Seen is a unique take on interactive fiction filled with bittersweet moments that reminds you of high school romances and first loves.
Seen by Polychroma Games bears a strong resemblance to “Emily is Away”, no doubt. But it doesn’t mean the game itself doesn’t deserve some attention. Styled in Facebook Messenger’s likeness, players take on the role of Mark Blythe and unveil the game’s story through a two person chat with Nicole Tyler – influencing the narrative as you decide upon the reaction that corresponds to Nicole’s messages.
Armed with visual and audio cues to make the experience as realistic as possible, the only drawback was how the game dealt with its narrative with such a limited format.
As you tap on the keyboard, Mark’s response appears on the screen regardless of what your keystrokes were. The approach is interesting, as it permits you to some behind-the-scene moments where Mark changes his mind mid-sentence and retypes out another response. But there were some points where the story moves to a park, and having the story still conveyed through a messaging app broke the experience for me for a bit.
However, Seen’s appeal comes from the fact that the game dives into emotional waters and occasionally pops in questions that gives characters depth while gently nudging you to contemplate about life. There are also a few moments of heart pangs in-between, when the game gets painstakingly gut-wrenching as you and Nicole try to mend your friendship while it slowly crumbles into dust. What Seen lacks in its narrative delivery, it makes up in resonance of the topics it discusses.
With multiple branching narratives within the game, players get to different endings of the story depending on your choices. You could try unlocking all of them, but I doubt most people would find the experience worthy of replay. More interesting is the Add-on section, where you are offered to unlock more features by watching ads. The add-ons include customizable features of Seen, a remade version of “Annie96 is typing…” of Creepypasta fame, or even make a text-based game of your own with the Storymaker.
While included in Seen as an add-on, the Storymaker and Story World stands out as an individual component of its own. The Storymaker allows you to explore framing a narrative in the style of Seen with close to no restraints. However, it has a steep learning curve especially if you’re not familiar with programming languages.
If you feel like sharing what you’ve created with the world, you can upload your story onto Story World, where players of Seen could download and have a go at your creation. While Story World still serves a pool of niche audience, the concept is commendable and ambitious to say the least. Aspiring storytellers or narrative designers could have a shot at this medium to explore its potential.
Overall, as an interactive experience, Seen is a unique approach on a story close to most of our hearts. While I personally think that the story would have benefited from having better execution of its elements, it still remains as a decent storytelling experience that will linger around in your mind for a bit.
Developer: Polychroma Games
Release date: April 2016