I almost gave up on this game before hitting the change-point. While there is a contextual justification for having an extremely linear introduction, I would say it is fairly flimsy. Without an indication that the level of interactivity will change the player is left without any real motivation to continue past their first attempts at doing something, anything, aside from UP or CAMP. Even the apparently lovely views are beyond our reach.
However, once I made it past this initial disappointment, the game endeared itself to me greatly. I don't want to give away too much so I'll put my thoughts behind a spoiler tag.
(Spoiler - click to show)The pinball game provides a great backdrop for what could otherwise be a philosophical infodump, and the overall feel of philosophy talk while shooting targets lightens the mood. I liked the voice of the Master, and found the game became strangely relaxing as I was playing, just directing the ball and thinking. The minigame sections were a nice touch, though I found myself wishing for greater interactivity and also better synonym implementation (eg I had to look at 'apple' not 'fruit', and objects mentioned in the highway description could not be given greater scrutiny).
Overall, this turned out much better than the beginning had led me to believe, and with a bit of expansion and more player motivation it could be a really nice little exploration of its theme.
You are about to die. There isn't anything you can do to change that. Or, just maybe, you might get a second chance.
In a bizarre and unnerving limbo, the somewhat sleazy salesman Everett Rhodes is offering you that chance. "You made some mistakes, friend. Bad mistakes that have crippled your life. Today you can fix them. TODAY you have the opportunity to SET MATTERS STRAIGHT. Just shake my hand and everything will be YOURS to decide.”
The game (or Rhodes himself) puts you in several different characters' shoes, as you attempt to work out just where your life went wrong in order to put you in this position. It is highly probable that you will need to play through the game multiple times in order to reach a good ending - requiring not just a second chance, but a third, fourth or even fifth. However, each playthrough gives you a better sense of your characters and their relationships, and the satisfaction gained from doing a little better each time outweighs the minor annoyance at quickly re-solving a section you'd already completed.
There were some situations where I felt that the options available for solving the puzzles could have been expanded, or that the solution would not have been effective in real life, but full realism is impossible to achieve without sacrificing gameplay, and no solution was entirely counter-intuitive. There was also one particular glitch that I noticed towards the end-game, where a description from another part of the game appeared, but it did not affect the gameplay aside from breaking momentum a little.
A minor warning: many of the characters are unpleasant and hold contemptible views, and the author himself warns that the game contains bad language and violence. While Whyld certainly is not espousing these views himself, he gives minimal moral narrative in favour of reflecting a realistic form of character. And the characters are well drawn, as you get a good sense of their lives even as you spend little time with most of them.
Overall, this is a very well-written game with a compelling premise. Ultimately it is a game about free will conquering determinism. This is made more interesting when considering the relationship between player and player character, the latter of whom inherently lacks will at all. In a way, you the player are the enigmatic Rhodes, holding cards your character can't see, but equally it is Whyld who flashes you the smile as you struggle, nodding, and saying: "Just shake my hand and everything will be YOURS to decide.”
You play Elliott, a harried farmhand at Granny Grabby's farm. Her prized duck Mabel has swallowed the engagement ring you intended to surprise your girlfriend with this evening - you must get it back! With the help of your favourite pig Bessie, you will embark on an enjoyable load of puzzles and fetch-quests, that range from the simple to the slightly obtuse, but all full of this light, quirky humour.
The lightness does perhaps disguise that it is possible to put yourself in an unwinnable position without the game immediately telling you. However, these occasions seem rare, and with careful reading you should be able to avoid this (if the narrative voice seems iffy about your action, consider its necessity before continuing on). The inventory system is also rather inefficient - while the game will automatically shift items into a container when your hands are full, it then ceases to recognise you as 'having' these items, and you will have to take them again before attempting to use them. This is a minor quibble, however, and doesn't really get in the way of the fun.
In all, this is a great little comic puzzler, full of the joys of spring (and things).