Counterfeit Monkey

by Emily Short profile

Espionage
2012

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Number of Reviews: 33
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A dynamic masterpiece, June 6, 2013
by RedHatter (Vista, California)

Emily Short writes masterpieces, this is undisputed. Yet the Counterfeit Monkey outdoes even Short's other games. The world was as compelling as any book I have read. Unparalleled character development, not only characters around the player, but also the character herself; The game is written from the point of view of 'Alex' narrating for the player, and as such opens many possibilities to see the player from the eyes of another. Through out game play the player finds memories to view, adding insight into the player's past. The virtual world Short built is large with items scattered across it, not all that the player uses. Counterfeit Monkey game play centers around word manipulation, changing the name of things to change what they are, creating unless possibilities. In addition to all this, the game did not feel 'static' with conversations, new characters, and new goals, around every corner.

I would caution anybody thinking of play Counterfeit Monkey that it is very hard. Do not play unless you are an advanced player.


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent technical accomplishment and a great sense of fun, June 6, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: emily short, humor

Play it if: you want a lengthy and engrossing puzzle-solving experience and a healthy dollop of satirical humor to occupy you for a day or two.

Don't play it if: you're in the mood for something that more heavily emphasizes atmosphere or depth of characterization.

Boy, did I like Counterfeit Monkey. It had me grinning like a maniac within five minutes of starting, and that grin never let up. Even when my face got sore after the first few hours.

The most consistent tonal impression I got from Counterfeit Monkey was that of a high-quality Monkey Island game. Surreal plot devices, anachronistic histories, a coastal setting, a light-hearted story with streaks of darkness...it's all there. Oddly enough it also reminds me of The People's Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game in its tone and charm, though I prefer Monkey for its outstanding gameplay and depth of setting. There's even a hint of Planescape: Torment lurking in there somewhere (a detailed setting where belief and opinion have physical power).

In gameplay terms, Monkey combines a feeling of casual puzzle-solving fun with a profound degree of technical effort. In that respect it feels like a sort of leveled-up crossword, which is appropriate because almost all of the puzzles here are navigated through some form of wordplay. I spent a chunk of the first half of the game a little concerned that the gameplay wouldn't significantly change. The letter-removals were great, but they also felt fairly straightforward, more so than what I think I'm used to in the early stages of a longer Emily Short game. But then the story starts to throw in some fun alternative powers, and remains fairly dynamic from there. Mixing it up with some memory exploration and the ongoing plotline, and you have a story which is fairly excellently paced.

It's difficult to overstate how much effort it must have taken (at least form the perspective of a novice like me) to have implemented the wordplay. A lot of my enjoyment came out of trying some more obscure ideas and realizing just how thorough the research was - how delighted I was to find that the author had taken the time to implement a cad, complete with "smouldering gaze"!

Definitely worth your time. Entertaining and impressive.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Some good, some bad, February 27, 2013

I see from the release date, that this is a pretty new game. So, I'm going to assume that Emily Short might be making some changes to things soon as some new editions are released.

For right now, though, it's a little rough in spots.

The good news: I loved the story. It was one of the most imaginative plots that I can remember. And, the story is very well told. I really like the writing. There is a nice, consistent tone to the writing that solidly conveys a time and place that is only slightly removed from our real universe. Nothing over the top. And, the non-player half of the player is nicely handled. I also sort of liked the inclusion of the map. At first, I was unsure about it, but it grew on me. The text was a little hard to read, and the placement of the streets didn't exactly match up with the expected movements in every location. But, it was clear enough to give you some idea of the spatial relations. Certainly, I wouldn't want to see a map like that in every game (especially ones with more than about 20 locations), but this one worked.

The bad news: I really did not like the "Pick Your Own Adventure" sort of leading that was going on at various places. When you encounter various people, the game will prompt you with suggested topics of conversation. The reponses then prompt even more topics of conversation. At that point, you pretty much just play a scrivener and retype those questions. I didn't think that those exchanges added anything to the game. I would have preferred a page of automatic text instead of that.

I was also underwhelmed at some of the vocabulary. It seemed to me that there were lots of things that I would try to do where the game would not allow obvious actions or would not recognize obvious synonyms. The description of each area is short and doesn't give you much room to play around (even if to no particular purpose).

I'll check back on this game in a few months and try it again if a new release has come out. For now, I would give it a solid 3 stars.


20 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
>point P-remover at preview, January 7, 2013
by Edward Lacey (Oxford, England)

Emily Short's Counterfeit Monkey is a large and ambitious contribution to several IF genres, but I think the description that best indicates the gameplay experience is "wordplay puzzle game". Short imagines a world in which names are more fundamental than physical properties, and to rename an individual object (subject to given rules) is to transform it to something else. The game's island setting of Anglophone Atlantis is a centre for development of word-altering technology, and the protagonist must make use of this technology in order to smuggle plans for a new device out from under the noses of the island's oppressive government. A tool available from the start of the game can remove any letter of the alphabet from an object's name; to give an example not from the game, a BEARD could become a BEAR and then an EAR. The game allows any appropriately-named object to be modified, often in more complicated ways than this example suggests. The range of options seemed daunting at first, but I found that puzzles were arranged to ensure that new abilities and locations become available only once I had demonstrated proficiency with the resources already available.

A puzzle game founded on such depth of simulation would be noteworthy in itself, but Short combines it with a setting and plot that are engaging in their own right and make the fantastical premise seem almost credible. Over the the course of the game, the player learns about the history of word-altering technology and its likely future development, not to mention its competing uses by criminals and the authorities. By making clear the legal and technological constraints on the transformations, Counterfeit Monkey not only explains how a world in which "animal" and "mineral" are mutable categories escapes incomprehensible chaos, but provides a natural basis for the police-state setting and industrial espionage plot.

Although this review has referred to a "protagonist", the player character Alexandra is actually a verbal and physical "synthesis" of two people, linguist Alex and spy Andra, who have decided that sharing a merged body temporarily will give them the opportunity to leave Anglophone Atlantis unrecognized. The player's input is interpreted as attempts at action from Andra, while Alex takes on the role of the narrator and parser. The contrast between the dominating, problem-focused Andra and the more cautious, locally-knowledgeable Alex provides a perfect fit for the player-parser relationship.

The game's tone is also something of a synthesis. Some excellent humour arises from the bizarre objects the player can create, while the dystopian background is treated quite seriously. The ethical implications of Alexandra's actions receive due attention, but I felt that it was here that the only perceptible tension arose between the plot and puzzles. ((Spoiler - click to show)Concerns are raised in the game about the power of word-manipulation to bring people or animals into existence, and Alexandra's equipment is initally configured to prevent this. However, the puzzles assume that the player will be happy to create "animates" routinely once this ability is acquired.) This criticism is trivial in light of the remarkable achievement that Counterfeit Monkey represents as an adventure game, a simulation, a narrative and an experiment in IF player-parser relations. I hope that any player not allergic to wordplay will download it and enjoy it as much as I did.



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