By: Terry

On: March 14th, 2010

[This is a guest article by PerrinAshcroft. If you’d like to contribute a guest article to TIGSource, go here.]

Digital: A Love Story is a free to download interactive story by Christine Love available for Windows, Mac and Linux. The game is set in 1988 and you begin the game with a threadbare interface closely resembling the Amiga’s workbench. To progress through the game you must use your modem to dial into bulletin board systems (BBS), make friends and enemies, download utilities, hack into protected system and commit phone fraud to make long distance calls. The game has a wonderful retro feel that’s going to tug strings of nostalgia for anyone who built up astronomical phone bills dialling into BBSs back before the internet became so widespread.

Parallels can be drawn to Introversion’s Uplink but Digital is very much its own experience. While Uplink was driven by the game elements of upgrading your deck and breaking into systems in a cool cyberpunk-esque world, Digital keeps its focus on characters and storytelling and draws instead from the unglamorous nerdy reality of the pre-internet digital world. The tools at your disposals are primitive, but are interactive enough that it doesn’t just feel like passive story.

I don’t want to elaborate too much on the content of the story as finding that out is what makes this game worth playing, but the story is really well structured and paced taking you through quite an emotional three-act tale in only a few hours. While the primary story is a fairly serious affair, Christine is smart enough to include humorous side plots such as getting into arguments with Star Trek nerds, a level of attention to detail that keeps the world interesting.

On a technical level I was very impressed once I realised the game was built with Ren’Py, a python based tool for building Japanese style visual novels. The game has been customised to the point where it’s unrecognisable from most projects build using those authoring tools. The interface is slick, the graphics are retro in a perfectly fitting manner and it includes a fantastic ambient soundtrack.

A game like this is unlikely to appeal to everyone, heavily story driven games are not to everyone’s tastes. But for those of you willing to spend a few hours, working slowly through an intriguing piece of interactive narrative there is a lot to enjoy about this title. I considered nit picking at a few minor issues but it seemed silly when for the most part this is a game with a specific purpose in mind and it executes it brilliantly. Ultimately for me, when the ending finally came it was a truly emotional moment where I just didn’t want to let go but knew I had to.

  • pgil

    I just played through this the other day. The story engaged me a lot more than I thought it would. There are a few moments that really surprised me.

  • John Evans

    From reading the description, it seems to harken back to the Neuromancer video game from the Commodore 64 days. Neuromancer featured 1988’s conception of what a wired future would look like. Ah, the memories…Anyway, it was also much more of an “interactive story” kind of experience.

  • UnrealClock

    This reminds me a lot of JD Spy, speaking of which did the developer of that ever make a sequel?

  • namuol

    I’ve been waiting for something like this for a while.

    Bonus points for native Linux build!

  • Anonymouse

    this review is pro as fuck

  • namuol

    For those of you who cant get to the files (Mac version seems to be down), here are some mirrors (taken from

    Mac OS X:

  • Radix

    tra la la not reading this review, I downloaded it a few days ago and want to play it un-anythinged

  • GoSign

    This seems interesting, but I have little to no knowledge bout any of the technology involved, including BBSes. Will this hinder me very much?

    What does the actual user interaction entail? I haven’t been able to figure that out from any mentions of the game I’ve encountered.

  • Jabberwock

    Apparently a song of mine is “now playing” in that screenshot.

    I guess interesting things happen when you release things under Creative Commons licenses.

  • shockedfrog

    Relax, no BBS/old OS knowledge really required, no ridiculously difficult puzzles like J.D.Spy, and no just plain confusion like the Atari ST Naarjek games, in case anyone else is thinking of those from the screenshots. :) The game pretty much teaches you what you need to know about the interface when you need it. Consider it just an interesting way of telling a story – as that, I must say I rather enjoyed it.

  • dukope

    Dialing the long-distance BBSes was a tad annoying, but overall I really liked this. Such great nostalgia and a really compelling story kept me hooked.

  • Laura

    When does the game end? I think I’ve finished it because I found out the “secret”… but I’m not completely sure since the game is still going (no new message or anything though).

  • Laura

    nm… I found the actual ending :P I’ve never played a hacker-style game before, so it felt really unique and creative to me (I was especially impressed with how distinct it looked from typical Ren’Py games).

