This is a Spoiler-y continuation of the review for Horse Master. If you have not read the Spoiler Free review yet, you can find it here.
The following may contain detailed information about the plot and puzzles of Horse Master. Read at your own risk.
Of the three ending I am aware of, I got the “good” ending, where I raised my horse, made it to the tournament, sacrificed the horse and won. The path to this ending seemed so self-evident, and the fulfillment of theme so strong, that I assumed this was the only end possible.
The other two ending I have been able to discover, through reading reviews (I didn’t play a second time), are losing the tournament due to an imperfection in the horse’s nerve sac, and not even making it to the tournament but instead being arrested for shoplifting. The thought of having reached either of those ending in my play through almost makes me angry now, writing this. It seems to me that the only way to reach either of these endings the player must make what are clearly the wrong choices.
One of the choices you can make during most days is watching TV. In order to max out your horses stats all actions that you take have to be dedicated to the care and maintenance of the creature, watching TV does not help you raise the horse and as such is clearly a wrong choice. Watching TV fleshes does out the world for the player, but does nothing for the character so the temptation to watching is a balance between in game and out of game needs. This choice between play and meta is frustrating. I believe satisfying the curiosity of the player should not come at the inherent expense of goals of the character.
Now I know I only played through Horse Master once so the above analysis may be wildly inaccurate as to how the systems actually interact, and further playing and exploring would give me a deeper understanding. But with the story I was told on my one play through being a compelling one and the medium and mechanics of Twine being less than enjoyable for me, there was nothing compelling me to give this title another go.
A Yippee-Ki out of a possible Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Fucker