What is the function of a curtain? On stage, they can be used to announce a beginning, or mark an end. At home, they are a comforting veil; obscuring light from reaching the inside, blocking the gaze of strangers from the oustide.
It doesn’t take much to figure out why Llaura Merriglitch’s lo-fi game Curtain is named so. You play a girl in a punk band, recently moved into a new flat with her bandmate and romantic partner Kaci.
While the game lasts, in real time, about 20-30 minutes – a fleeting moment experienced within a confined space – the narrative spans several painful months, even sometimes reaching backwards into the darkness of the past.
As you explore your new home, your girlfriend Kaci’s narration informs everything you see, do, or touch, an intrusive text box occupying the bottom portion of the screen. It starts out nice. Excited musings about your band’s latest gig. Romantic compliments. Optimism for the future.
Everything she says, though, is tinged with an unnerving, sour presumption, so subtle that the exact moment when the relationship begins to go downhill is hard to mark with any precision.
At some point, Kaci’s every comment, question, and accusation begins to sting. Even though you never directly see her in the game, her presence in the space around you – from the smashed bathroom mirror to the beer cans and dirty dishes littering the kitchen – is undeniable, and it is as claustrophobic as the constantly warping neon walls around you.
Curtain is, above all, an exploration of abusive relationships; the way we hide parts of ourselves from the world, or the frailty with each we attempt to block out just the parts of people we don’t like, until they are too lurid to obscure.
You can download Curtain for free on itch.io, with the option to donate to the creator, who suggests just $1 for about 20 minutes of your time. It’s worth it.