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About the Story
Gotomomi central station is a place where many dreams and hopes meet. It draws in scores with its many possibilities. To most, it becomes a nightmare. Fortunately, I just needed to change trains there.
20th Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
The Breakfast Review
So, I would say that this is a work that's trying very hard in multiple directions: it's trying to convey an atmosphere, a culture, an artistic statement ... it seems it's also trying to express itself in a foreign language. It's perhaps a little over-ambitious; I'm not sure that it quite manages to reach as far as it's trying to. It's like kedgeree -- interesting, and perhaps a little exotic to most -- just a little bit overcooked in this case. I would follow it with chrysanthemum tea, no sugar, just a hint of bitterness.
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Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
With that said, though — if you take the game on its own terms, I found that it offers a great deal of freedom, openness, and depth of world state. Not only that, but the confusion seems to be an intentional part of the game’s aesthetic. At one point, the protagonist can get into a conversation about how Gotomomi (the city) is difficult for newcomers to navigate and that the experienced people who live there never seem to take the time to help out novices. If a player gets to the point of winning this thing on their own, it will almost certainly because they too have put in the time and become experienced — a sort of accretive PC.
All this may make Gotomomi a hard sell for the time-constrained play of IF Comp, and some players will simply never enjoy a game unless it gives them more direction, but there are others who might really find it interesting. If you think you might be one of those, just set yourself up to play sometime when you’ve got a lot of hours to spend, and take plenty of notes.
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Renga in Blue
This is a concept I really wanted to work — I love the idea of an open world situation where you’re just trying to scrounge up cash. Having a dynamic cash variable separates puzzles from a lock-key dynamic in a pretty big way. Unfortunately, I ran too quickly into loops or unwinnable situations and the characters and story just weren’t compelling enough for me to try to push through it.
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Reiko's Ramblings and Writings
The goal seems to be to make enough money to buy an open ticket on the shinkansen, which can be accomplished a number of ways. By the end, the reason almost doesn’t matter, but there’s a bit of exposition at the beginning about the PC running away from her family and her father’s hired goons. The process of acquiring the money mainly involves taking multiple short-term jobs in the area, some not so legal, and solving puzzles to complete those jobs.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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I had high hopes for Gotomomi since it's appeared on many IFDB lists about city simulation experiences. It started out strong, but it ended up being this obtuse and somewhat unfair puzzle-y experience that didn't feel like I was walking around this city.
The game begins with Ayako, a 16 year old girl, who is running away from her dad. Not much is known about her background besides her dad's men being able to track her by phone and that she wore expensive traditional clothing which suggests she came from an upper-class background. She arrives at Gotomomi, a fictional city that is the next stop after Shinjuku. Ayako has two goals in mind: a ticket outta here and some clothes to change into.
But when she gets out of the station, she loses all her funds. The player must now guide her around this small area of Gotomomi and acquire enough money to get clothes and buy a ticket to somewhere far. This sounds like an interesting enough premise.
However, once I started checking the game out, I ended up feeling a bit confused in a bad way. It's one thing to be initially disoriented by the world because once in a while, some of the best games are abrasive and demand attention from the player to get into the world; it's another to remain bewildered by these design decisions until the end of the game.
At first, I was enjoying my time figuring out how the world works. I walked to a place called the Docklands (an "artificial island ... home to a flotilla of small fishing boats") and found myself working in a "Seng Heng fish packing co. ltd." I was a bit unsure why there's a fish packing facility with a very Chinese name and the area didn't feel like I was in Japan, but either way I got the job and was told to move the buckets between the tinning room and gutting room.
For a rather simple job, I found it quite confusing to do.
Ayako has to wait for the buckets to get filled up with some dead fish in the gutting room and then move them to the tinning room. Then, fish mysteriously disappears from the bucket. Repeat the process: but you get an angry foreman saying you haven't done the job quickly enough or put the buckets where you let it.
I'm fine with simulations having asinine supervisors because work in real lie esucks, but I find the foreman character rather disruptive to play. They seemed to respond to any action (or non-action) with anger, but there were no consequences regardless. The lack of feedback between player and the game is a constant throughline in the simulation. The shift also took forever. I know it's supposed to be a tedious manual labor simulator here, but I found this entire experience lacking. There's no exploration of how exhausting this kind of labor is; the player is constantly typing > get buckets and Ayako seems like she has the strength of Superman as she lifts buckets of gutted fish. It's just busywork for the player.
After getting paid, I thought this simulation of work was more like a bad minigame. Other jobs aren't as bad as this, but this gave me a bad first impression of the game.
