relationship between a girl and her father. The girl, Minako, begins the game searching for her father, who has disappeared. She is drawn into a strange world with even stranger inhabitants and begins looking for clues. As things get stranger and stranger Minako learns truths about this new world, about her father and about herself that will change her life. I know it sounds cliché but I don’t want to say anything further otherwise I’ll spoil things.
If I’m honest, at first I found it difficult to follow the story. It has a kind of poetic feel with odd line breaks and sentence structure. As I got used to it I found it to be very effective and understandable. This isn’t something you can just rush through. You need to take your time on each page. The whole thing has a kind of dreamlike, Alice-in-Wonderland feeling about it and as you make each choice and turn each page the rabbit hole becomes deeper and deeper.
Even though they are just words on a page I found myself getting invested in some of the characters. Tochi, for example, is an early character who believes that Minako is some sort of robot. Other characters are evil in various ways, and you get to choose whether or not Minako is influenced by them or not. Even then those characters become sympathetic. I do actually like how the story is written and even though I haven’t been down every path I have enjoyed what I’ve read, despite my shaky start.
I do have a few criticisms, however, and to be honest most of these can be attributed to the engine used to construct the game. First, there is no autosave feature, and the story does point this out to you, advising you to save often. The save feature is a bit clunky, only allowing a limited number of saves before needing to delete them. I found myself on more than a few occasions progressing through the story, reaching a “bad” ending, only to find that I hadn’t saved for a long time, and the other option available was to restart from the beginning.
Perhaps a better solution, and again this is something for the engine itself, would be a history feature, where you can page back through the story until you find a decision you want to change and carry on from there. It would certainly be useful to re-read what has happened before. Currently if you miss something or skip a few lines you won’t be able to go back and read it again. It would certainly prevent a bit of frustration for this and other stories.
The only other thing I would say is that some of the text doesn’t quite follow proper grammar. Now admittedly I am a bit of a stickler for grammar, as any of my fellow FBF’ers will tell you, and a large majority of the text is well written, so I’m not too bothered by the occasional lapse. It’s more something to keep an eye on in future. Other than that it’s an interesting story with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.
If you’re interested in storytelling in general and unique narratives then give this a look. You can see samples of the text on the developer website (some of which I’ve used here). As I said it has a poetic style about it that might put some people off but I think it works well for the story, at least once I got used to it. I think I will definitely be going back to this, at least to find out how things end up. If the developer produces more work I would be very interested in having a look.