Reviews by Walter Sandsquish
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"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.
"Labour's Letters Lost" portrays Edwardian England's sense of class and propriety properly. The player-character's friend is, after all, quite embarrassed that he meant to call your father, instead of you, for help. And neither he, nor anyone else, would like to admit they would wear eye glasses, though it might be helpful if they would. Speaking of the help, they would never allow that they might be interested in their employer's business, and the PC would never intrude on them by going downstairs to see if that's actually the case. You won't even ask about the particulars of the letters you're searching for until it can't be avoided.
But, the PC will take the kind of proper notes that will help the player sort through what can't be said as well as what has been. The notes, as it turns out, are the real focus of game-play.
Unfortunately, Huang's implementation isn't quite as proper as his characters. "Talk to" is described as a more general form of interrogation than "ask about," but "ask about" does not even reveal the information that "talk to" does. This makes interviewing frustrating, because "talk to" chooses the subject for you and "ask about," which should allow you to get to the particulars you're interested in, works very infrequently.
Fortunately, these coding problems don't make the game unplayable or even particularity unpleasant. "Labour's Letters Lost" is still a suitably proper example of a cozy mystery.
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