Digital is first and foremost a love story, but I do not think that the game is as simple as that description might imply or as one might deduce from reading a plot synopsis. I think that this game is one of the few pieces of art that I actually understand and appreciate in an artistic sense. To me yes, it is a love story in the traditional sense of boy meets girl, but it is also a love story in the sense of boy meets computer and the Internet, and that is a love story that I can relate to. Digital has also been accused of being a visual novel. While I admit that the only real thing you do in the entire game is type in phone numbers and click a few buttons occasionally when told to, to me, the game did not feel at all like a visual novel and actually felt like a very open and realistic world while I was playing it. And while I have to admit there is not very much interaction and 'visual novel' is an accurate description, it is still a description that is devoid of the essence of the game. To me, Digital felt more like a open, non-linear adventure.
It is a huge testament to the power of the writing that such a limited amount of interaction could draw the player into the story far more then should be possible. There is just something to the game that surpasses all sandbox games in existence or any game designed to immerse the player in the role of the protagonist. With respect to the open-worldness of Digital, this is partly achieved by imposing absolutely no artificial boundaries. While a normal sandbox game might try to create the illusion of openness by giving you a huge world, eventually we all at some point come to an invisible wall or door that you simply cannot open. But in Digital this simply does not happen. You can go anywhere and do anything that you can conceive of.
Two main, revolutionary features play a key role in creating the feeling of immersion. The first feature I am going to talk about is total control, such that for the most part, the protagonist in the game does not even really exist. You never press a button to have him eat or another one to have him walk forwards. Instead, you directly interact with the computer interface that serves as the game's setting. You move your mouse to have the in-game mouse move. You type in a word or number to have it appear in game. The only thing in game you don't specifically do is write messages. The distancing effect these massages would have is almost completely mitigated by the second feature I want to talk about. And that is the fact that you never see your messages. You respond and send messages to people by pressing the reply button. While you can mostly deduce the general content of any one of your messages by the replies, not seeing the actual content of your own messages immensely helps to immerse you in the game.
I have already mentioned the open realistic world and how much I liked playing in it, so now I will try to describe it. It is 1988 and your father has just purchased one of the earlier GUI PCs for you. You start off with a simple dialer, a program to connect to other computers, called BBSes, over the phone lines by dialing their number. These BBSes acted like the web-pages of today, but were very simple and for the most part were used for users to exchange messages and files. In Digital, this is the world that you are thrown into and while you start off with a single number to a local BBS, you soon discover more BBSes and programs online. If you are interested and want to learn more about BBSes I recommend watching this absolutely amazing documentary.
Another great aspect of the game is the fantastic and natural characters that inhabit its world. These characters do things and talk just like people you have probably already interacted with on the Internet and simply seem very realistic and believable. There are helpful and knowledgeable people in many technical fields who help you improve your knowledge of computers and BBSes and provide patches and programs. There is also the occasional funnily outrageous troll as well as other general interesting characters.
The gameplay of Digital, while always unique, is not particularly varied. However, you will be doing a few interesting things. Other then typing in phone numbers and replying to messages you will be hacking private BBSes, updating software, and installing and building programs. And while technically all of these things are done very similarly, the level of immersion makes them seem completely unique and enjoyable.
All in all, I completely loved every single aspect of Digital. It brings uniqueness to a whole new level, which is one of its strengths but also the reason that it will not be some people's cup of tea. I have never seen a world so well realized. So if you liked this review or even if you didnít, you should probably go download and play Digital: A Love Story for PC, Mac, or Linux absolutely free!