Alex Kriss' surreal Twine text adventure Progression (hosted here with generous permission and also able to play on the official site) is strange, and that's coming from someone writing this while eating hummus for breakfast and wearing My Little Pony gym clothes. At the start, you and your brother Erasmus are at the top of a dungeon ready to descend deeper. You don't have much... your sword, some rope, a sandwich. The narrative, presented entirely in text, might be a little hard to get into at first as it offers little explanation as to the purpose of your mission, what happened to get you there, and seems oddly disjointed, almost feverish at times, to boot. To play, all you can do is click the bolded text that represents choices as it appears in the text. Many choices will lock you out of making any others (unlike other Twine games which might have permitted you to exhaust all options before proceeding). You could gain a new item, added to your inventory in the upper-right corner, learn something new, or advance the story by solving puzzles. Or you could, y'know, die and fail horrible. And you will fail, since Progression is designed to be played multiple times, with some options in scenarios only becoming available when you've satisfied conditions in other playthroughs. So explore. Experiment. Die a little or a lot. Probably a lot, since trial-and-error is the name of the game here if you want to see all of the game's multiple true endings, some much more satisfying than others. Just choose "restart story" from the little inventory window to try again.
For most players, the biggest problem with Progression is going to be the unrelenting repetition. It's hard to predict what choices and actions will have different outcomes later on, especially since their effects can almost seem random and hard to predict, making the game feel less like a puzzle and more exhaustive searching. Did I already click this? Does this wording seem different than before? Have I stabbed/burned/ate/skull'd/Erasmus'd everything in this sequence yet? Since you have to start all the way over from the beginning each time you die, it'll take a lot of patience to uncover everything, especially since some elements actually incorporate grinding. It's not random, of course, just hard to intuit, though the game definitely has some real puzzles that depend on knowing your environment and using the proper items. The only way to keep track of choices and changes, however, is to do so yourself by writing them down, which is a massive feat considering how many variables there are, and also that it can be difficult to figure out which of your actions caused the new shift. It's a lot to ask of players, and "user friendly" and "challenging" don't have to be on opposite sides of the fence like the Hatfields and the McCoys.
But while some players may find Progression's, um, progression a bit too close to fumbling around in the dark to persist, others will find enough intrigue in the morphing narrative to sally forth. The way the choices affect the text means replaying often offers enough change to take some of the sting out of the repetition, and each area is small enough that a replay to get back to where you were, or just try something different, can be a matter of seconds. Progression is a unique experience, and as mentioned a very strange one. It's also creative. Frustrating. Evocative. Punishing. Mocking? If you enjoy Twine fiction and love seeing the different ways the medium can be used to create experiences, Progression is well worth your time. At least one of the endings makes the story feel painful and personal, though the scarce narrative makes it surprisingly easy to project. Others may find it too much of an uphill battle. If you don't mind playing a game that feels like that old story about the blind men and the elephant, Progression's mystifying nature will be part of its charm.