Reviews by AKheon
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The Eleusinian Miseries is a parser-based comedy game by Mike Russo, published in 2020. The game is about partaking in secret religious rites in Eleusis, (Spoiler - click to show)although in practice it’s close to just being an excuse to gorge on food and drink, at least as far as the main character is concerned.
The game is, above all else, a puzzler. It consists of several mostly self-contained scenes with clear goals on what to do. The design is streamlined enough that it’s usually not hard to figure out what to do, although sometimes locating needed items or understanding how to complete the various objectives might be a problem. I personally got stumped at a few parts, but I wouldn’t say the design here is unfair in any respect.
The writing is rather verbose but polished. The game presents itself as a farce, and it definitely has some comical, unfortunate situations in store for the hero. The narrator voice has a lot of personality, being jovial yet a bit dainty and spoiled - it really fits the character of a cultured wastrel with a short attention span.
A part of me was expecting the game to go even further in some respects. The tone of the comedy strives to stay rather clean and prim at all times, which might clash a little bit with the hedonism- and debauchery-laden setting. Then again, I’m not too familiar with the major inspirations behind the story, or historical farce in general. Maybe this is the most authentic approach for this style? I couldn’t say.
With around 2 hours playtime and a detailed implementation that is fun to mess around with, there’s a good amount of content to be found in The Eleusinian Miseries. It’s worth checking out for a solid puzzler, especially if you’re interested in anything pertaining to ancient Greece.
Turbo Chest Hair Massacre is a parser-based comedy game by Joey Acrimonious, published in 2020. In it, you’re a woman about to go on a date when you suddenly discover you have some light chest hair you need to shave.
The gameplay is exploration-heavy - you mainly search around your apartment for ways to get rid of your chest hair. You are also able to switch between the point of view of yourself and a robotic colleague who is present. The narrative voice completely changes depending on who you’re playing as, which is a very nice touch that adds a lot of personality to the experience.
The tone of the story is pretty light-hearted, although sometimes all the naughtiness, innuendo and (Spoiler - click to show)the main character’s recklessly stupid behavior can border on the limits of good taste. Personally, I think good taste is a bit overrated anyway, but this is still useful to note since some players will inevitably find crassness of any sort a turn-off.
I feel like it’s hard to get enough information about your surroundings in this game. The room descriptions only mention objects on a very general level; if you want to know what’s really inside some room, you need to examine individual things to reveal more individual things again and again. Opening a container doesn’t seem to automatically list its contents, and the “search” command can be criminally unhelpful at times too. It doesn’t help that the rooms are generally full of red herrings and other detail that makes it harder to know what’s really relevant to the problem at hand. One final layer of confusion stems from the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the two main characters see the world slightly differently, each listing different things in their room description - realizing this is necessary to solve some of the puzzles in the game.
Since most of the gameplay is centered around nearly unguided exploration and discovery, and the design is non-linear, plus the game’s train of thought can be rather eccentric at times (Spoiler - click to show)(you have to weaponize old yogurt against the final boss…?), my playthrough of the game felt sprawling, aimless and mildly desperate. But I guess you could say it’s exactly what the story was going for, since the main character too doesn’t know what she’s doing, and she’s willing to go to immense lengths just to rid herself of a bit of hair. Fortunately, there’s a walkthrough - it should come in handy with a few of the puzzles here.
This game could be worth playing if you want something with personality and outrageous humor, and are willing to deal with a lot of unguided exploration.
Quest for the Sword of Justice is a short comedy game made on RPG Maker by Damon L. Wakes in 2020. You are an aspiring young adventurer who wishes to leave his hometown and become a hero.
The gameplay consists of wandering around the town, trying to become equipped for great battles ahead. But as you might guess from the game’s advertised 15-minute length, the adventure won’t be very epic despite the convincing enough JRPG-trappings. (Spoiler - click to show)Trying to pick up the Sword of Justice from the local sanctuary ends poorly for our hero, one way or another.
The presentation is smooth, although I think most or all of the assets here come from RPG Maker itself. Some of the humor works, some seems a bit bland. Especially the beginning where you randomly wander around the town doesn’t have too much going on - I was expecting some more snappy dialogue or other responses, although there is a chance that I just missed some of the jokes.
The game has multiple endings depending on (Spoiler - click to show)your dialogue choices, who you talked to and what items you picked up before taking the Sword of Justice, so there’s a bit more to the game than first meets the eye. But not much. I wouldn’t mind playing a more fleshed-out parody of JRPG conventions, but I fear a part of the joke would go amiss in a longer game that was more than just an interactive anti-climax, a faint promise of adventures never meant to be.
Big Trouble in Little Dino Park is a choice-based comedy game made by Seth Paxton and Rachel Aubertin, published in 2020. The game is a parody of Jurassic Park, where you, a reluctant summer employee, have to survive a particularly grueling work day at a cheap knockoff dinosaur park.
