Ground Down is a short botanical horror story presented in the form of a Twine game. The player is occasionally offered choices concerning how to proceed, but there’s only one ending. Depending on your choices and your reading speed, I’d say Ground Down takes about ten to twenty minutes to finish.
You play as a young farmer whose grandmother has just passed away, leaving you the farm you’ve grown up on. You also have your grief, a house full of mementos, and debts to pay. On top of that, you’ve started to grind your teeth, but you have neither the time nor the money to visit a dentist.
I should say that, if you’re unusually squeamish about teeth, you might want to give this game a pass.
Personally speaking, I’m a little squeamish about teeth and dental pain in general, but I very much enjoyed this game. I felt some mild discomfort at the beginning, but the way the theme of “teeth as a symbol of agency” comes back at the end of the story is nothing short of brilliant.
The writing of Ground Down is fantastic in general. Each sentence is perfectly constructed, and each word is chosen with care. There’s a Raymond Carver feel of resonant simplicity to the prose, which is a pleasure to read and to reflect on. The gradual build of the narrative tension is subtle but palpable, and the ending is gorgeously cathartic.
The creator describes Ground Down as a “kinetic novel,” and there’s an interesting rhythm to the text, which sometimes speeds up and slows down. The choices you can and can’t make are interesting as well. Although your choices don’t affect the ending, they’ll color your understanding of what happens.
It’s also worth noting that the Century Gothic font is easy to read, and the contrast between the dark gray background and the light gray text is easy on the eyes, especially if you’re playing the game on your phone. The ambient background music, Kevin MacLeod’s “Decline,” is perfect.
Really, everything about Ground Down is perfect. I played the game twice, and I’m looking forward to playing it again soon. The story’s theme of protecting the roots of your identity from the erosion of late-stage capitalism resonated with me, and the imagery is delicious. And, as a fun bonus, you can name and pet your hen!