Reviews by Walter Sandsquish
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Frustrating, but fascinating, LBM is a puzzle of a game in several ways. With a tone that swings from aggravation to black humor to horror, a genre that shifts from slice-of-life to mystery to horror, motivations that are obtuse, and metaphors that are dense, the game may be absorbing, but it may also leave a player bewildered. And, no matter how it's interpreted, the game's notion of what "learning to love yourself" means seems horrifying.
The "Eleusinian Miseries" follows a vacuous, self-absorbed player-character as he is introduced into an ancient Greek mystery cult. Amusingly, the cult resembles American universities' fraternities, and their mild hazing rituals and toga parties, except its members speak with British idioms and have names like Alky and Puffy.
While "Miseries" characters are well-acquainted with ancient Greek clothing, foods, vases, and architecture, they are also flippantly vague on other Greek folkways. The PC's unrequited adoration of his friend, his ineptitude at practical tasks, and his surprising aptitude at accidentally emasculating statues of Hermes appears to be a joke about the virility of either the ancient Greeks, American fraternity brothers, or British trust-fund kids. Regardless of the way you read it, it's pretty funny.
The game is structured by five distinct scenes. The first scene is a well-designed and implemented set of find and fetch tasks. The second scene is a little under-clued and linear, with a brute-force puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)(you'll need to try a lot of clothing combinations until you find out what amuses your cult-mates) and a guess-the-verb puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)(if you want to splash or spatter something on yourself, try "wash" instead). The third scene is more open and involves some lateral-thinking repair puzzles. The fourth scene has little interaction, but carries some thematic weight for the game. And the final scene is a clever optimization puzzle which points to several alternate game endings.
"Eleusinian Miseries" is a funny, engaging, well-structured game, with only a few implementation problems.
"Edge of Chaos" has the makings of an interesting game. The player-character, Jay Schilling, is well-defined, childish and petulant, and surprisingly unsuited for his work as a private detective. He, for instance, constantly makes assumptions about people at a glance, even though his job is to investigate them.
This creates an opportunity to play with both the problems that Jay's character would create while attempting to perform his job and the problems the player will likely have with Jay while attempting to guide him through his investigation.
But, instead, the game just allows Jay to do things without the player guiding him, and then prompts the player to do Jay-like things when the player is given the opportunity to play. This reduces player agency to a frustrating level. Worse, the game's keyword-based conversation system breaks the interface's imperative-sentence format, forcing it to reveal topics the player no longer has the opportunity to discover though game-play.
"Edge of Chaos" is a missed opportunity to allow the player to experience the consequences of clinging to a puerile outlook in a situation which should require the player-character to adopt a more mature approach involving research, empathy, and reasoning.
The bleak humor of "HeBGB Horror" fits the frequently-frustrated actions of the player character. The PC may try to emulate his music idols, who all have names like Blitz and Yngvie, but Mayer ensures that the PC's successes will go awry, just as his world will get weirder.
In New York's Bowery district, occult horror and punk music intertwine. Weirdly angled floors and walls enclose sagging, decaying furnishings, used by pierced, drugged characters, who gather to listen to screeching and wailing music.
Atmosphere and wit are plentiful in "HeBGB," but synonyms are not. A more robust vocabulary might help a player better navigate the peculiar problems a wanna-be punk rocker might have with eldritch horrors.
Though most of "HeBGB's" puzzles are clued, many are also obtuse. You may, for instance, have problems understanding the relationship between dried cheese and frayed telephone cords, or distinguishing between the uses of a pin and a pen, throughout this game.
Nevertheless, "HeBGB Horror" is weirdly fun and strangely satisfying.
"The Plant" is an engaging game which plays off the silliness of high-tech conspiracy theories by whimsically contrasting current technology with that of a former, fictional, Eastern-Bloc country.
Players learn about this conspiracy by solving mostly-innocuous, but frequently amusing, puzzles in each of the three areas of the game, but each area also contains a challenging and ingenious puzzle which provides access to the next area of the game. The puzzles are well-implemented, but each area contains a non-interactive scene which changes the game-state to allow the set-piece puzzle to be solved, and one of these scenes isn't well-clued and could be easily missed.
Nevertheless, "The Plant" is an excellent text-adventure game, which is well-worth a player's time.
"Busted's" drug-themed subject matter allows it to play with campus-life tropes in a surreal manner, with a humorous effect. This also allows it to apply some of the more annoying conventions of old-time adventures, like hunger and sleep puzzles, to its collegiate setting in a relevant and clever way.
The result is as much a frivolous survey of university annoyances and practices as it is a homage to first-generation text-adventure games. It's enjoyable, engaging, and funny.
Play the AdvSys version if you're able to; it's much better implemented than the Z-Code version.
Much better than would be expected, considering that this game was designed by committee. On the one hand, it contains a few genuinely creepy moments, some clever puzzles and bits of evocative writing. On the other hand, it contains way too many disparate settings and the quality of the design, writing and implementation varies widely between the different story segments.
This game channels the player towards a pivotal, brilliant, "gestalt" puzzle which requires the player to piece together a couple of different patterns that the narrative created through its repetition of the backstory. The fact that the puzzle works so well is impressive all by itself, but "Spider and Web" also features clipped, stylish prose that creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere and describes a sinister, memorable NPC.
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