Title: Emily Is Away Too
Available On: PC
Developer: Kyle Seeley
Publisher: Kyle Seeley
Genre: Interactive Story
Official Site: emilyisaway.com
Release Date: May 26, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, itch.io, Humble
In late 2015, a small indie game came out that sought to help its players relive their high school days of chatting with girls on AOL Instant Messenger, the original text message. This game, Emily Is Away put you back in this world where you the player chat with a girl named Emily, become friends with her, get close, then watch it inevitably crumble as time moves forward. Though it was incredibly simple, there was something magnificently nostalgic about it, from the old school sounds of people logging on and off, to the info boxes and away messages set in vibrant color schemes. The creator of this game, Kyle Seeley, decided to take the stakes up a notch with the sequel.
Emily Is Away Too, a game about the struggles of chatting up two girls with equally difficult problems and the impossible situation of juggling the conversations, is the second iteration in Seeley’s AOL, or EOL in this case, story-based adventure games. This time around, you the player are thrust back into 2006 to talk to two girls, Emily and Evelyn, each with their own different and unique personalities and problems. On one side, you have Emily, a friend of yours in a relationship with a guy named Jeff, who’s struggling with different sets of futures and how that works before college. On the other, you have Evelyn, more of a rebellious girl who is suffering from a broken heart from her previous relationship. It is up to you to decide what your interests are, what you want in the future, and perhaps most importantly, which girl will capture your full attention and interest.
In the last game, Seeley left the ending as in the inevitable scenario of two people moving apart, which filled me with immense sadness and familiarity with my own experience upon entering college. In the sequel, the ending is fully based on the choices you make. While certain decisions may not seem so important when you’re making them, it becomes very clear that every choice leading up to the final chapter makes the difference between whether or not your relationships will last. Even things as small as the interests you pick impact the way these girls interact with you: if you like the same movies, she might be okay going and seeing one with you alone; if you have different music tastes, she may want others there.
In the middle section of the Emily Is Away Too, both Emily and Evelyn go through two different but equally important secret conversational struggles. It is at this time that you have to make an important choice of which girl you’re going to give your attention to since the responses here are timed and often mix details between the two. Make a wrong choice in wording or mix up the two events in your responses and one of the girls will shut you out for not being there fully. The lesson here about not being able to have your cake and eat it too is one that is unavoidable, even with the fastest decision making. This mechanic felt like an emotional challenge that actually carried weight, as I watched one of the girls log off angrily as I mixed up their problems.
The best thing I can say about Emily Is Away Too is that it meets its goal of putting me back in 2006. Whether it’s the different bands represented, like a personal favorite of mine, Senses Fail, or the different videos available to view on “Youtube”, the mock in game video provider. Even the fact that the game gives you actually in-browser downloads of chat logs and files and puts them on your actual desktop encapsulates you in this fictional, pixelated world. I personally loved the feeling of being back in that year, with all the movie references, song choices, and pop culture notes that came with it.
There really isn’t much to complain about in all honesty. If there were flaws, it would be that Emily Is Away Too is still very limited in what you can do. While it gives you access to a full page, only about three things will be clickable. While looking at the notes pages on the girls’ “Facebook”s was humorous, there really wasn’t much of value in their beyond a slight chuckle. Also, some of the responses come out differently than you’d expect them to. You may pick an option, only to find that the way your in-game player types it out is much different than you intended, leading to some mistaken errors. Other than this, the game is a joy to play and experience.
Emily Is Away Too is a delightful time that does what it sets out to do: take you back ten years to experience the joy and difficulty that came with chatting to girls in high school. In my real life, I prided myself on being pretty great at messaging girls. But even my skills were put to the test when it comes to these two girls. This game doesn’t just bring charm and nostalgia; it brings the difficult emotional decisions that come with trying to be there for everyone, especially two different girls. And at the end of the game, you find out just how important the things you say can be and the impact it can have, even in a fictional world. I really love Emily Is Away Too; it’s a tight, intriguing experience that can be finished in a day, but the memories can stick for much longer.
- Concise and compelling story
- Excellent callbacks to timely events
- Difficult choices that depend on player agency
- External links are fairly limited
- Some text options with unclear results