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Achievement-hunting fun, January 6, 2022
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)
I’ve played a number of Arthur DiBianca’s signature limited-parser games – including just getting to the first Grandma Bethlinda instalment a couple months ago – and have generally really enjoyed them, with last year’s Sage Sanctum Scramble being my favorite. GBRE has a different vibe than that unabashed word-based puzzlefest, and I took a little while longer to get into it, but by the time I was digging into the as-always generous post-game content I was definitely having fun.
As always there’s not much plot – you’ve managed to handcuff yourself, and you need to give one-word commands to the Rube-Goldberg-meets-Alexa egg to get yourself free – so it’s all about the gameplay as you explore the egg's functionality and unlock new commands by running through its autorepair sequence. Despite this setup, GBRE is actually much thinner on puzzles than I was expecting at first – there are maybe three or four that gate progress on the repairs, and they’re good ones, but mostly the gameplay is focused on exploration, as you try out the commands you unlock at each stage, figure out the potential interactions between them, and guess at other commands the egg might accept.
Until I got to the ending, I found this pleasant enough but not that engaging – it felt more like a toy than a game, and while it’s delightful to see what the egg will do next, by the end of a half-hour the novelty had started to wear off. Getting to the end unlocks a full Extra Credit list, though, which basically serves as an achievement system, with 21 different entries clued only by their titles.
This endgame content starts to require more focused problem-solving, while retaining the whimsy and discovery of the main section of the game. Some are really easy (Spoiler - click to show)(”Greetings” just requires saying HELLO to the egg), some yield after a modicum of thought (Spoiler - click to show)(”Grrrr” clearly has to do with the dog and the bone…), and some require a good dose of lateral thinking (Spoiler - click to show)(racecar ones, I’m looking at you). A lot of this is trial-and-error, but it’s the fun kind of trial and error where you smash toys together to see what will happen – it reminded me of the old Doodle God Flash games.
Amid a Comp that has lots of games dealing with really serious themes and ideas, it’s nice to get a playful palette-cleaner like GBRE – definitely treat it like a Marvel movie and stick around after the ending to get the most out of it, though!
Highlight: Figuring out Exterminator made me feel very clever.
Lowlight: I ran through every permutation of answer to the SURVEY command and was disappointed not to get any validation for my completionist instincts (I have a problem).
How I failed the author: After getting about a third of the Extra Credit points, I was figuring this was going to be it for me given that I have less time for IF Comp this year, but after putting GBRE aside I thought to start a hint thread, and using that was able to get all the points. So I lost out on some of the joy of discovery, but gained the hollow validation of checking every item off a long list – yay me?