This is a browser-based game in which all of the player’s input consists of icons, or I suppose, ideograms. The game uses a slick interface which features limited animation, sound effects, and text to tell the story, and prompts the player to drag color-coded icons into corresponding trays to express responses.
These audiovisual effects are not just window dressing — they are integrated into short story, and although the input is entirely non-verbal, the player can express choices with reasonable confidence of their meanings and significantly influence the course of the game.
[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]
We are told up front that the main character is boy who prefers to communicate nonverbally and is represented in the game by a bird icon. All of the action takes place in the evening, beginning with the boy’s caretaker entering their apartment at 10 pm. As the story unfolds, we are given to understand that the boy has been left at home during the earlier part of the day, and had to take care of both himself and their dog. There is a strong dysfunctional vibe from the outset, and the assumption is that the caretaker is not a parent, but perhaps an older brother or some other stand-in.
The caretaker is far from ideal – he has come home relatively late (10pm), has been out in a bar, and is apparently cheating on his girlfriend. When the boy mentions getting into a fight, the caretaker inquires about gangs and jumps rapidly to a violent response. This story has “time to call Child Protective Services” written all over it.
Regarding the boy’s unusual form of communication, it is not clear if he is actually manipulating the symbols in the game or if they are a stand-in for some other form of non-verbal communication like sign language. I did not have the impression that the boy has any sort of sensory impairment, but I wonder if this form of communication is his way of withdrawing emotionally. As for picturing himself as a bird, maybe that reflects his self-image: a caged bird.
Preliminary Score: 8.8