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Do the Bultmann, August 19, 2009
After seeing the previous review I had to give this a go myself, since I'm a theologian too (not a New Testament scholar, but I know enough about that to appreciate the jokes). Perhaps the audience for theological text games is larger than one might think?
The game does a hilarious job of satirising trends in academic theology (well, I thought it was hilarious anyway). The basic joke is that the spiritual world has to adapt to match theological trends, so when our protagonist dies of boredom during a lecture on Mark's Gospel, he finds that hell is being closed down to conform to "demythologisation". Admittedly the satire is rather blunted by the datedness of the target (Bultmann's famous essay on demythologisation was written in the 1940s, and this sort of thing hasn't been top of the theological agenda for some decades) but I think we can live with that.
Despite the humorous style (I especially liked (Spoiler - click to show)the theology exam from hell - this actually gave me uncomfortable flashbacks to my own finals) there are some sections with more serious and even moving overtones. The recurring theme of the Empty Tomb makes that inevitable. (Spoiler - click to show) I found this especially so with the Golgotha scene, where you must inscribe words onto the cross of Christ. I'm not certain if this mixing of moods is confusing or adds depth; it is probably down to individual taste.
How does the game play? It is extremely episodic. For the most part, you move from area to area without going back, and often without carrying objects over. This can feel quite disjointed, and there seems to be little logic in what scene follows what. That, is perhaps, deliberate. (Spoiler - click to show)It is, after all, a stumble through the landscape of someone's mind. It also makes the game quite a fun series of discrete puzzles; you don't have to worry about what's already happened, or worry that you should have brought some object that you missed. But it can also feel quite illogical. (Spoiler - click to show)It is odd to re-enact the resurrection and then shortly afterwards come to the scene of the crucifixion!
The puzzles are variable in difficulty, of course, but I found some of them hard without using the hints. There are a number of guess-the-verb issues. (Spoiler - click to show)You are told that you cannot MOVE the statue's hair, but you are still expected to PULL it. That's annoying. Also, COMMANDing the stone to move doesn't work, but TELLing it to do so does. I have to say that some are rather badly clued as well. (Spoiler - click to show)In the empty tomb, you are told that this is *Mark's* version of the story - so you can't appeal to an angel to move the stone, since that doesn't happen in Mark. I thought that this must mean that the young man in a white garment, who appears in Mark, was relevant, and spent some time trying to work out how to acquire such a garment. It turned out that I was supposed simply to tell the stone to move. But that doesn't happen in Mark either!
The sheer fun of the game, not to mention the audacity of a game that revolves around theological jokes, overcome these issues enough to make this a 4 for me. The writing is very good throughout, and the world is extremely well implemented (being able to examine not only the characters in pictures, but the objects they are holding, is pretty impressive). The hints are also excellently done, revealing the solution suitably gradually.