Here I sit, brokenhearted by a game which utterly failed to bowl me over. I only logged a few minutes before realizing there was squat to do; the author seems to have pooped out before adding most of the content, and what little he did manage to push out was pretty corny. The game is flush with mentions of toilets-within-toilets, like turduckens, and they appear in loo of any actual story, jokes, or puzzles.
In a word, it's shitty.
Having played Transparent and Baker of Shireton, I expected Fair to be an innovative, environmentally 'busy' game, and that's what I got. In Fair, you play as a self-published author who's been invited to judge an elementary school science fair. The game world is relatively small but extremely lively, crowded with science fair contestants, their parents, and a principal who mostly just wants the fair to be over with so he can set up for community theater rehearsal. As in Baker of Shireton, the world is full of things happening around the player.
Where Baker faltered due to the opacity of the goal (I don't think I'm the only one who never caught on that there was more to the game than unsuccessfully baking bread), Fair shines by giving you a few possible priorities and letting you choose. You don't have time to do everything--will you try your best to judge the finalists' exhibits, or try hawking you book and then award the prizes at random? I played through twice, and I have a strong suspicion that there a lot more possibilities than I found.
A few spots are a little clunky (at one point, you're told the principal is beckoning you over, but given no indication which direction you're supposed to move) but in general the implementation was pretty solid given how many parts are moving at once. Like last year's Midnight Swordfight, a single playthrough is quick, but it rewards revisitation if you want to find everything. Fun and recommended!
(I received an advance copy of this game in exchange for reviewing.)
Attack of the Clockwork Army is a steampunk-flavored game set in England and colonial Australia. You play the scion of a once-wealthy family fallen on hard times, and the plot is kicked off when you discover that your long-lost sister is alive and living somewhere in the Australian outback. Arriving in Australia, you find yourself caught between loyalists and revolutionaries, and have to decide where your ultimate loyalties lie while adventuring through the wilderness.
The central conceit of the game’s steampunkiness is that metals have different inherent characteristics, almost magical in nature, which can be exploited when using them in tools and mechanisms. Which goes a long way towards explaining how people in Victorian England are able to build working robots and such. As you progress through the game, you have the chance to affect your stats by ‘activating’ different metals that you choose, which allow you to do different things.
I love a good well-thought-out setting, and I could tell that the world was thoroughly planned (there are novels in the works); the story itself did feel a little rushed in places, and I found myself wishing that that game would have given the player more time to explore certain aspects of the setting. That would have both helped flesh out the world and allowed the player to make a more meaningful choice about what faction to lend support to. As it was, I had the impression of a vast and intricate world, but one I didn’t always get to see in as much detail as I might have hoped.
The first two chapters of the game are available to play for free, so it's well worth checking it out to see if you like it, especially if you're a fan of historical and steampunk fantasy.