The Usher

by Branden Rishel and Daphne Gabrieli


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Casual suicide-related fun, June 10, 2011
by Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.)

The Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7 must have produced a lot of very good games if this one finished eighth. (I've also played Party Foul by Brooks Reeves, and really enjoyed that; it came in fourth).

As the blurb says, you're buried alive with your dead queen. It's your job to perform some rituals to lead the queen to the afterlife, and then kill yourself as well. From this premise and the cover art, you might expect this to be meditative and brooding, but no, the setting is pure gonzo fantasy, and silliness abounds: the king is Stanley, his pet is called Bobo, and there's a god named Larry. It's ostensibly a one-room escape game, but there are actually two rooms. Maybe that's why it finished eighth. The puzzles are fair and solvable (if sometimes a bit uninspired or baffling), everything is implemented, it is polite and forgiving, and the writing nicely evokes the combination of absurdity and dread that the PC is experiencing. It's a solid first effort from the two authors.

I had a few minor problems. The puzzles, as mentioned, were all very reasonable, but none stood out as particularly clever. The (Spoiler - click to show)potion-making puzzle was reminiscent of the sorts of problems you solve in the analytical portion of the GRE, only simpler. From an in-game standpoint, the puzzle makes little sense; its only real purpose is to add a couple of minutes to the play experience.

I didn't really understand the mechanics of the (Spoiler - click to show)climbing puzzle. I have to drop everything before climbing a railing, and then from there I can climb onto a lintel; that much makes sense. But how has my rope magically made its way up to the lintel with me?

Finally, I must say I was confused by the ending. I honestly can't tell you what happened, or how it relates to the goal I thought I was pursuing. But it seemed to be a winning ending, and I couldn't find another one other than dying (and reading the walkthrough, it seems like I did what was intended).

That said, I enjoyed it, and I'd definitely play the authors' next game.

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