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About the Story
"Arguably the daftest, most stupidly silly text adventure ever. Converted with tender loving care from the 8-bit original."
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Number of Reviews: 2
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I had fun with this one. The puzzles/places/NPCs were my favorite kind of bizarre. I would have liked more objects to be implemented, at least to the point of having descriptions. I guess it keeps you focused on what you actually need to interact with, but it's frustrating to read in a room description that there are interesting pictures on the wall and then that you can't see any pictures/see nothing interesting about the wall. Still, good game, I enjoyed it.
There were a couple places I got stuck, and would have liked hints rather than having to look at the solution - so here are some of the hints I could have used. They are somewhat spoilerful, so don't read unless you actually need to!
(Spoiler - click to show)The film playing in the cinema is a clue. Don't immediately forget what was happening in it like I did.
(Spoiler - click to show)One puzzle involves putting several objects together to make a composite object. Trying to put the pieces together yourself doesn't work, just say "make object".
(Spoiler - click to show)You have to deal with the Psychiatrist before you can do anything with Harry Houdini or Arnold the Annoying. Make something old-school psychiatrists would be interested in, and then give it to him (i.e. you can't just show it to him).
A title like The Gerbil Riot of '67 makes my imagination run wild and almost overflow. Scenarios of little mammals running the streets, scaring good citizens into their houses and locking the doors flash before my eyes.
But the title isn't used in that way. I'd like to say it's more akin to the great Calvin & Hobbes' "The Noodle Incident", or "The Llama Incident" from Milo Murphy's Law, that is, an event of great import to the protagonists' life that is never explained but often referenced, and obviously casts a shadow over their ongoing existence.
This game tries halfheartedly to make "The Gerbil Riot" an incident of the second kind, but after a short reference in the introduction the whole little-mammalian-uprising is forgotten and left by the roadside.
Disappointing. (I'm not apologizing for ruining this because of all of the things below. The game's just not worth hushing about to keep people's expectations up.)
What follows instead is silliness. I like silliness. But I also like some substance with or underneath my silliness. I didn't get it here.
You're being held in an asylum for the incurably insane, and you want to escape. You have to play into all the other patients' needs or weaknesses to find the means for your escape, and eventually you must get past the guard to walk out the front door.
First off, to enjoy this game even a little, turn off all sensitivities regarding stereotypes of mentally ill or unstable fellow humans. They're funny 'cause they're kraayzzieie, didn't you know? Those crackpots do the darndest things, haha. And if you have to do the darndest things to them to get your mcguffin, then that's all the funnier!
Apart from stereotyping (and that's put mildly...) psychologically vulnerable people, Gerbil Riot seems to get most of its humorous kicks out of self-referential "ironic" jokes (get it? get it?) and insulting the player (in the older DOS version) or at least making fun of the player (in the z8 file I switched to when I entered the Copy Protection Room and found out there was a registration fee of 3 £ for the password.) I actually found the insulting version marginally funnier.
The puzzles would be straightforward but entertaining if the parser would have been a bit more robust ("I would if I could, but I can't!" may seem a nice variation on a default command-rejection message. Until you've read it eleventyfour times in response to completely justified commands...)
The NPCs are cardboard, only good as one-trick obstacles. The map has some redeeming features in the second half of the game, but is ultimately unsatisfying to draw/visualize. There are a few honestly good and clever clues and associated puzzles sprinkled around the game, but not enough to redeem the game as a whole.
But I don't consider the few hours I spent with Gerbil Riot lost or wasted. I had fun insulting it back and imagining that if I had paid for a physical disc version, I would use it as a frisbee aiming at high-voltage electric cables.