“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.” – Bertolt Brecht
Released: August 2014
Price: Name your own price
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Available on: itch.io
Curtain is a short, free, narrative experience about Kaci & Ally, two queer women in a Glasgow punk band. It dives into their home life and explores the subtleties of an unhealthy relationship. The game is an award-winning piece of interactive fiction and features a garish and psychedelic pixel art style that feels as uncomfortable as the subject matter.
Narrative and Styling
The player adopts the role of Ally, arriving home with Kaci after a surprisingly successful gig. The game takes place within their apartment and the majority of the dialogue consists of Kaci’s responses and interjections to the player’s interactions and observations. The density of back-handed compliments, repeated negativity, gaslighting and general bossiness along with the one-sided nature of the exchanges make the destructive nature of the relationship quickly apparent with the extremity and explicit nature of the abuse building to a disturbing crescendo of violation.
The game’s art style is a unique brand of trippy, impressionist pixel-art that, to be blunt, feels genuinely uncomfortable to look at, has the potential to induce headaches and certainly takes some getting used to. However, the painfully garish aesthetic complements the difficult themes of the narrative, adding to the overall feeling of awkwardness and uncertainty.
Mechanically, Curtain has very minimal gameplay that consists of walking and interacting with objects that then elicit a response from one or both of the main characters. The controls are simple and standard, using just WASD and a mouse to look and interact. However, pressing escape will instantly close the game which has no save features as it is a short 30-minute experience intended to be played in one sitting. It may also be worth noting that the maximum resolution in the game’s settings is 2560×1600 and the only graphics option is the aptly named ‘overwhelming’ preset.
Curtain is a short but piercing experience that delves into the intricacies and subtle nature of abuse within a romantic relationship. It mixes tried and tested narrative techniques and interactive storytelling with difficult themes and an experimental art style. This, in turn, creates a fusion of physical and emotional uneasiness that give the overall experience an extra layer of depth and poignancy.