July 23, 2013 12:10 PM | Paul Hack
Ultra Business Tycoon III is Porpentine's latest, biggest (most lines of code, at least), and perhaps most ambitious game. The author would have you believe that it's an edutainment business sim--one from the 90's that she discovered, cracked, and ported, no less. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to disclose that it's much more than that (and really not that at all). It's a layered, metatextual, metafictional adventure that satirizes videogame tropes and dips into surrealism while engrossing you in an experience unlike any other.
You're a prominent businessman/woman/replicant in the money business. Your ostensible goal is to gain entry to the Mammon Gate, which is only possible after you've made $1 million. So off you go to indulge in this capitalist fever dream, exploring and solving puzzles in search of money. But as you play...
Ultra Business Tycoon III has something in common with games like Frog Fractions and Candy Box--not in terms of gameplay but because it's hard to discuss directly; the experience blossoms and unfurls like like an orchid blooming in fast-motion, until it is something much more than what it was when you began.
Porpentine's technical prowess with Twine is on full display and she busts out almost every trick in the proverbial book to make this the one game I'd recommend to anyone who wants to see what Twine is capable of doing.
I'm trying to avoid hyperbole here, but this game affected me deeply. It's a work at least on par with howling dogs. There's so much going on underneath Porpentine's slick, succinct, imaginative prose. The tone can go from playful to heartbreaking and back within a few lines. The images she draws with a handful of words are indelible. Some turns of phrase are so cool I wanted to use a highlighter on them.
And for those worried that a Twine game means a lack of interaction, well fear not, because this game is full of frequent, pivotal choices. It records certain statistics, and your wealth (among other things) carries over from playthrough to playthrough (which is the only way you can get to a million). In fact, you'll die a lot, but it's for your own good.
For at least one puzzle, you'll need to reference the game's .nfo file, reproduced by Porpentine here. For help solving some of the other puzzles, be sure to consult the bestiary, tips, and options screens. You might also try loading a saved game.
Go ahead, play Ultra Business Tycoon III in your browser.