Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel

by Seb Pines


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Number of Ratings: 4
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1-4 of 4

It was a graveyard smash, June 8, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2022

Itís fitting that my randomization gave me Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel right after The Hole Man, since theyíre alike in a lot of ways: theyíre both choice-based games that work something like funhouses, letting the player wander an environment thatís densely packed with characters enacted their own stories, with the protagonist choosing which to get swept up in. And yet, what a difference a genre makes Ė this approach is charming when youíre ambling around a lightly-philosophical fantasyland, but can feel pretty silly when the operative tropes are those of horror fiction. The eponymous motel packs in more monsters per square inch than Call of Cthulhuís worst Mythos Hoedown, leaving me wondering what goes on the other 364 nights of the year and questioning the protagonistís grip on reality even before she starts running across any sanity-blasting horrors. Despite this, the various storylines boast some creativity, but less-compelling writing and some implementation awkwardness mean I probably wonít be coming back for a return stay.

The setup here as you as the late-night desk-clerk for an absolutely cursed motel; after clocking into your shift, gameplay consist of either sitting in the lobby waiting for guests to arrive or depart (in more than one sense of the term) or for the phone to ring, checking text messages from your friends, or poking around the motel, including making use of the voyeur-holes hidden behind paintings in six of the motelís rooms. Thereís something uncanny going on in each, from vampiric bloodsucking to Exorcist reenactors to whateverís going on with the guy with the deer pelt. Add in something nasty lurking below the surface of the pool, and youíve got more macabre happenings than you could possibly plumb in a single playthrough.

This is especially the case because the monsters will, unsurprisingly, kill you real dead. This is all fair enough Ė theyíre monsters, duh Ė but I found the way these sequences played out hurt my engagement with the game, since they punish saying yes to stuff. Want to follow the obviously-bad-news femme fatale out into the parking lot? Thatís not going to end well. Want to figure out why thereís all that slime by the swimming pool? Likewise (all the more so since doing this got me stuck in a loop where an object kept falling into the pool, leaning me to go check it out, at which point a strange noise or vibration made me retch, at which point something fell in the poolÖ finally after five go-rounds something with tentacles put me out of my misery). I did manage to survive the night on my third try, largely by sitting on my hands in the lobby, which counts as a win but wasnít that satisfying.

Throughout, the writing is sometimes creepy but also ungainly. This could be a David Lynch style attempt to unnerve through awkwardness, but for me at least it doesnít land:

"The nervous guy who came in earlier walks with a strange swagger into the lobby yet he is tightly clutching a leather bag to his side. As he walks by me he gives me a wink and how quickly the smile from his face falls tells me I grimaced in response involuntarily."

Added to this, the implementation sometimes left me unsure where I stood Ė beyond the shenanigans at the pool, many other random events also seemed to repeat over and over again, but Iím not sure whether thatís because time also didnít seem to advance every time I clicked to wait at the lobby desk. Were these bugs, the randomizer not being tuned to avoid repetitiveness, or was there some hidden mechanic about what actions moved the clock forward? Iím not sure, and while uncertainty is fine in a horror game, I like it to be deployed to clearer thematic ends.

I suspect thereís an intended way of engaging with the game where the player is more active, zipping around the motelís locations, spying on each of its residents and dipping in and out of each of their storylines, with replays enlivened by different permutations of the ways each can play out. And as I mentioned thereís some fun creativity here, with even the fairly standard vampire vignette boasting one or two novel images Ė and my subconscious will be trying to figure out that deer guy for a few days to come. But the fiddly implementation and too-common deaths mean I wasnít able to find that intended experience, which means I unfortunately didnít get out of Graveyard Shift everything the author put into it.

Horror anthology, condensed, May 18, 2022

Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel has much to offer: a smorgasbord of spine-chilling tales, often gruesome and always compellingly-written (most of all the one about the microwaved fish), viewed through the vaguely blasť eyes of a protagonist who clearly would rather be anywhere else.

In many ways, the disparate horror plots conjure the feeling of an anthology. But they're not an anthology. They're all happening at once. To allow the player to juggle the many different facets of the action, the game takes a bold tack: the game state advances after a certain amount of real time passes, allowing a quick player to check in on most or all of the different plot threads in between each advance of time.

This mechanic is a hugely interesting experiment, but as it is, I don't feel like it quite hits the sweet spot. This is because:
a) Once I figured out what was going on, I wanted to rush through all of the available scenes at any given time to make sure I saw all of them, which strained my ability to savor the strong writing;
b) It makes the game tedious to replay, which is unfortunate since it has many endings worth seeing, and also because there are several opportunities to get an early game over by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm a sucker for a creepy story, so I still enjoyed the game plenty. But I think I'd have gotten more out of it if the real time mechanic was replaced by, for example, a button that allows the player to advance time when they want to.

Six horror stories told through real-time mechanisms, April 23, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is an interesting experiment in involving real-time in text games.

Basically, there are several storylines going one in different motel rooms as well as outside. You have peepholes into 5 motel rooms. Every minute or so of real time, a counter updates the in-game time and you see new things in the different rooms. Occasionally, you can affect things by being in the right place at the right time (the vast majority of these being deaths).

It's an interesting concept, but it was hard to puzzle out in-game, and I only heard it from others and saw it in the code. Without knowing how it works, the game seems oddly repetitive as you see the same scenes over and over, since they don't change until the next 'tick'.

The writing and plot is similar to B-movies, with some strong profanity, a voyeuristic but not explicit sex scene, and violence. Plots are mostly tributes to classic horror movies, although at least one seems non-magical.

Overall, I'm not sure this timed method worked for me, but I'm glad someone did it so I could see how it works. A couple of the stories were effectively creepy for me.

A well designed Zgame., April 15, 2022


First of all my apollogizes because I havenít been able to turn music on. Itís a pitty.
Well this is a disturbing game. The premise is not an original one, but all the movies and novellas about Hotels splash in my mind when I start playing.
A lot of people doing odd and freaking things untill the morning. I went alive in my third attempt. The game is short but replayable several times.
The answering machine is a new in this kind of game, giving to the player some good clues to survive. I think this game can be extended aftercomp in various ways to become a big great game.
I have found 4 of the 6 advised endings, perhaps I will play once more time later at night.

I liked and recomed this game.
Well, now this has at least a review 0_o


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