One Final Pitbull Song (at the End of the World)

by Paige Morgan profile


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
I'm so glad this exists, November 17, 2023

I love this story. I love watching it careen off the rails, landing on different rails, and careening off those. The way I recommend it to people is by saying "it's a queer The Aristocrats joke" and (Spoiler - click to show)"the only sound effect is pissing." I played this with my girlfriend on our living room's TV over the course of a weekend and it was a blast. This game has added flavour to the universe we're in. Highly recommended.

My only complaint: (Spoiler - click to show)I would have loved the ending to be an actual conversation between TeeJay and Frankie. I feel like we're missing that catharsis I guess, of seeing how they figure out their relationship.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
A grotesque, disorienting, engrossing story about basically everything, January 9, 2023

This game is not like anything I’ve encountered before. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished the final branch weeks ago, in a good way—and yet it’s easy to see why it’s so polarizing. The story is shocking, at times downright repulsive, in ways that I usually would not appreciate. The humor made me laugh, but it also made me wince. The writing is self-aware and full of asides (which I enjoyed, but not everyone does). It’s long, like novel-length long, and there are only a few choice points. Sometimes it almost felt like the game was challenging me to stop playing it so I wouldn’t get far enough to see the vulnerable parts below the surface. But I wanted to know where the heck this story was going. And then right around the time I got to that one scene deep into the first story branch—a horrifying moment that I never would have imagined in a lifetime of ideating—something shifted and I was along for the ride.

It felt like art.

Challenging parts aside, I really enjoyed the story and the way it was constructed. The premise—that the world had ended and a new humanity was born in the distant future, with a reverence for the ancient rapper Pitbull—doesn’t sound very serious, but it’s mined for both comedy and drama (and horror, romance, etc.). Underneath all the blood and guts, this game has heart, and plenty of important things to say. Even without many choices to make, I felt like an active participant, because the static parts periodically check in with the reader and leave room for reflection. Choice and self-determination seems like a major theme, and the fact that the story branches hinge on (Spoiler - click to show)relatively trivial decisions like what side dish you choose struck me as both funny and effective. The structure and ideas reminded me of other stories I’ve loved despite their roughness, like the Zero Escape series, House of Leaves, the work of Vonnegut or Saramago.

So, I’m in awe. I could never have written this game. I think the experience of playing it will make me a better, more vulnerable writer. For me, the difficult parts were rewarding in the end. And the end was really beautiful.

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
A satiric phantasmagoria held back by slack pacing and flabby prose, December 21, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

Aww, man. I went into this one expecting to like it: the mixtape blurb and eye-catching title mark it out as something special, and the disorienting science-fantasy opening is boldly ridiculous, laying out a post-post-apocalyptic society that’s reconstituted itself in near-total apery of our time based on the fortuitous discovery of a pop-culture-crammed hard-drive heavily featuring – of course – the songs of Pitbull, who winds up having a religion built around him. The game has an endearing ensemble cast, and while the interactivity isn’t especially engaging, that’s an intentional decision in service to what it’s trying to say about agency in relationships (I also get the sense it’s in dialogue with some of the seminal texts in the Twine canon), and if its go-anywhere do-anything gonzo spirit leads to some memorably disgusting scenes, well, they’re certainly memorable.

But it’s let down by one enormous flaw I just couldn’t get past: a flabby, long-winded writing style that drains the prose of its urgency and makes the game feel far too long for its plot – in fact, there are three distinct branches, I think all of comparable length, that make up the game’s overall story, but I was ready to be done with it by two-thirds of the way into the single branch I played (which took me about the requisite two hours). This is really frustrating because there are definite strengths here, but they’re sapped of their effectiveness by the enervating slog that the late game becomes.

