Counterfeit Monkey

by Emily Short profile

Espionage
2012

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5 star:
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4 star:
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3 star:
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Number of Ratings: 236
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- Ann R. J., April 19, 2013

- ptkw, March 15, 2013

- pcbrannon, March 3, 2013

5 of 5 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.

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- vimes (Westminster, Colorado), February 6, 2013

- baywoof, January 24, 2013

- Sdn (UK), January 20, 2013

- Porpentine (Oakland, CA), January 8, 2013

23 of 24 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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- Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle), January 6, 2013

- Lea, January 5, 2013

- E.K., January 5, 2013


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