    To be honest though, I enjoyed the overall experience a lot more than the story that was powering it. The music fit really well (yay Jabberwock!), the interface was cleverly designed, the dialogue was well-written (save for a couple anachronistic terms), and the whole thing felt mysterious and cryptic (just like when I was a kid and my friends were showing me old chat rooms at their houses–our family didn’t have internet until much later, which was probably why I was so intrigued). But the story felt… well, I guess it just felt like there were a lot of liberties taken in order to produce some cliched moments. There were times when I knew that the music + the story event was supposed to make me feel sad, but to me it felt contrived (particularily the ending). I also found Emilia to be particularly annoying; before I found out her backstory she struck me as being some overly emotional bipolar nutcase and I was not in any way endeared to her. And it didn’t change much after I did find out more about her.

    But I have to say there were some quality moments in the story… certain parts had me feeling very tense, which was great. And I did play until the very end because it did have me wondering what was going to happen. I also appreciated the humor (the Star Trek nerd getting mad at you, the “enormous 50MB harddrive” comment, etc.)

    By far though, the experience was the best part for me. The game did a really good job of making you feel like you were exploring unknown territory; hacking into systems and discovering secret information, getting secret codes to call long distance… very cool.

  • Gressmon

    Did anyone noticed that the pregnant woman on the Gibson (I think it’s on this BBS) is actually the mother of one of the girls in her visual novel “Cell Phone Love Letter” ? That’s funny when you get it.

  • Jay

    great game, especially the music! loved it!

  • Radix

    At one point I thought it’d turn out that I was really a thingy like her and we’d make baby thingies together.

  • Blahblahblah

    I’m completely stuck! I’ve just been given the number for “The Underground Library” and the old password that was used. I’m sure I’ve checked everything and have no idea what to do now. Any hints would be appreciated!

  • falsion

    I did the ending without batting an eyelash because


    she turns out to be an AI, so I was like, okay. Was I supposed to feel remorse over that or something? Cuz I didn’t.


  • falsion

    er, that didn’t format correctly at all. Is there a spoiler tag on this site?

  • Dinsdale

    @falsion – yeah, thank you so much for that…

  • ckpk

    I’m stuck trying to log in to the GibsonBBS

  • Laura

    @Blahblahblah: There’s a message at Sector001 that should help you get into the Underground Library.

    @ckpk: To log into the Gibson, just use the password hacker which you can get off of one of the local BBSes.

  • Phillip

    I have only one thing to say about this game and its ending. It made me cry a little bit inside.

  • Casper

    Yeah I’m confused as how to access the library aswell, the message on Sector001 doesn’t make much sense to me…

  • jacksnappert


    The password you get to get into the Library looks randomly generated.

    The message in Sector001 has to do with randomly generated passwords.

  • Laura

    @Casper: The message in Sector001 hints at how to alter the password you have in order to get in (something about changing the last digit)… ;) Hopefully that should help… if not, let us know.

  • Casper

    Thanks Laura I finally figured it out haha, I hadn’t noticed I got the original code from a message, where the sender states he already tried it and it probably wouldn’t work again haha.
    I beat it and I don’t feel very happy about it >:

  • LA2019

    Crazy; I had an idea for something exactly like this last week. Only it was on the Internet, rather than BBSs.

  • Mycroft

    That game made me remember my own early teenage years. I didn’t have an Amiga, but I was very active in the local BBS’ing scene from ages 8 to 18 (I’m 33 now). The ending made me cry a little inside, just like Phillip.

    @Laura, that “contrived” dialog wasn’t actually as hokey as you seem to think. 1988 was a very lonely time for geeks. Before 1997-1998 or so, being a geek was a lonely and sad existence. Finding someone, anyone, who reached back when you reached out was a rare and precious thing. For some people the world is still like that, but in `88, it was like that for almost every geek who wasn’t at a tech-oriented college.

    Having lived through it makes the ending punch a little harder for me, I guess. There were a long series of messages exchanged before I was willing to go through with it.

    This was a great story, and a great game.

  • Dinsdale

    I enjoyed this game immensely.

  • Laura

    @Mycroft: I didn’t say the dialogue was contrived, I actually thought it was well-written as you can see above. I did however feel that certain plot events felt contrived to me (the ending especially). A lot of authors use these plot methods in order to tug on the heart strings of readers, which is totally fine if I’ve been sufficiently endeared to the characters.

    The thing is, I wasn’t endeared to Emilia at all, which is why I felt that it was thrown in to cheaply generate emotions, and it didn’t work for me. As another poster said, “it’s AI”… and for me, she seemed like an overly emotional bipolar nutcase… personally, I’m not endeared to that at all.

    In the end, it’s really about personal opinion as opposed to “lack of knowledge of specific 80s-geek-lonliness.” Even during times in my life when I was lonely, I wouldn’t be endeared to someone just because they declared their undying love for me after a few exchanges filled with cryptic “it’s complicated” messages… If I don’t feel sufficiently endeared to the character, the ending is naturally going to feel contrived to me. But again, I can understand that others feel differently.

