Emily is Away is a short choose-your-own-adventure interactive romantic novel/chat simulator of sorts. (That was a mouthful.) The entire core of the game takes place in an AIM-like window on a Windows XP-esque “operating system”. You spend the game as a male(?) character who chats with the titular character Emily. Throughout the chat sessions, there are moments where you pick one dialog option out of three to advance the conversation. The game is divided into five chapters, each taking place about a year apart from each other. The chapters take place from their senior year of high school to their senior year of college.
The game is weird and ballsy, and gets away with things that it couldn’t if it were a paid game; I mean, it’s clearly trying to simulate the appearance of AIM and Windows XP, even ripping sound effects from XP. Despite that, Emily is Away captures some of the same feelings and emotions that I most likely would have encountered during those years of my life: awkwardness, along with the relatable “trying to get the girl” scenario that every high schooler/college student deals with.
Emily is Away can be completed in about thirty minutes, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the best ending. In fact, in my playthrough, I got a pretty upsetting ending. As the game progressed, the chat window occasionally flashed me messages to let me know when Emily would remember something I said, or when I chose to do something story-changing. There were many pivotal moments in the game, all of them significant for how the game was going to end.
The game mechanics are simple; you either click objects on the screen, or you mash buttons on the keyboard to make text appear. As you mash random letters, the game will fill in the appropriate text for you. As your character types the messages, keep an eye out; you’ll be able to see some dialog that Emily won’t see. Your character will have second thoughts about some of the messages and will backspace through them to compose a new message.
I recommend giving this game a try; it’s short and sweet, and offers a relatable look into romancing over the internet.
Cost: $0 (Get it here!)
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X