Video Game Review – The Writer: A Change Of Identity

The Writer: A Change Of Identity is a text based horror game that delves into the subconscious of the main character. Players have access to his diary and jumbled recordings of his subconscious thoughts while he goes through a several day self inflicted personality change. Subconscious thought recordings are organized and then compared against the diary to glean the story.

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Developer: InvertedHuman
Publisher: InvertedHuman
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 30 minutes

Diary entry

The story focuses on an experimental personality change

Major Pros:

  • Soft musical sound effects
  • Easy repeats upon error

Minor Pros:

  • Low level psychological horror story
Subconscious thought scramble

Another identity?

Major Cons:

  • Very short
  • Story left off incomplete

Minor Cons:

  • I wanted more challenge from the gameplay
Diary entry

Diary entries contain conscious thoughts

The gameplay in The Writer: A Change Of Identity is pretty short. I read all the diary entries and completed all the thought chapters in about 30 minutes. Only the first diary entry is long, the rest mostly pose philosophical questions and progress updates. To further contemplate the game, the player might reread diary entries, but I don’t think this would add much additional playtime. The organizing of the subconscious thoughts makes up most of the gameplay and holds most of the horror elements. The player progresses through four chapters which build upon each other and span the same time period as the diary. Each has a distinct feel to it from a story perspective, but the mechanics are the same. The player is presented with a screen of 1-6 sentence fragments (usually 2-3) and must select them in the correct order to form the phrase. Failure to get the fragments in the correct order kicks the player back one screen to redo the last sentence and then try the failure sentence again. So it’s easy to progress even if you’re having trouble ordering the fragments.

Subconscious thought scramble

The player can use grammatical clues in the fragments to piece them together

As the player selects the fragments, musical effects corresponding with the chapter are played. These are usually a few notes played on a piano which convey mood for the story. The game is otherwise silent, giving a haunting atmosphere to these notes. The story from the diary is fairly straightforward, containing the main character’s curious questionings and his conscious thoughts on his experiment. He is focused on how one might be able to change one’s personality to a more ideal self that they imagine in their head. He carries out an experiment to test this idea, to mixed results. However since he’s undergoing the experiment, only the player with unbiased access to all the data is able to see the results.

Diary entry

Diary entries and subconscious thoughts must be combined to decode cryptic phrases

My biggest complaint of the game is that it feels incomplete, mostly from the story angle which could use more fleshing out and a more complete ending. As it stands now, the game feels more like a prequel to a deeper horror game, but without any teasers or cliff hangers. The challenge difficulty of rearranging the sentence fragments was also pretty low. I’d have liked to see that mechanic become more complex as the story progressed. It fits well with the story and appropriately paces the delivery, but the player isn’t doing much more than slightly interactive reading over the course of the game.

Subconscious thought scramble

A lot of the thought scrambles are about this difficulty

Overall I found the game curious, but not to the level of being interesting. It creates mood, but doesn’t particularly draw the player in. It has an interesting story, but doesn’t fulfill it in a meaningful way. Players who are interesting in a short game where they can dig in to the what-ifs themselves may enjoy The Writer: A Change Of Identity, but others will probably find it falling short.

Find this game on Steam.

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