    Despite that, I still enjoyed the game for the experience and all the things I listed above.

  • boomlinde

    Cross commenting: Good story, interesting concept and all, but the game play was tedious and monotonous, and the puzzles were few and easy.

  • Aeneas

    I found the game somewhat lacking, in the sense that it was rather tedious to begin with, and that some of the instructions were unclear.
    However, its gameplay was rather fun, and its storyline was far from average.

  • falsion

    If I did care about deleting a computer program, then I wouldn’t be a very effective computer user. I’d probably be bawling my eyes out over clearing my hard drive right now.

    I liked the story until it told me that the character I’m supposed to feel for was just a AI script, not an actual human being. So when it gave me the option, I had no hesitation over deleting it at all.

    I think the story would have worked better without all the AI and far fetched science fiction elements that got thrown in towards the end.

    If I was actually cutting contact off with a person not deleting a program I just compiled, the story probably would have moved me more.

  • Magnumi

    Awesome! Playing this was like taking an time-machine back to the early 90’s. Brought back so many memories! I still remember fondly the local BBS systems and the sense of community and mutual interests. =)

  • horse racing systems

    In computer science , source code (commonly just source or code) is any collection of statements or declarations written in some human

  • oh wow

    Oh wonderful, spambots have found a way to comment now. Racing secrets, alright. I needed those.

  • Jay

    I like that the bot at least attempted to leave something relevant. ;P

    But, on topic, I was able to breeze through the game in about an hour. Overall, I enjoyed it. It is essentially a visual novel. Not even really interactive fiction. But the engaging story coupled with the beautiful and nostalgic experience makes me feel like it wasn’t a waste of time. In other words, play/read it!

  • Jay

    Oh, and don’t be scared off by the fact that it’s built in Ren’Py. This game is very very very very different than the typical anime/manga dating sim college story garbage that Ren’Py is known for.

  • hryx

    Wow, this was a nice little game. It reminds me a lot of Distractionware’s _Judith_ — almost purely story in a game’s body, with little to no gameplay. But as long as you accept that the puzzles are extremely minimal, then you can just get immersed in the environment and moods. It will be nice to see some indie games in the future which present gameplay and story with equal strength.

    As was pointed out, it isn’t as much “interactive fiction” as it is just plain fiction. But the music, graphics, and interface style really set a mood that even more-interactive games often don’t.

    A big downside I see with _Digital_ is that you need to be able to let yourself fall in love a little bit to get the emotional impact. I wonder how this game would fare with the majority of (straight) female gamers.

  • anonymous

    I’m embarrassed, but could someone just spoil the answer to the Underground Library, I’ve tried the message that explains an exploit for a type of system with changing the end digit up once, but it didn’t work.

    I’ve tried changing each alphanumeric up one (A to B, 1 to 2, etc.), no dice. I’ve tried upping only the seventh alphanumeric up one (since it said XXXXXX1), no luck.

    Do I have to hack the source code of this game itself to reveal the answers?


  • Laura

    @anonymous: Don’t be embarrassed ^_^ I don’t remember the exact password, but just add one to the last digit… so if the original password is “xRiaJ833” change it to “xRiaJ834”

  • anonymous

    Thanks Laura, for some reason it actually worked this time.


    Anyway, got to finish the rest of the game with little problem. Thanks!

  • Huxley12

    I replied on the Underground Library board after changing the password to get onto it, but now I can’t get back in. What do I do…?

  • Laura

    @Huxley12: Remember how the message at Sector001 talked about the password generator upping the last digit by one each time? You have to keep doing that each time to get back in. So if “xRiaJ834” worked the first time, now you’ll have to change it to “xRiaJ845” and so on.

  • Bionic Taffy

    I think the whole game was brilliant, just simply loved the feel of it all. It’s like going back to when I was 6 and just doing stuff on the computer…

    The romance plot, though, I feel like there should have been more actual conversations between the main character and the love interest. It felt too fast for her to immediately say that she loved me. Develop it more into how an actual internet conversation could go now, if both parties weren’t pervs and were intelligent to just talk.

    Otherwise, I finished it in an evening and enjoyed the story that was told. :)

  • Xeno

    Sent some PMs, got one back.. spammed the accounts some more. What else can I do? No new messages..

  • Rococo Robot

    Xeno, the game is driven by clicking “reply” to each and every messages you receive. Sending PMs, on the other hand, seems only necessary when the story mentions you should.

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    Quick Draw