The game did get better, but I thought it was more middling than bad instead. Indeed, my main issue with Gotomomi is that I didn't feel like I was in Japan. Descriptions made me think I was in Kowloon, Hong Kong or Macau instead of something like Kabuki-cho (the real life setting of the Yakuza/Like a Dragon series) or Shibuya. Indeed, half the cast is from some underground subculture from China, which strengthens that impression. There is the "Little China" that seems remarkably close to the train station and police box for comfort; it's clearly an underground ring for sex work with minors. Later on, you'll meet a (Spoiler - click to show)Chinese drug dealer that can be, for some reason, referred to as a "Chinaman" by the player. I only learned about this in the walkthrough. Did the author know this is a slur?. I'm not sure why the emphasis on Chinese people here. There are, of course, Chinese people within the seedier districts of Japanese metropolitan cities, but Koreans and Vietnamese are just as visible.
I don't expect free English-language games to be accurate depictions of cities in the other side of the continent, but it is baffling for me to see so many references to Chinese people doing crime in a game about some Japanese city.
There are at least some attempts to make the characters more fleshed out through a branching conversation system. These may lead to more opportunities for cash, but much of the dialog feels stilted. For example, the game likes to pepper in Japanese and Chinese words, but I find them rather awkward since they're all variants of greetings (konbanwa and nihao for example). It's a pet peeve of mine to see languages be reduced to greetings like this in English-language games. In later quests, Ayako -- a sixteen year old who barely spent a few hours in this city -- would suddenly sound like she's a hardboiled detective who's seen it all and comment about the degeneracy of the city. That always struck me as weird. Her thoughts don't really make sense to me; she seems aware that drugs and sex are what sells, but she just sounds like she's been in the business for ages. I could charitably interpret this as part of her background, but it nevertheless was out of the blue and remained dissonant anyway. This dissonance is very strange considering that the game begins with her somehow losing her wallet because she hasn't planned things through.
Speaking of money and not planning things through, the game does have a handy walkthrough provided by the author, which I made use of after I got stuck. But what was surprising to me about this game is how it doesn't really prepare the player what is easily the worst mechanic of the game: haggling.
In order to get to anywhere, you need to buy and sell clothes and other tools from stores. The player is supposed to buy low, sell high; however, the haggling mechanic is basically RNG. The shopkeeper may or may not accept the price after a few turns and that's it. It's possible to get them to immediately buy or sell an item at a price they initially rejected and there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. For the player, it's simply pressing the same sequence of keys until the dice rolls are in their favor. Since Ayako is trying to save up money to buy a ticket on the Odakyuu Line, the player is always going to spam and spam.
Otherwise, they'll find themselves in an unwinnable state, which happened to me while following the walkthrough till the end.
I didn't have enough money to buy a ticket because I haggled my items too poorly and got poor RNG on (Spoiler - click to show)trading drugs, which is also just a giant mess. With no opportunities left, I had to restart and go replay the entire game again. After five or six tries, I ended up having a surplus of around 4,600 yen through savescumming.
I was left unsatisfied when I finally got Ayako on the train to nowhere. For a game set in a Japanese city, the world doesn't have many rooms or interesting things to do. There are detours the player can do like (Spoiler - click to show)buying drinks from a bartender or getting vaccinated, but they are not substantive enough to feel like you're in a proper city. I was downtrodden when the mall had three rooms worth of content. The game feels empty, even as a caricature of some East Asian nightlife.
I mean, there's not even a yakuza character in the game! At least, have some Japanese and Korean criminals roaming around!
Don't get me wrong: I think the game for what it is was interesting to play and I don't regret playing it. But despite reading reviews lamenting they wish they had more time to spend with the game in IFComp, I ended up feeling let down by how small the game was. It didn't feel expansive like A Mind Forever Voyaging where the player got to walk around the city street by street; Gotomomi felt more like I was traversing between abstract locales that vaguely resemble some East Asian "thing".
I wanted to like this game because it sounded my jam. I love exploring Japanese cities, especially the nightlife. But even discounting the design frustrations and awkward depictions of Japanese and Chinese cultures, the game never went beyond being just okay. The simulation simply felt artificial and superficial, plus I don't buy the Japanese noir atmosphere it's going for at all. It's a lackluster experience that doesn't seem grounded in anything Japanese and systems that don't ever coagulate into anything whole.
Gotomomi was one of the better long games of the 2015 IFComp. The author spent four years making this game.
You play a young woman who is need of cash in a Tokyo train station. A fairly compact map with a few hidden exits allows you to explore carefully and get to no the culture and economy.
The game is all about money. You buy and sell a lot, negotiating everything. Some jobs or ways of making money require several prerequisites. It's important to examine background objects on a regular basis.
The atmosphere is grungy, sad and dangerous. I really enjoyed this game, but it takes more time than a typical IFComp game.
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happy valentwine's day please turn on your speakers and your monitor and your mouse and your keyboard when you play this thank you
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