While not the most perfect piece of worlk ever made, Christine Love's masterpiece is certainly not lacking in any interesting features. With the help of your brand new Amie Workbench computer, you get to connect to a myriad of BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems), meet some interesting individuals and perhaps even get away with some sneaky telephone fraud. Sometime during the start of your internet adventure, you meet Emilia, an aspiring poet. You reply to her, the contents of which aren't shown on-screen, and start a whirlwind internet love affair.
This may be a romantic notion to some, but we felt that the romantic connection was a bit forced. As soon as you hit that reply button to praise her poetry, Emilia latches on to your every word. The exchanges lacked substance and things were rushed just to move things along. It's a real shame because establishing a relationship with her at the start is vital for setting the tone for the rest of your game play.
On the other hand, we did like reading emails from the other characters. Aside from showcasing a slice of history in a handful of paragraphs, they also offered random information to introduce new game elements such as long distance bulletin board access, new applications, patches and even downloadable hacks and exploits. Again, you will not be able to view your replies --an intentional feature included to leave a part of the narrative to the imagination.
To add to the already immersive game experience, Emilia's gender preference is also subject to interpretation. Because your character's gender is never mentioned in text or even implied, it is easier to step into the role. We love the fact that the protagonist isn't forced into playing as a straight male and that the open-ended delivery expands includes non-binaries in its target player base.
Enjoying the Literature
In general, the writing in Digital a Love Story is solid; however, we found it to be too formal at times. We understand that in the early days, email formatting was treated much like those found in snail mail. In real life though, not everyone writes the same way and oftentimes we ignore grammatical rules when posting over the internet. While we don't really want to induce the wrath of our inner grammar Nazi, we would have preferred to see more variety in terms paragraph length, mood and writing style. With things the way they are, it's hard not think of the characters as merely fictional entities.
The order of events and BBS posts could also use some minor tweaking. There was a time, for instance, when a virus came after a patch has already been installed on your Amie Workbench. It would have been better if you were to experience the effects of the virus before fixing things yourself but you may have unwittingly deprived yourself of the experience before the problem ever occurred.
Why Play This Game? – A Modern Retro can be Fun
With its nostalgic themes and non-conformist ideas, Digital a Love Story is certainly not for the masses or for those seeking one of the more kiddie like love games such as Snail Bob 5 The Love Story . If you're still reading, then that's most probably a good thing for you. Not only does it attempt to bridge the gap between novels and games, it also explores some bold concepts. It delivers an immersive adventure by removing presumptions of identity and is meant to be enjoyed by simply being "you" without solid male or female roles. The writing style is interesting, though the blocks of text may not necessarily be enjoyable for those who are used to the snappy internet correspondences of today. We would have wanted a bit more variation, perhaps some imperfections in the emails just to humanize the game characters but in the end, we commend Ms. Love for her valiant, innovative attempt.