This review contains spoilers.

Pregnancy is a difficult piece of media to really review for a few reasons. To describe my issues with the game, spoilers and a content warning for sexual assault are necessary, so be fair warned. As an interactive narrative, Pregnancy is in danger of being accused of ‘not being a game’, its subject matter is difficult to grapple with and as a male I can never really say if the experiences this game represents ring true. However as a text based, narrative driven game at the very least the narrative aspect is one that I should be able to be critique, and at this early juncture Pregnancy falls flat. Coming from Brazilian developer Locomotivah, Pregnancy follows the inner thoughts and interpersonal conversations of a 14 year old Hungarian girl facing a crisis pregnancy.

Opening with the inner monologue of the main character Lilla as she goes to a drug store in search of a pregnancy test, the game is presented with simple white text on a background. These backgrounds comprise of an unfocused real life image of the character currently speaking/thinking, with changing colour pallets and background static images to represent various other characters, or Lilla’s id or speech. While this is effective at a base level, it does little to inform the player of who exactly the other characters in the game are, whether they be Lilla’s family or others she interacts with. These images also seem to be generic stock photos rather than anything taken for the game specifically to better represent the characters. While the text changes font between internal monologue and external dialogue which would assist in making transitions more obvious, the fonts chosen are not different enough to make this apparent.

While the game is short and moves right to the point, there are some early problems. The biggest of these problems I feel lay in the game’s structure. Dialogue or monologue moments can be effectively segmented as the narrative unfolds with the opening section being the aforementioned trip to a drug store.

Pregnancy 2

The next section, which seemingly comes out of nowhere, is the possible conception of Lila’s pregnancy as a result of a date rape. While the majority of the writing in the game is stuffy and overly formal for what should be casual speech, this section is cringe inducing and awkward in its apparent realism. Why the text works better here than elsewhere may be attributed to its focus on Lilla’s inner thoughts as the assault progresses and it’s seemingly realistic portrayal of sexual assault. The scene is startling in its lack of telegraphing what has preceded it and in how stark the contrast is with the previous moments.

This shock is somewhat cut by the following section comprised of the developer logo and the game’s title screen. As quickly as the scene has started it is over. While certainly effective in being a shocking and powerful moment to the player, the segment feels out of place. It’s placement immediately after a seemingly cheery opening and not at a later point when the possibility of a sexual assault could have been hinted at seems a missed opportunity, but as it stands the entire plot point is handled poorly.

After the developer logo screen and game title segment that follow, the interaction between the player and the game character begins. Rather than taking the role of Lilla’s conscience as I expected to happen, the player instead takes the form of some extra, outside personality In Lilla’s brain. The game even gives the option for the player to input their name for Lilla to address the player and their dialogue options directly. These dialogue options are also an issue. They generally break down into a binary of choices which could be seen to be pro-life or pro-choice exclusively with some wiggle room in certain instances. This would be fine if it seemed that the game actually took these options into account when it comes to the continuation of the narrative, with Lilla seemingly listening to some player inputs and not others, but she doesn’t.

Unlike in other games of the same ilk where the player actually changes the game outcome it seems obvious that the player has very little agency here. At the end the developer addresses the issue of character input choices with statistics on what most players choose, in the vein of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. Unsurprisingly, my choices seemed to line up with the majority of players ,but this is still a nice touch as few as the choices may be in-game. The game also gives link to crisis pregnancy advice services and websites, which were certainly another welcome addition.

Pregnancy

The ending also reveals that Lilla will react in a contrary manner to what the player inputs in terms of pro-life or pro-choice options. While certainly a fair creative decision, it would be far more effective if the game itself reflected Lilla’s thought processes better in response to player inputs. The game’s end comes suddenly and is once again not well telegraphed in terms of being an ending. The fact that the game will react in opposition to the player’s inputs on pro-life or pro-choice sentiments is the final issue I have to address. While people generally have moderate to strong feelings on abortion one way or another, these feelings are often expressed in generalities with exceptions around crisis pregnancies, particularly those related to someone as young as Lila is supposed to be. As such, the inclusion of this plot point without warning or consideration for the player makes the entire production feel mishandled and awkward.

However well intentioned this production may be, it at times feels tactless or ill thought out. Particularly given the heavy subject matter at hand Pregnancy is disappointing but at the very least doesn’t overstay its welcome. Occasionally effective an expanded and better envisioned package could be a fantastic resource or insight into crisis pregnancies, as it stands Pregnancy is a missed opportunity.

 

About The Author

Contributor

23 year old Irish student by day, much the same by night. Gamer, cinephile, whiskey appreciator but mostly a mess of a human being. I can often be found talking about some obscure horror movie on twitter or something equally obtuse.

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