One day John Vanderhoef is going to quit making games and move into writing scripts for movie shorts which walk the line of moody and reflective, regardless of their setting. Over the last while I’ve stumbled across most of his online creations while bumbling around online, and To Spare a Rabbit might not be his most recent, but it’s easily his best written… and that’s a tall order.
There’s a rich history behind the Ink engine, and so it makes sense that a creator who has used a variety of engines during their time eventually ends up there. To Spare a Rabbit doesn’t initially play around much with the multiple-choice structure of Inkle’s engine, but it grows into it as events progress. While it might only culminate in two, finite endings, it’s a hell of a ride to get there.
Ultimately it is an experience all about two estranged brothers who are reunited by drive. What will you do to succeed? What is your path to reclaiming the things that are yours? These are questions that those of us who have lost things think about every day. For Gerard, the character we take on the role of, we just see a confused, erratic person in the form of our brother – grabbing at ideas and ways to fix, rekindle or improve things. For the brother, Lemon, we probably just see a reluctant, meek brother, trundling through life.
“It didn’t mean we weren’t monsters. It just told us what kind of monsters we were.”
You can’t really screenshot To Spare a Rabbit, because it’s incredibly dense – INCREDIBLY dense. Those two endings are wrapped around half a dozen events which have to happen, but in which you control exactly the kind of brother you play as and exactly the kind of witness to your brother’s journey that you take on the role of.
To Spare a Rabbit is definitely a story about two brothers truffle hunting. But much like I’ve written about in the developer’s previous games like Katara (IG+), In the Morning Turns to Ash (IG+) and Bound Together, there’s no such thing as a ‘simple’ human.