“Curtain” Is a Short, Powerful Lo-Fi Game About Abuse
The biggest drawback of Curtain is that its intentionally garish graphics made me so nauseated I threw up. I wish I were joking. But, to be fair, some of that has to do with the claustrophobic, crawling atmosphere generated so effortlessly by the writing, something that discomfited me so much I found myself racing through the game to get to the happy ending.
Spoiler alert: there isn’t one. Not really.
The backstory of Curtain isn’t that unfamiliar: girl meets girl, girls fall in love, girls form a punk rock band and move in together. There’s even a cat named Toast napping in the background to complete the cliche. Curtain lets you explore two key times in their relationship: the middle and the end. Take control of Ally and guide her around clicking on various objects. Unprompted, Kaci offers her own commentary in a deliberately obstructive text box at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes, Ally offers her own thoughts, but more often than not Kaci dominates the scene. In this way, the control that Kaci exerts over Ally is made obvious even though Kaci is never seen.
Curtain is about a relationship that turns sour and abusive. Ally is the most obviously sympathetic–trapped in a controlling relationship where her own creative efforts are undermined and belittled and her partner refuses to trust her and calls her a “lazy lump”–but there’s something to Kaci’s rage and desperation that speaks of an inner misery as well. It’s easy to see how Ally fell for Kaci–she’s volatile, creative, exciting. It’s easy to see why Ally might mistake Kaci’s backhanded compliments for affection. And it’s easy to see how that experience would scar Ally forever, even when she’s left Kaci behind.