Number of Reviews: 8
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Not revolutionary game design, but so what?, March 16, 2015
PGRTAG was one of the first games I played when I came back to text adventures and judged for IFComp 2010. It doesn't seem to break any theoretical ground or have grand arguments. It would be easy to disqualify as dashed off, and I suspected once I saw ten or so games like this, I wouldn't be so high on it.
But after testing and playing a lot of games, I still haven't found many that reached this level. In so many humor games, I see what they're trying to do, and I say good job, but this one's jokes are immersive. I was worried from the title that the game might be overdone, but it feels balanced right.
Though originally I figured, sure, I enjoyed it, but it's not going to last. I figured once I learned more and saw more, I'd be glad I played it and all, but I really need to learn from more sophisticated efforts.
It's several years later and I'm still coming back to it, though, while games that discuss structure are more over my head, or I don't feel as invited to learn from them, or I figured I got their lesson and I'd like to move on. This game does pretty much everything it wants to, right. It's a spontaneous affair, and it has those touches I wish I'd seen. The over the top narrative voice makes fun of, say, coffee shops and people who complain about them too much. The puzzle where Comrade Rosalia wants to share Communist Manifestos with the students but needs one for everyone is funny and sad bad-logic.
The end result for me is a very spontaneous game. You're invited to try silly stuff, and in fact the two paths through the game are very funny, and the alternate solutions let you use items differently. There's a best ending ((Spoiler - click to show)don't use the pawn shop) and a not-best, and they both make sense.
I think the community needs games like this, to keep us all grounded, or to remember that you don't have to be academic to sort old ideas into new stuff, or even to enter into Interesting Arguments (all arguments between NPCs in the game are suitably ludicrous.) I mean, when I read about reworkings of an old myth or whatever, I can't really mark that as superior to something like this, which pastes silly tropes and leaves you feeling, yes, it's okay to write silly stuff and want to.
On the downside, there's some guess the verb ((Spoiler - click to show)POINT device at X) and some annoying disambiguation among devices, where you have three "(long name)" device to choose from. But the game's short enough, it's not a huge deal.
Sadly, I haven't seen the author again. I hope they come back. Even a game half as good would be very welcome. When someone writes a game like this, it's easy to feel they can just dash off another. But it's not so easy to find that big-idea sweet spot and execute it. Still, as a blueprint for writing something very funny, it's hard to beat PGRTAG.