The gameplay consists of clicking text links to move around and make decisions. The game opens up after a linear beginning, but even at its most complex it remains a fairly relaxed affair where you don’t have to think about your choices too hard. Game overs are frequent, but you can usually just retry from previous choice if that happens, so it doesn’t impact progress too much.
The writing is exaggerated and comical, as you’d expect in this type of comedy. At times it feels like the humor is a bit unfocused and shallow since the pace of the game is thunderously fast - it doesn’t dwell on any scenario or idea for particularly long. In addition, (Spoiler - click to show)later on the tone changes to something slightly more serious as you embark on a rescue mission, dampening the pure carefree comedy factor here.
Some more polish wouldn’t have hurt, as there are a few typos here and there. I also found one game over link that just flat out didn’t work, forcing me to restart the entire game.
I would’ve personally preferred either a sillier or a more fleshed-out and well-paced story, but still, the game can be amusing, and it’s clear the authors love dinosaurs from the way they name-drop so many different species here. The game could be worth a try if you’re a fan of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs and fast-paced madcap comedy.
Toiletworld is a parser-based comedy / troll game made by "Chet Rocketfrak" for IFComp 2016. I spontaneously gave this game a try because I thought the title was too silly to pass.
The game begins inside the titular Toiletworld, seemingly a bizarre dimension with a fractal arrangement of toilets. Toilets within toilets down to an atomic level, most likely. Such surreal toilet-shaped wonders!
Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the game is little more than a throwaway joke at the expense of the player. The room texts are pointless and misleading, many directions are not listed, items have weird debug-names that are arduous to type, there are no puzzles or meaningful interactivity or an overarching goal to the game. Most insultingly of all, I couldn't find a single toilet that was actually implemented. While you can type "in" to go deeper in some rooms, that's just a regular room entrance and not a fully implemented toilet.
Some bad games become endearing through the effort that was put into them. There's no effort here. The game has a dire lack of amusing things, and a player who is planning on having the slightest bit of fun in Toiletworld really has their work cut out for them... although there is irony in the fact that a game named Toiletworld is completely bereft of toilet humor.
It's all just a cruel subversion of expectations, that's what it is. I suppose it's not saying much, but I really did expect more of Toiletworld. As it stands, this game is not worth dipping one's feet in. (Is this a toilet-related pun? I can no longer tell...)
If you're still planning on giving it a try, here's a small hint for dealing with the items: (Spoiler - click to show)type "take all" in each room instead of dealing with the hassle of the long item names. This also tells you if you can even pick up the items, as some of them are arbitrarily fixed in place to mock the player for even trying. You can also use "take all" to pick up the eight nameless items in the secret room to the north, not that they have a real use anywhere.
Zero Sum Game is a parser-based comedy game by Cody Sandifer, published in 1997. In it, you play as a newly victorious adventurer who, upon returning home, gets scolded by their mom and who then has to go and once again set wrong what has been made right. It's essentially an adventure game where you have to lose all your points and undo all your heroic conquests in order to return back to your mom's good graces.
The writing style alternates between imitating a lofty high fantasy style and being jeering and sarcastic, and there's a very cynical undercurrent running through the whole game. This is a world where so-called heroes are not necessarily very heroic and all life is expendable. The humor is dark and uneasy, downright sociopathic at times. But - if you don't mind twisted humor, adult themes and doing villainous things in an adventure game, you'll probably find the contrast between the fantastic and crude here at the very least amusing, if not hilarious.
It helps that the implementation is extremely detailed, with certain sections almost sandbox-like in their wealth of interactions. The game is packed full of funny responses to actions; there are even a few animated NPC characters who react to your odd behavior, and sometimes to each other as well.
The game is very difficult, though. There are countless of ways you can make the game unwinnable, and although the game provides a "warning" command to let the player know ahead of time when they've done something irreversibly dumb, the system doesn't seem quite fool-proof, as I found out on my first playthrough. It took three restarts total (with the use of some hints) for me to finally reach the ending.
The puzzles themselves are sometimes devious and clever, possible for a player to figure out if they play around with the mechanics enough, but there are some nearly impossible ones too. One part requiring the use of a non-standard verb while being misdirected by the game and also (Spoiler - click to show)the merciless timed section featuring Benny/Darlene come to mind.
Zero Sum Game is something of a mixed bag, personally. It made me laugh a lot, but it didn't make me feel good in the end. I guess such is the nature of dark comedy. And while the game has a good amount of content - you can easily squeeze around two hours of gameplay out of it - the daunting difficulty with the lack of an internal hint system is another thing that makes the game hard to recommend without reservations. You should probably give it a try if you're into deconstructive and satirical humor, at least.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" is a parser-based game from 1995 by C. E. Forman, Graeme Cree and Stuart Moore. Its sole purpose is to be an interactive satirical commentary of Detective, an infamous low quality IF title from 1993. The game uses the characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV show that was all about riffing on bad films, for this purpose. (Isn't this a bit iffy copyright-wise, though?)
