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I really enjoyed playing ESC!  Thank you for creating it, Radical Dreamland.

I'll copy/paste my thoughts from elsewhere on the Internet here:


I recently played ESC, a visual novel by Lena Raine.

ESC emulates roleplaying in the text-based multi-user dungeons (MUDs) that became possible in the late 1970s and 1980s as computers became networked. Part of ESC is firmly planted in this history. Everything about ESC's audio and visuals–from the glitched 1-bit texture startup screen to the simulated CRT flicker to the subtle whrrr-ing and clicks of moving computer parts–evokes a sense of a bygone era of computing.

While interacting with strangers on the Internet via text was very much a formative part of my adolescence, the audio and visuals and core gameplay mechanic were largely foreign to me. I didn't really start spending serious time on the family computer until we had an LCD screen and I've never played a MUD. Still, once ESC got going, the conversations it emulated felt familiar and inviting. It felt like the adolescence I might have had under just slightly different conditions.

In contrast to its audio and visuals being firmly planted in the past, ESC's story is set in the future. There is a curious duality to this, a theme that ESC embraces and continues to explore throughout. ESC constantly alternates between the past and the future, between two distinct character perspectives, between roleplay ("in-character") and who we really are ("out-of-character"). It's delightfully engaging at times, intentionally disorienting at others, and thoughtfully crafted from start to finish.

The storytelling is enjoyably imaginative, deftly playing with its subject matter throughout. ESC takes you on a 4–6 hour journey, during which the text you type into your flickering command prompt will carry you from a lush forest to a mysteriously empty city and beyond. What starts as an emulation of an archetypal MUD transforms into an introspective, metaphorical exploration of self-identity, roleplaying, and technology. It indirectly asks the reader to consider how these themes shape one another in the narrative that is ESC and, more broadly, in real life. I personally liked this quite a bit as these are questions I think about frequently.

The soundtrack is compelling and effectively enhances the core reading experience without ever overpowering it. As someone who has written music to accompany words read from a computer screen, I can attest that this subtlety is more easily understood than executed, and it suggests a level of mastery on Raine's part as a composer.

In all, I very much enjoyed ESC, and would solidly recommend it to anyone with an interest in MUDs looking for a thoughtful, engaging visual novel experience.