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About the Story
Earth is overpopulated and low on resources: the puppies, the kitties, and the fishies are all gone. There are not enough jobs, yet Hiremy & Hirschl has employed robots as middle management staff, which causes much friction. According to the employees, Charlie the robot is malfunctioning. But it could be that Charlie is being bullied. And what is a Shrimp Shake?
15th Place - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)
IFComp 2017 Review: Charlie The Robot by Fernando J. Contreras
The ADD hyperactivity brings a level of incoherence to proceedings, sure, but this is balanced by the quality craftsmanship that has gone into constructing these sentences. So while the reader may be left confused about what the purpose of tangential short story followed by tangential short story is, there can be no doubt that those individual segments are all really, really, good. A slightly less schizophrenic presentation would have been appreciated, but overall, Charlie The Robot managed to overcome my initial misgivings to deliver a satisfying multi-media interactive thrill ride, well worth persevering with after the bumpy opening.
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This game employs so much jargon, writes in so many perspectives and presents all of these in such a wide variety of interfaces that it becomes clear that the reader is expected to, in one way or another, resign him/herself to the fact that he/she is not going to be able to keep track of all the plots and subplots that develop in the game. (That was, at least, how it was for me, though of course I might just be coming up with a convenient excuse to escape the task of unravelling the story's intricacies.) Yet, it is precisely this freedom from having to pay attention to every nuance and detail that contributed in large part to my enjoyment of the game. It didn't feel exploratory, exactly; there was a plot going on, and I was genuinely interested to learn more about the characters as the story progressed. But even so, many questions were left unanswered. I think this style of writing, in which a world is built that relies a lot on the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks, is a fine line to tread. Personally, I loved it, but it's not as though I don't identify with players who might be dissatisfied with the jumble of text and media that comes their way, because that was certainly how I felt in the beginning.
In any case, I would recommend this game for the writing and the humour alone. I think the introduction of real-world questions about robots was a little too in-your-face, and could have been handled more smoothly, but otherwise everything flowed well. Superb flashback sequences, and laugh-out-loud moments that really hit home.
There should be a name for the genre of 'biting commentary on society that is self-aware and occasionally dips to crudity, with hints of cheerful ideals always tinged by irony, using an overload of text as literary device.' Such games include Spy Intrigue and Dr. Sourpuss Is Not A Choice-Based Game. It seems increasingly common.
Charlie the Robot is gorgeous visually, and is innovative in its sheer variety of input methods and looks. There are 5 chapters accessible at any time, like Birdland.
The themes include surface themes of humans vs. robots, a lower layer of the mindlessness of modern office life, a lower layer of individualism, and so on.
But it was just too much filler for me to enjoy. The packing on and on and on of text is a literary device that doesn't work for me. I appreciate the themes in the game, and its cleverness, but the overall feel is just overwhelming.
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