Let me start with the good stuff, though. As mentioned, the world-building is completely deranged without being an anything-goes gonzo type of setting. The fact that everything’s been blown up and then rebuilt along familiar-ish lines means that the author’s got a free hand to lean into the ridiculous, without needing to invent entirely new institutions and mores for the new society. And some of the gags here are really out there, like the idea that there’s a wave of oppression based on the new religion centering on Pitbull, with an ominous jail described thusly:

"It’s where they put everyone guilty of “Pitbull Crimes” — any crime related to the concept or work of Pitbull. The list is expansive and slightly vague: Unauthorized Selling of Pitbull-related Contraband, Plagiarism of Pit, excessive party fouls in Miami, all the way to the extreme category of Pitbull-motivated Homicides."

While this is an entertaining concept, I’m not sure it fully worked for me, though. I’m not sure I can explain why, but some of the jokes and setting elements felt too specific and took me out of the world – like, the Pitbull stuff is part of the premise, but when there are gags about how homophobic Papa John is, and references to Twitter, which I guess has been rebuilt, I felt like the game was having trouble keeping track of its own premise. Similarly, in my playthrough the Pitbull stuff dropped out almost completely by about halfway through, replaced by a lot of sci-fi-horror-action-comedy business (though this does lead to a joke, near the end of the game, where there’s suddenly an out-of-context Pitbull reference and the narrator admits “Oh right. I forgot about that part of the world.”)

So yeah, it’s not all fun and games – the protagonist is a trans woman going through a rough patch in her relationship with her partner, a trans man, and while their society as a whole seems a bit more accepting of trans folks than ours is, they’re fairly marginalized folks eking out a living through crime, which leads to them getting locked up in the aforementioned Pitbull-prison (at least in two out of the three branches – not sure about the last), and forced into a desperate fight for survival while making new friends and working through their relationship issues.

(I feel compelled to note that the identity of the protagonist is a bit more complicated than I made it out in the above paragraph – actually there’s also a different character, also trans but from just a few years in our future, who’s now dead but shares brain engrams with the main protagonist, or something, so she’s able to perceive and comment on what’s going on. It’s a little confusing but in practice just means that there’s an additional, somewhat fourth-wall-breaking narrative voice in the mix, which given everything else going on doesn’t register all that strongly).

These are a potentially-compelling set of conflicts, but it’s at the prison that the momentum really starts to sag. While the protagonist remains appealingly chipper throughout her travails, the narrative here introduces a half-dozen major supporting characters, plays some flashbacks to establish her relationship, and teases an upcoming event that will subject the prisoners to even more danger. It’s a lot to juggle – and in fact too much to juggle for the author. Forward progress feels like it slows to a crawl, even as each of those elements feel underbaked, because the prose throughout is overly plodding and verbose, dulling the notionally-exciting ideas and action on display to a shapeless mess. Exacerbating the flabbiness, dialogue is written screenplay style, and most scenes have the protagonist accompanied by a significant portion of the supporting cast, meaning there’s often a lot of filler conversation just there to remind the player that a character is part of the action.

To give an extended example, here’s what should be a thrilling action sequence – the prisoners are being thrown into a giant pit (somehow there’s a cave network under the Florida Keys, which seems worthy of comment from a geological point of view though the game doesn’t provide one), and after a struggle with one of the guards, a prisoner and the guard wind up dangling over the edge, so the prisoner’s friends – including the protagonist, TeeJay – attempt a rescue:

Val pauses before making her next move. She stares at the Enforcer, then reaches into her pocket and pulls out something shiny.

Val: Take the clip!

The Enforcer grabs it from Val’s hands and attaches it to their harness. They look back up at her.

Shattered Visor Enforcer: I can’t hook myself down here, something’s wrong!

Val turns around on Grace’s back and disembarks. Both girls dangle on their own, but close to each other.

Val: That’s 'cause you just have the rope, idiot! You need to climb up and use this one after I unclip Grace!

Shattered Visor Enforcer: But that’ll take so long!

Val: Think about that next time that you attack someone on the edge of a hole!

The Enforcer fidgets on the rope, trying to steady themselves. Val is above them, grabbing ahold of Grace. She sneaks a look down at the Enforcer.

Val: God, you’re pathetic…

She looks up at us.

