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Pirouette

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3.5/5 (96 votes)
Controls: [Left], [Right], [X]
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Pirouette, a piece of interactive art by Hayden Scott-Baron and increpare, is an infuriating work. Gameplay, which consists of linearly walking and talking to people, leans away from the "interactive", which might lead to the perennial discussion as to whether it qualifies as a game at all. The plot, depicting someone confronting those they loved and those they hurt, is vague and, with its frank talk of sex and toxic relationships, deliberately provocative. And yet... there is beauty to be found here. Pirouette will divide opinion. However, whether your opinion is positive or negative, it will be strongly so, and that can't be a bad thing.

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42 Comments

Um... what? Are the wives all aspects of the protagonist? And with the odd placement of speech bubbles, it's hard to tell who was talking in some scenes. Are they both dieing? Is there even a husband there? What? Is the author saying that cancer turns you into a existential nihilist with multiple personality disorder? I mean, I can sort of see the "saying goodbye to parts of yourself and parts of your life" thing -- it goes in line with the popular concept of "your life flashing before your eyes" -- but the execution seems disconnected. If we're saying goodbye to our various selves, what purpose is served by introducing a self that's already dead, and from whom we learn nothing about ourselves? And what does the esoteric language say about the author, or about the story? For that matter, there were a couple of spots where I found myself asking what the esoteric language even meant. I cannot argue that this... "game"? ... is visually and acoustically beautiful, and the technical execution is excellent, but the "gameplay" (storytelling) experience is too confounding to be really entertaining or enlightening.

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I...

What?

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I...

don't get it. It just looks like someone threw up a dictionary into a story line. I spent most of my time wondering what the actual message was than getting any sort of feeling about the entire game-story.

Maybe I'm dense or something, but really, I didn't understand it at all. It was frilly language and an unclear message, in my opinion.

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I didn't really understand it, but this is what I think. Here goes:

I think that maybe different stages in a relationship were shown through the various different women there were.
-The kite flying near the canal could be how they first met.
-First date in the restaurant.
-Moving in together in the house.
-Turning to drink when the relationship didn't work out.
-Car crash sending them both to hospital
-Eventually dying together in the hospital.

As for the graveyard scene... I really have no idea.

It's a beautiful game (the music fits perfectly), but maybe the point of it is that you aren't meant to understand it.
...Or something.

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With Stephen Lavelle games, there is usually that type of absurdity with no clear sense in the common mind, or any mind for that matter. Sort of like Minoto games in which the artist will always know where his game came from within the inner workings of their mind, but to the viewer, it is difficult, at best, to see anything logical. This applies a certain "comedy" that I have seen in past Stephen Lavelle games, but just because you can see a pattern, it does not make an image any more clear in your mind when the image is within the mind of another. At least, that is how I pass by any notion of meaning in these types of games in which I cannot ascertain meaning with certainty. Besides, much the same can also be learned if one walks the line of life and discovers wisdom on their own. Sometimes, I wish wisdom found in the arts could be expressed in basics or easier definitions; to expect everyone to be able to solve Rubik's cubes is to expect the perfect, an impossibility in the character of man.

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What is this...I don't even...

Memes aside, it's pretty incomprehensible to me. Bleeding eyes? The protagonist is becoming a woman? All the "wifes" (or "wives", as Grammy properly spells it)? Amazingly convoluted speech (although this might be a translation thing)? I can't figure any of this out.

But the graphics were pretty.

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I, uh, I think I'm with Mister Man on this one.

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I think the conversations were times he failed to tell her something, he says at the end that he didn't tell her because he was always afraid the moment would pass. Possibly the deaths represented the deaths of those moments.

I'm not sure what he was failing to tell her though, possibly that he was a necrophiliac going by the grave scene. Or, if that wasn't meant to be literal, that he was dying. But their relationship lasted over nine years, so that's a long time to be dying.

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Okay, if I'm interpreting this correctly (which I highly doubt) then, taken at face value, with as little induction as possible, the main character is:

A she-male and/or trangender and/or imaginary friend with benefits who is also a time-traveler and/or dimension shifter and/or a necrophiliac and/or a polygamist and/or a lesbian and possibly the last of his/her/its kind. To be honest, I'm not sure if he/she/it/they is/are human.

Trippy.

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@Echoloco

I think that summed it up well!

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Well I must say, as brief as it is, the review that Mister Man produced is absolutely spot on. He should be congratulated.

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I don't get it.

Is "art" now synonymous with "pointless"?

If not, I really don't see how this is an "art" game.

Or even a "game", actually.

Just because it has "pretty" "retro" graphics?

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Okay, I think I figured this out. Well, not really, but I made up a ridiculous explanation that I can still make fit:

In this game, the protagonist represents the English Empire circa mid 1800s to early 1900, which would explain the strange, overly poetic diction. Its views other countries as its "wives", and although it claims to love them, by reaching out to these other countries, it stifles their individuality and destroys what they once were. The end, when England is dying, and his wife tells him that "one of your proteges will ravage you" is clearly representative of the USA, which took England's place as the country that has to interfere with everything.

