April 1, 2015 8:10 AM | Lena LeRay
Diane Mueller's Fragile Soft Machines isn't long and although it does branch, the game is really only good for 2-3 plays before you've seen everything. What it lacks in scope, however, it makes up in atmosphere and artistic value. It's about a butterfly with a ruined wing trying to reach the sky.
The player's butterfly starts on the ground with a disembodied narrator telling them that this is their garden to grow as they wish. By choosing vines to grow and occasionally entering text where prompted, the player advances through the game. The text entered can come back at the player during the game, depending on which choices they make, and always shows up in the summary of the player's journey shown at the end.
The text entry portions and final summary were inspired by Elegy for a Dead World. Although Fragile Soft Machines is shorter, has only the one environment, and doesn't offer the complete freedom to make the whole story up like Elegy does, it has a similar feel. Where Elegy for a Dead World asks the player to draw meaning from abandoned environments, Fragile Soft Machines offers the player a chance to think about life and struggling with one's shortcomings.
Fragile Soft Machines won't be a game for everyone. It's very short, about 15 minutes long, and is more of an artistic piece than a traditional gaming experience. It's available on itch.io for $3. There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Diane Mueller also has other games which were made for game jams available for free on her web site.