Val: Someone up there grab ahold of our ropes!

Frankie snaps into action, grabbing Grace’s rope first. I grab onto Val’s, and yell down to her.

TeeJay: We’ve got you!

Val: Okay, when I clip Grace to me — you’re going to give us a little more slack in the ropes! More than one person should be holding onto my rope, since I’ll be carrying her!

The other members of Cabin Seven file in around me and grab ahold of the rope. A few of the other prisoners help as well.

Frankie: You’re good!

Val: I’m going to attach Grace to me now!

Shattered Visor Enforcer: What about me?

Val: Can you climb any further?

This is full of fine-grained logistics and dialogue that doesn’t say much, dreadfully stretching out what’s tended as a taut bit of business. There’s also not much of an authorial voice to make the process of reading all these words engaging – again, it’s screenplay style, so everything other than the characters’ lines often feels excessively bottom-lined. And as for the dialogue, the characters often don’t feel especially differentiated in how they speak: while specific personality traits do come through, everyone comes off like an extremely-online twentysomething joking their way through what are often quite horrifying situations.

There’s a lot more that could be said about One Last Pitbull Song. It’s clearly intending to problematize the concept of agency in choice-based IF, for one thing. There’s a major bifurcation of the plot based on what choice of side-dish you make in the cafeteria, which determines whether the protagonist gets through into an Aliens pastiche or a dance-off, and is clearly sending up the often-arbitrary nature of the much-hyped decision points in other games. And the protagonist reflects that she feels like she defaults to passivity and struggles to articulate and act on her desires, which is at the root of many of her relationship issues – from the epilogue that you’re meant to read after you complete all the branches (and that I, er, read out of order to see what it’s like), this appears to be positioned as the central conflict whose resolution terminates the game.

I can’t say this is the most engaging deconstruction of the tropes of choice-based interaction I’ve seen – it’s fine so far as it goes, but the presentation is fairly shallow – but it’s potentially interesting, and without having seen the remaining 60% of the game I can’t really assess whether it’s ultimately successful. Similarly, some apparently-parodic elements in the survival-horror branch that I wound up struck me as intentionally ridiculous and deconstructionist, in a way that undercut my engagement but which might add up to something compelling if I had the whole picture. So even some of the things I experienced as weaknesses, it’s possible, could turn out to work well. But checking the size of the game’s Twine file, getting the full experience looks like it requires reading about 100,000 words – twice the length of the Great Gatsby! – and unfortunately that’s far more of this lifeless prose than I’m able to commit to. One Last Pitbull Song feels very much like a work that thumbs its nose at the very concept of an editor – to its credit, it boasts a wild mélange of genres, tones, and plot points that would leave the blue-pencil brigade gobsmacked, but also demonstrates the risks of thumbing one’s nose at concision.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Roller Coaster (whoo whoo whoo) of Love, November 22, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

Holy crap was this one a roller coaster ride. Let me dispense with the non-narrative parts first because this will be quick. The presentation was simple but effective. In particular, the use of background colors and to a lesser extent fonts was tightly aligned to the narrative in a satisfying and resonant way. I wish more games would take the simple steps taken here. There is sound, but I’m not sure if it was infrequent or downplayed, I only remember it registering once during gameplay.

Gameplay? I’ll need a different word. This is a super linear narrative. There are infrequent opportunities to click on internal monologues for additional insight, but otherwise you might as well be turning pages. Except for exactly one choice you get to make. Actually, over two hours I had forgotten I had made ANY choices, until reminded. Other games have had similar implementations for sure, but this one really eschewed any attempt to use other interactive tricks, like using page size and interactivity for narrative pacing, or character-defining but narratively-irrelevant decisions to align the reader more closely to the protagonist. I mean that’s fine, right? Half of Interactive Fiction is Fiction. I hear books can be pretty darn entertaining. Let’s talk narrative.