Of corse, every person will see this game differently, but that's part of the quality. It's a Rorschach Test of a game; by playing, you learn about yourself.

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I rather agree with tommy. I usually enjoy art games, but I didn't enjoy this at all. I really don't see the point. It's just a story with no plot line.

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Harrington Author Profile Page December 15, 2011 6:02 PM

I couldn't get past that writing. Someone was trying very hard to be Jerome K. Jerome, and failing. The art was fun and the music is interesting, but the dialogue was just awful.

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comment anonymously December 15, 2011 6:02 PM

I enjoyed the atmosphere.

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StitchingSin Author Profile Page December 15, 2011 7:12 PM

Well, as long as I'm not the only person going 'What the what just happened?' it's all good.

But I liked it anyway.

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This is without a doubt the biggest waste of time.

I agree with Tommy; this is pointless, a poor excuse of an art game, with a story that doesn't get you at all.

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This isn't a game. It would have lost exactly nothing if it had just been an animation. I have absolutely no impact on what's going on, I just make him walk and advance the conversation. There is no goal to this beyond being an audience. As a game it is an utter failure.

The narrative doesn't fare too well either. The speech and vocabulary are so overly formal and complex that they actually make it hard to believe that these are people having a conversation. No one speaks that way. In fact, very few people even write that way. The characters are thus completely unrelatable. It's supposed to be emotional or powerful, but it comes off as simply overbearing and pretentious. Furthermore, being deliberately vague doesn't make something deep or thoughtful, it makes it unclear and confusing.

To sum it up, this is a pretentious flash animation that demands effort to read a boring, confusing and pretentious story for no reason beyond "because it's there." It didn't make me think so much as it made me wonder... why I should care.

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Seems absurdist... like "The Bald Soprano" by Ionesco. The formal language implies to me some kind of scholarly pursuit - perhaps psychology, or philosophy. Possibly the writer deliberately strove to wrote shocking sentences. It also has a post-apocalyptic feel. Tricky's review is very good, though.

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I admit I laughed at the car scene, mostly because of the sheer absurdity of it. Like everyone else apparently, I didn't exactly get it. Though I am curious what kind of disease makes your eye bleed. Eck.

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I think the protagonist is a woman. The granny figure says, "My darling daughter."

So maybe it's about a single person confronting aspects of herself through her own lifetime and ultimately coming to peace with or at least accepting her own death? A bit on the narcissistic side in that, but that... okay, that theory doesn't make it make any more sense, but does make my head hurt a little less. :/

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I think the bit about your eye bleeding meaning that you're becoming a woman is an allusion to

the onset of menstruation. Not necessarily literally the onset of menstruation, but this is the context in which bleeding leads someone to say that you have become a woman.

Don't really know what's going on, though.

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Is this Customer Service? I'd like to return this and get my ten minutes back.

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I am now afraid to play this game.

/kidding

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What the hell did I just play?

With every wife that died, a little piece of my sanity died too.

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"In this game, the protagonist represents the English Empire circa mid 1800s to early 1900, which would explain the strange, overly poetic diction"

Yes, we all used to speak like that here in Britianland. "Why did the goose stride the firmament?"

Why indeed? "Vapid intercourse" pretty much sums this "game" up.

Back to the Dibbles

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Just A Schmuck December 16, 2011 11:50 AM

I like Chahlie's interpretation.

Putting that aside though, I could imagine the graveyard scene could be interpreted as an author who died before the main character was born and whose work the main character loved.

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I saw her as a female throughout, the death of the "wives" merely being her shedding the different layers of existence that she carried with her. What was left was her at her purest form--woman, without the lies she made up for society. Not overly vapid, or anything else.

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Alex2539: A movie where you had a slight amount of control over some aspects of where a character was moving was enough to get "The End of Us" rave reviews. It seems you need to diminish the "game" part for people to have any chance of taking an "art game" seriously.
It also seems, more often than not, you need pixels the size of hams, so I'm kind of surprised this didn't go over better than it did.

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@Chahlie What an interesting way to see the story, I mean, it makes sense to me!
Now what I have to say: Ok...Well....At least the art was pretty!

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I thought this not-quite-a-game was very beautiful but utterly inexplicable. Then I read the comments here, found some good insights, and played it once more.

Here's my take, which explains almost everything in the game. It's expressed from the character's point of view, mainly because it's more fun that way. I'd love to hear what people think of it!

I'm walking to the hospital to get the results of my latest cancer screening, and everything I pass on my way reminds me of the life we shared. This is the bridge where we first met. This is the restaurant where we celebrated our anniversary. This is where we had that final, horrible argument in the living room. This is where you found me, years later, drinking my sorrows away. This is where, drunk and careless, I nearly died in a car crash. And there is the graveyard where one day soon you might stand over my grave and wonder about what might have been.

