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(based on 47 ratings)
About the Story
The neighborhood Thanksgiving party was going pretty well until you keeled over and died.
Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner - solving your murder, Best Individual Puzzle - 2018 XYZZY Awards
5th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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the premise is simple: you're a ghost, you were murdered mysteriously, and by going through the minds of the suspects you're able to unearth memories that will either clear them or convict them. the central mystery is very well-crafted; all six suspects are viable and most are interesting characters in and of themselves.
i do regret one thing, though. while the protagonist is obviously tightly focused on figuring out who just killed them, there are things he's clearly not aware of that it's possible to infer from the "red herring" evidence. while i would definitely not call the suspects' relationships "mysteries" -- honestly they're none of the protagonist's business -- since they are presented to the reader, it does feel sort of disappointing that there's no apparent way to confirm them.
it's also the case that i solved the mystery much more easily than i was expecting to just by following the obvious breadcrumbs. i felt like i was just getting warmed up when it was over. of course, "there wasn't enough of it" doesn't really count as a negative, does it?
Erstwhile has my favorite opening line from IFComp 2018: "It was a pretty good Thanksgiving until you keeled over and died." It's funny, it immediately piques your interest, and it covers a lot of the plot: You've been murdered. Now you're a ghost, and you have to figure out who killed you.
As this ghost, you quickly discover that you have the ability to read people's minds. This is how gameplay works: After watching the detective interview the suspects, you can enter the suspects' minds. You don't have access to all of their thoughts, though - just some of them. In particular, you can access certain relevant topics that become clues. As you uncover more clues you can begin linking them together to generate new memories in the minds of the suspects and thus more clues. The game keeps track of what clues you've used and what you've been able to deduce from each successful pair of linkages, which was quite helpful for me in mentally organizing what had happened. (It's basically the same mechanic as in Color the Truth, the second-place IFComp game from 2016. Erstwhile is choice-based, though, while Color the Truth is parser.) Eventually, you can possess one of the suspects for a brief period of time and force them to confess. Unless there's enough evidence, though, the confession may not stick.
As you slowly uncover more and more of the backstory, you realize that there's more to the relationships between all these characters than appears at first - which is usually the case in murder mysteries. But I thought it was well-done how these relationships were slowly revealed as you uncovered more clues. Also, the most interesting backstories hint at part of the PC's life that he mostly refuses to admit to himself - even now that he's dead.
Gameplay went fairly well for me. I did get stuck for a while somewhere in mid-game, when I wasn't sure what other topics could be linked. I eventually started lawnmowering through the options, and that got me unstuck. However, that was the only place where I had any serious troubles.
Overall, Erstwhile is a solid murder mystery that I enjoyed playing.
This was one of of my favorite games of the competition. Itís a smooth Twine game that plays well both on desktop and mobile.
You play as a ghost who died, or was murdered, during Thanksgiving. You have to simultaneously learn (as a player) about the neighborhood while gathering (as a ghost) mental clues to find out what happened.
The game is divided into two chunks: exploration and linking. Exploration has you looking through the thoughts of others to gain clues, and linking has you pick two related clues to produce a new one in a complex multi-layered system. Iíve seen mysteries use this technique (and written one), but this is the best implementation of the idea Iíve seen so far, and very satisfying. I got stuck near the end, but I feel like a puzzle game is perfect difficulty if I do well until the end and need a hint then.
Great for mystery fans, and fun for everyone.
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