Review: Flavour Text (Chronic Insanity, online)

Flavour Text is the fourth show in Chronic Insanity’s 12×12 project for 2021. A browser-based game in which clues are followed to solve a mystery, it follows previous shows Means of Production, 24,23,32 (review here), and Hairy Hands.

Although the instructions ask you to make sure your sound is turned up for this show, the video and audio content is minimal.

Instead, navigate through a variety of mocked-up websites (which are so detailed, they must have taken forever to plan and create) and links which take you to clues, additional information, documents, and more.

Where there is multimedia content, it is often exterior to the Chronic Insanity universe, and presented for additional laughs, or to impart a key piece of information which might otherwise be missed.

As with Conduit and Myles Away last year, you will need to be prepared to download files, send emails, and click on a variety of links, reading content as you go.

Screencaps from Flavour Text

The experience took me 55 minutes – the creators estimate 45 minutes to an hour – and I did read most of the websites in full (quick reader!). If you want to linger, or even take a break and return, that’s entirely possible.

The starting point of Flavour Text is to find out why no one is answering the phone at your favourite Italian restaurant when you want to order takeaway. From here the story gets a lot more complex – you will need to pay attention and perhaps take notes or screenshots as you go.

The mock websites are beautifully crafted, with logos, comment sections, and ‘surprise’ interventions. There is only one route from beginning to end, but several loose ends will occupy you if you let them.

I really enjoyed engaging with the various creations written by Megan Gates, Charlotte Holder, Ruth Mestle, Harry Smith and Sophie Whitebrook, all put together under the design and direction of Joe Strickland: from a community watch website to one ‘MooSpooce’ (1990s memories!), the ‘Goodian’ newspaper, a hotel review site, ‘Yahoop’ email, and much more.

The story itself is rather convoluted and perhaps doesn’t really matter; although the journey should be, and is, a experience to keep the ‘little grey cells’ (as Poirot would say), ticking away. This is much more than a missing person mystery: a work of art in its own right wherever you join it.

Flavour Text is available until 31 December 2021, and should be viewed on a computer browser which allows pop-ups and multiple tabs. Find a quiet corner, set an hour at least aside, and enjoy this latest creation from a company who continue to thrive in the digital space.

The show is available on a Pay What You Can basis here.

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