After an optional intro and explanation, you are left playing Detective as normal, although the game will print some additional lines as you move from room to room and try doing various things. The presentation ends up looking slightly cluttered as the text of the original game is frequently disturbed by out-of-world dialogue, but I guess it can't really be helped in a strictly text-based format like this.
Detective is not necessarily a bad game choice for this sort of meta-commentary. After all, it's short and easy, plus you have a flimsy storyline and implementation to make jokes about. However, a lot of the humor here is riding on the idea that Detective is not only bad, but it's spectacularly, heinously, criminally bad... which I don't fully agree with. I think Detective is fairly painless as far as bad games go, and the constant exaggeration of its badness just seems uncharitable, even insecure, as if MST3000 Presents "Detective" was trying a bit too hard to justify its own existence.
This game also doesn't elevate the source material by all that much. The jokes mostly consist of someone pointing out the obvious, for instance how some bits in the writing are redundant or how the room connections are bizarre. It doesn't help that Detective is a very simple game where the same type of mistakes crop up again and again, which means the riffing also ends up being pretty repetitive. So, while I would say the commentary has its fun moments, it's overall a bit one-note and limited in its effect.
If nothing else, MST3000 Presents "Detective" is a success on its own terms. The writing does justice to the style of the TV show, and while personally I would've preferred a more informative commentary over unceasing sarcastic complaining and snide one-liners, the game essentially does exactly as advertised. It's pretty unique too, as there aren't many games out there that have this angle. Could be worth exploring if you have half an hour.
The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky is a very short, seemingly aimless parser-based game from 2003. Its flippant subject matter caught my attention, so I decided to give it a try.
You are apparently an obese, simple-minded man confined in a small room with a rubber duck. You are invited to pick up the duck and use various verbs on it to see what happens, but in the process the narrator will insult you.
I must admit that the extremely abusive, foul-mouthed narrator voice caught me off guard at first, making me laugh out loud. It's not very often you get a narrator like this in Interactive Fiction, so the game is pretty unique in this respect. I even thought whether (Spoiler - click to show)we could be dealing with a completely unreliable narrator here. He does seem to be quite petty and intent on disliking you, so he probably wouldn't be above embellishing some important details about how ugly, fat, clumsy, dumb and gassy your character actually is. But the truth of the matter is probably irrelevant, since almost nothing happens in this game. There are no big character moments, no grand revelation, no heartbreaks to mend (except maybe the player's own, if they listen to the insults for long enough).
The implementation is better than you'd expect, but still not very thorough. There are only two things to interact with: the player and the duck. Many standard verbs give generic messages. A lot of the verbs hinted by the prose do nothing. Especially by modern parser-based game standards, it comes across somewhat inconsistent and slight, and it doesn't help that the humor is pretty one-note as well.
This game might be fun for 10 - 15 minutes if you're someone with a dark sense of humor (like me) and also enough of a pedantic completionist that you'd try scrounging the limits of a joke game to find all the verbs that work (also like me). But for anyone else, might be the best to steer clear...
Oh, and I did find an ending (of sort) to the game: (Spoiler - click to show)by typing "xyzzy".
Saint City Sinners is a choice-based comedy IF by dgallagher, published in 2019. It's essentially a 50's film noir detective story, only exaggerated to absurdist comedy degrees.
The main character is a gritty vigilante detective with a dark past who has even named his own fists Truth and Justice. He proclaims himself to be "the only barrier between innocence and corruption" in Saint City. He's here to kick ass and ponder gloomy analogies about crime, and he's not about to run out of those analogies any time soon.
The humor is the best part of the game. Nonsensical and often comically serious, the jokes keep on coming at a very rapid pace. Fortunately more of it is hit than miss, at least personally.
The story is fairly short - you could reasonably get through it in under 20 minutes, although it does have extra branching paths and things to discover if you want to go around clicking all the options. You can even have the main character (Spoiler - click to show)go back to school, momentarily turning the game into a college simulator. Just don't try shooting the dean with a harpoon...
The game uses some light jazz music in the background to really get you in the film noir mood. It's a nice addition that complements the game's idea quite well.
Unfortunately, Saint City Sinners is not without its flaws. It could have used some more polish, as there is the occasional typo, and one of the prompts to return to last checkpoint instead sends you to a screen that says "Double-click this passage to edit it". It's slightly immersion breaking.
Overall, it's a fun and short romp. I would generally recommend it for anyone who likes this type of comedy.
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