The runner-up in this year's Jennifer Ann Game Design Challenge by up-and-a-coming developer Thomas Lui, made in Flixel, void where prohibited, A Decision Of Prominent Importance strikes me as the most notable game out of a cast born in a priori assumptions that seems to preclude their potential.
The game feels tight, this is due to the choice of Flash framework to build off. It looks tight enough, the aesthetic of silhouttes and falling snow in a side-scrolling frame puts you somewhere between Castlevania and the Scandavian isolation of Clock Tower Mysteries. The cognitive dissonance derives from this aesthetic being delivered to you after first reading an academically cited quote about 20% of teen girls experiencing abuse in a relationship. We're immediately cast into suspense, yet pre-eminently aware that this relationship is evil, EEEVIILLLLL, and the only thing to do is gather information and make an eponymous decision whose importance, in this context, is perhaps overstated.
You click around to move the girl - who runs, not walks, to the nearest click, and you can click on objects to read text. Unlike the usual hypertext brochure that these kind of games, regardless of subject matter, tend to pitch, this game gives you clues to figure out if the girl is in a relationship with a good guy or a eeeeeeeeeeevil guy. The clues are kind of obvious, but the Adventure-like sleuthing feels interesting for a bit. The author claims that the game randomizes whether or not the guy is good or bad, in my experience refreshing numerous times, I've only gotten the bad guy, and man, that walking animation along with the music sure gives me a vibe like this girl is about to get murdered.
Full disclosure: I made a game called Jackie for this contest back in 2008, its inaugural year, but wasn't able to finish it in time for the deadline. It was based on a real friend of mine and she didn't talk to me for a year and a half forthwith. I'll have to get that reviewed here sometime, I have no hard feelings about my involvement with the contest, I'm glad it inspired me to make that game. That said, when you offer a cash prize and then list very specific, textbook proscriptions about dating violence, like a checklist, you're going to incentivize people to come up with clever ways of doing nothing more than offering a hypertext brochure. I wish Mr. Crecente would consider taking a broader approach next year so might see stuff with more systemic nuance, not to mention aesthetic.
So ladies, if your man has assault charges against him, uses lots of drugs and alcohol, wants to control you, or blames you for stuff, he's probably bad. Got it?