Beating this game felt like a triumph. Seriously. I’m a computer champion now. Throw any computer at me, and I’ll hack my way right through it, no problem. Just watch me as I traverse through every single dial-up channel available – oh, wait, you don’t have to punch in any phone numbers to connect to your network? What do you mean, you’re not going to hit me with an Amie Workbench? What? This isn’t 1988, either? Um, forget everything that I just said, then.
Digital: A Love Story is an adventure game created by Christine Love. You play the game as someone (you pick his/her real name and his/her username) who gets his/her first computer in 1988 called the Amie Workbench. Welcome to the old school Internet world of dial-up, complete with BBS (Bulletin Board System) networks and an Amiga-esque interface. All of your actions take place on the Amie Workbench’s screen. As expected from Love, this isn’t your standard visual novel set-up. You’re literally in front of the system. Playing this in full screen mode enriches the experience.
This game took me way back. Hearing that irritating screech of the dial-up connecting reminded me of when I was really little, around 7, all the way back in 2000. Back then, I used America Online on a connection so slow that I didn’t even know animated gifs were supposed to move. Remember all of those free trial CDs? As much of a pain that noise was, it was also almost comforting in its familiarity.
It was fun clicking around BBS pages and sending messages to random people. It was a little confusing at first that I couldn’t read what I was sending. Eventually, I got used to it, and being able to guess and interpret my own replies added to the fun. Love’s not handing your replies to you. They’re all within your own imagination. This game is smooth. In the beginning, it really does feel like you’re someone with a new computer.
On your local BBS, you take notice of a poet named Emilia. Lonely, you find a kindred spirit in her. Your connection becomes more serious as you get drawn into a mysterious web of hackers, crazy network exploits, and a satisfyingly dark puzzle that’s too good not to crack. I really felt for the protagonist. The journey to the end of the story got to me.
The music was excellently digital sounding. Every piece drove its points home, whether sad, romantic, or intense. This game was as much of a visual treat as an auditory one. I do have to admit that if you’re a person who’s prone to frustration, you shouldn’t play this game in one sitting. There’s no copy and paste feature, so you’ll have to enter every number time and time again whenever you want to connect. And you connect to various places A LOT. You download a notepad application early on in the game, but I suggest writing the numbers down, too. It saves you a headache in case you run into trouble.
All in all, this game is awesome if you have the patience for it. Download it from the RAA here, from its fancy page on the gamemaker’s website here, and discuss it here at LSF. Also, keep a look-out for the Heart of Fire easter egg!