At each of these critical moments I had… not quite an epiphany, but an idea, an awareness, of something important I needed to tell you. About me, and you, and us. But by the time I figured it out the moment had passed, and the "you" of that moment had died, and I didn't know what to say to the new "you" anymore. I wonder, did you feel the same way?

In my memory, our conversations were bold, dramatic, and clever, like the dialog in a play; but even with the clear vision of hindsight I can't figure out how either of us could have found the words to say what we felt on any of those occasions. Maybe that's ok. I think, now, taking it all in together, that I understand how you felt too, and I guess that has to be good enough.

Now I am arriving at the hospital, the same hospital where they once nursed me back to health against all odds. I don't really need the results of the cancer test, because I already know that I'm dying. I've been dying my whole life. Each moment that passed, the "me" of that moment died with it, and the "me" that was left was a little older, a little slower, a little sadder. Life is decay.

My eye is bleeding. Many years ago I was surprised by random, inexplicable bleeding of another type. I was 12. "You're becoming a woman now," they told me. It was my first rite of passage, my coming-of-age. Coming to terms with one's death (and with one's life, as well!) is another coming-of-age ritual of sorts, and death itself is the final rite of passage.

Now I understand what it is to grow up; now, finally, I really have become a woman.

A couple of other thoughts:

1. I tend to interpret the word "game" very loosely when playing an artistic game, but still, there's probably no definition loose enough to encompass this piece of software. The only interaction the player has is essentially "press a key to continue." And yet, even the trivial act of pressing a button to walk or talk gives the "player" a connection to the character that might be lost in a totally non-interactive work.

2. I love Chahlie's creative interpretation of the story! It even explains aspects that my own wild guess doesn't.

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I did not really enjoy this odd, awkward poem of a tale. On the other hand, these reader comments are some of the most well thought-out and enjoyable I've read! It's fun to see your insights and interpretations...So at least that much adds to Pirouette's worthiness. :)

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It's a bit odd to see that people think the game is more or less inscrutable, I think it's easy to give an interpretation of what's going on...

I think it's about a dying man who is saying goodbye to all the women in his life - I do actually think he is saying goodbye to all the women in his life and not different instances of the same woman because of the woman in the graveyard (the one that died before he was born). That woman in the graveyard he probably had an imaginary affair with (you know, like that girl I know that claims she's in love with Jim Morrison and stuff...)
The rest of the women were his real wives/girlfriends, and I think killing them is a play on some sort of solipsism: I die, therefore they all die. He killed them off in some sort of "memorable way" that resembles an interaction they had in real life during their relationship. And in the end he went to his last wife, the last person he had to say goodbye to and they died together.

Lovely "game", reminds me of Woody Allen movies, for some weird reason.

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Now that I think about it, my interpretation is that someone wanted to see if they found the successful way to have their work labeled as art.

Retro pixel graphics: yup
Weird/enigmatic and/or pointless text with big words: yup
Pretty title in a foreign language: yup (and bonus points for not having absolutely anything to do with the "story")
Throwing in mentions of serious illnesses or strong topics to make your game seem deep and meaningful: yup!

(hint: cancer, death and gender issues)

Reduce playability to a minimum: right-o!

Did I miss anything?

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I thought the character looked weird, and after looking it up I assume "Pirouette" Refers to a female circus clown. Not sure if that helps...

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This "game" is quite obviously an allegorical satire of the metaphor of existentialism and... I'm confused.

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Mr. B-Swag Author Profile Page December 19, 2011 4:32 PM

I, personally, think this game is about

a guy who is a dirty lying cheat. He has many wives because he is never truly happy with any one woman.The first doesn't really like him. The one on the bridge doesn't see him much, so she just naturally assumes he's a good guy. the drunk is the only one who knows he's a cheater, but she just keeps it hanging over his head, in case he tries to cheat her anymore. The mechanic is a workaholic, so her case is similar to the girl on the bridge. The chick in the restaurant is a soon-to-be wife, and really doesn't know him at all. The woman in the hospital is really dying, and the game using death as a metaphor for admitting his wrong doings. Along the way he kills off his wives, and then commits suicide as he realizes his wrongdoings and spends his last minutes with his wife who would have died anyway. As for his mother, the graveyard scene, and the name of the game, "Pirouette", I'm don't even have my own opinion. I'm totally lost on those.

And that's my interpretation of Pirouette.

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Very first thought of this game when it started: Rotoscope (a-la SNES's Flashback) meets AGS/Sierra point-and-click adventure. lol I'm probably WAAAY off, though. I only just got out of the bed.

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What I got from this:

Action speaks louder than words.

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Hi!

"Pirouette" means "twist" "about-turn" or "to spin" in french.

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what i suspect the game is about, is the main character is a part of some kind of....line of people or so, not literally but like a family or cult, who practice necrophilia, but the act of necrophilia causes them to contract some type of disease that the line has, and as they take more wives the disease spreads, and what it does is cause the character and their wives to die roughly within the same amount of time.
this is of course a more literal aspect, i suspect the game is honestly much more symbolic instead of Exactly What it Says on the Tin, but these were my first thoughts.

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