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About the Story
There was an aye-aye behind the bar, staring at me horribly. Or maybe its face just froze that way. I was waiting for my client at ten at night in a dusty, dirty town in the middle of nowhere. Clouds out here were apparently one of the thirty million newly unemployed. There was a missing woman and my client was about to hire an amateur private detective with the world's most technologically advanced cellular phone. This was going to be a cinch. Seriously. It'll take me like two searches with it to close this case. Three if mid-investigation I check on my torrents.
25th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
Reviews From Trotting Krips
In Jay Schilling’s Edge of Chaos Sherwin teamed up with fellow IF author and coder extraordinaire Mike Sousa to leverage the best of each other’s talents. I don’t know if there’s an official breakdown as to who did exactly what, but each bite of the game tastes as if Sherwin’s deliciously chocolate humor has been poured over Sousa’s peanut-buttery solid framework, creating the world’s first Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of interactive fiction development. Depending on your previous experience, you might describe the game as either one of Sousa’s funniest, or one of Sherwin’s most polished. Either way is a win for gamers.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Finding that there’s a new game by Robb Sherwin is like opening up the first present on Christmas morning. Discovering that he didn’t code it is like knowing you’re not going to find a sweater inside.
Sherwin’s writing, as usual, is sardonic and full of referential humor aimed at children of the 80’s (despite being set in a future that frequently references the hellscape that is 2020), with not-so-subtle regular doses of liberal ideology from the PC. If that’s not your thing then there’s probably not a lot for you here. That’s not to say the game is about any of those things, but its strength lies in the writing. I chortled at least a half-dozen times and I enjoyed exhausting all conceivable actions in every area just to keep reading (and then replaying with the list of amusing things to try).
The game is designed to keep you moving, with the puzzles being perfunctory and the conversation prompts inserted for pacing. The game wants you to get to know the characters, easily unravel the investigation, and find the jokes. Sousa’s coding is excellent. The game understands tons of variations on things you are trying to do while also often correcting your own spelling mistakes like a Google search. And even if you find yourself stuck, there are gradual in-game hints. I had to reference them once (Spoiler - click to show)(for the snake puzzle) during the one time in the game where you must help the PC deduce the solution even if you, the player, already instinctively know the answer.
While Jay Schilling feels similar to most Sherwin characters, the highlight here is the parrot and dog that follow you around for half the game. I won’t spoil anything other than to say they are used for puzzles while also becoming the games’ pathos.
Nineteen years ago Sousa and Sherwin paired up for No Time To Squeal early in their respective IF careers. While that game had its highlights, it was a bit of an awkward and confusing mess. Jay Schilling’s Edge of Chaos is consistently delightful from beginning to end.
The strongest aspect of Jay Schilling’s Edge of Chaos is the storytelling, narrating a crazy and imaginative story with a language very much suited to it. To be frank, neither were perfectly up my alley, but it is of consistent and solid quality.
The puzzles are not that interesting, however. The game is completely linear and the solution to the obstacles are for the most part so obvious that they feel more like small nuisances. There are a few exceptions to this – some clever constructions, but also one that I found far fetched and impossible to guess without reading through all the hints for it. The hint system was very thoughtfully implemented though, with clues in order of specificity. My final playtime was 80 minutes.
A nice bonus were the images: lovely drawings of several characters that show up the first time you look at them.
"Edge of Chaos" has the makings of an interesting game. The player-character, Jay Schilling, is well-defined, childish and petulant, and surprisingly unsuited for his work as a private detective. He, for instance, constantly makes assumptions about people at a glance, even though his job is to investigate them.
This creates an opportunity to play with both the problems that Jay's character would create while attempting to perform his job and the problems the player will likely have with Jay while attempting to guide him through his investigation.
But, instead, the game just allows Jay to do things without the player guiding him, and then prompts the player to do Jay-like things when the player is given the opportunity to play. This reduces player agency to a frustrating level. Worse, the game's keyword-based conversation system breaks the interface's imperative-sentence format, forcing it to reveal topics the player no longer has the opportunity to discover though game-play.
"Edge of Chaos" is a missed opportunity to allow the player to experience the consequences of clinging to a puerile outlook in a situation which should require the player-character to adopt a more mature approach involving research, empathy, and reasoning.
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