The plot covers a lot of ground. (Spoiler - click to show)What starts as a hilarious multi-thousand-year sweep of history, segues to a heist and relationship melodrama, to a gritty pan-gender prison story, to a cave survival horror story, to climax in a conversation with Future Adam (but not Eve) and …a dance party. Now, you look at that list and first impression is, hell yeah, buckle me up for THAT roller coaster ride! There’s an assumption built into that reaction though, that the ride is built with tight control over your safety. In this metaphor, the plot is the kinetic design of the ride, how it connects turns, climbs, loops, and drops into a thrilling experience. The characters are the car that carries you start to end. And super importantly, the tone is the track that supports your characters. However wildly the course turns, it smoothly zips you along.

OFPBS really doesn’t do any of that. The coaster design is an early work from the architect that went on to design R’Lyeh, where they were still fleshing out their non-Euclidian geometries. I’m saying the plot twists cross dimensional barriers with their impossible turns. The car is transplanted from some 1950’s Tunnel of Love, earnestly vandalized stem to stern with lavishly ornate “TeeJay loves Sam” adolescent graffiti. Uniquely UNsuited to the kinetic demands of the wild ride, and while adorably sentimental at first, quickly sublimates to “we get it, Sam is dreamy. Can we maybe focus on this insane curve coming up instead?”

Given those two extreme and incompatible choices (plot and character), the only way to salvage the experience is with a perfect tonal track. Unfortunately, the discipline is just not there. In the first few scenes the tone swings wildly from humor, to melodrama, to violent grit, but keeps some semblance of internal in-the-moment consistency. By the time the cast is chasing through caves it does not keep a coherent tone even within a scene. It puts on the reader the entire burden of synthesizing (Spoiler - click to show)starkly cast violent physical peril with porn ‘money shot’ parody with acres of pan-gender John Hughes romantic mooning with origin of man mythology. The text and language does no lifting to spackle the disconnects with humor or whimsy or farce, just presents it all and dares the reader to weather the discord. If the ridiculousness of the scenario WAS the farce, it was a miscalculation not to let the tone cue the reader.

And man, does that first climax take a non-Euclidian turn. It is a complete betrayal of the seriously-cast character deaths, of the mortal terror they felt. Good horror movies know how to manage tone. The stakes of Devils Rejects for example are starkly different than Final Destination. The former wrings tension from raw fear of evil, the latter plays deaths as elaborate punch lines. Both work! They would decidedly not work in the same movie. Sean of the Dead shows that varying tones can coexist with the right narrative grease. That’s what’s missing here.

In the end, despite a strong opening and brief sections of notably effective chase horror, the tonal shortcomings have a predictable if cliche’ effect on our metaphorical roller coaster. The first climax Bounced me clean off the rails.

However, this is conceived of as a long story. It seems my 2hr investment was maybe 1/3 of the overall narrative? I will be omitting my score from the average in deference to the idea that my view of the author's vision is likely incomplete. It's not for me, I'm clear on that, but there seems to be more to chew on here, if this is your taste.

Played: 10/26/22
Playtime: 2hrs, finished one playthrough, 1/3(?) of total narrative
Artistic/Technical rankings: Bouncy/Notable (Lack of interactivity)
Would Play Again? Would take a lot of metaphorical Dramamine

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

Note: this rating is not included in the game's average.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Blood and Viscera, Comedy and Romance, October 7, 2022

This game is witty, profane, disgusting, clever, and very, very funny. It critiques the prison industrial complex, satirizes modern(-ish) pop culture, and delves into personal authorial confessions. It does it all with humor that could easily veer into the jaded or cynical, and it does, at times, but there are also moments of deeply earnest sincerity amid the gore and viscera (it is an odd combination, one that the author gleefully relishes).

There are monsters, and even the monsters deserve love. There are flawed, deeply human inmates and bootleggers. There are gross-out scenes involving various bodily fluids that are extreme enough to warrant taking the content warnings very seriously. There are whole societies based on the post-apocalyptic preservation of the entirety of Pitbull's musical catalog.

One Final Pitbull Song is a wild ride, a fever dream, a horror-comedy-romance for the ages.

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