AardVarK Versus the Hype

by Truthcraze


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Number of Reviews: 6
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Donít drink the Zombie-ade!, October 23, 2021
by ChrisM (Cambridge, UK)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

A crazy adventure about the four members of a high school garage band named AardVark and their antics as they try to thwart the purveyors of 'Hype', a weird new soda that has the property of turning ordinary teenagers into monosyllabic, shuffling zombies (whose parents might not be able to tell the difference). Itís variously madcap, silly, and comically horrific with a B-movie flavour, some witty writing and a cast of likeable characters whose relationships, insecurities and obsessions (sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and all the rest) accurately depict those of the average rebellious teenager. The game has a strong, linear narrative bookended by an early flashback sequence and an epilogue; the gameplay in-between is neatly compartmentalised into short episodes that need to be completed to progress and that flow fairly logically from one into the other. Altogether, the story works pretty well and kept me entertained throughout, although I found the ending a bit abrupt - a bit more could perhaps have been made of the final denouement, but curtailing the story at that point does at least ensure it falls neatly into the 2-hours-or-less bracket, playtime-wise (this being an IF comp game). A shame, perhaps, as I enjoyed it and would have been happy to play for longer.

However, there are a couple of problems with the game that, for me, took some of the shine off it. Firstly, the puzzles are sometimes a little illogical and / or poorly clued. This is game that really wants you to win: not only are the goals for each section helpfully listed in the status bar but also unsolicited nudges are liberally thrown at the player as soon as signs of hapless flailing are detected. In spite of that, I still found myself unable to divine that I needed to e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)insert the hot dog sausage into the crevice to distract the convenience store attendant, or (Spoiler - click to show)WEAR CONDOMS (really) to get past them and out of the store. Secondly, there are numerous implementation problems that are not only cosmetically displeasing but in some instances, negatively impact the gameplay. There are numerous typos, minor formatting errors and other oddities such as should-be-openable boxes and windows that arenít "something that you can open", (Spoiler - click to show)a cord that canít be tied to anything, even though you need it to climb a tree (just CLIMB TREE works) and null responses when trying to interact with a can of soda, amongst various other issues. In addition, there are a couple of places where such problems almost scupper the game altogether: namely (Spoiler - click to show)the shelf in the bedroom, that you are directed explicitly to search but canít (it was only by looking at the hints that I learnt what was on there and could then get it, even though I hadnít actually discovered the item by LOOKING ON or EXAMINING the shelf) and (Spoiler - click to show)the coffee-switching sequence in the GasíNíStuff where, somewhat infuriatingly, not only are more logical commands such as PUT HYPE IN COFFEE or POUR HYPE INTO COFFEE not implemented but the actual solution given in the in-game hints (SWITCH HYPE FOR COFFEE) is wrong! Itís actually SWITCH HYPE WITH COFFEE, as given in the walkthrough (if I hadnít come across the answer there then I would probably have abandoned the game altogether at that point). Looking at the in-game credits, I see that some reliable people were involved in testing it, so I have to admit Iím slightly surprised that such issues made it into the final game. I can only assume that there were a lot more bugs in the beta version and what remains are the ones that werenít picked up amongst all the others, or that the author ran out of time to fix everything. Whatever the case, itís a shame that the conspicuous lack of polish makes the game a definite three stars for me, where it could so easily have been a solid four stars.

That being said, the game does have a charm that makes up for its infelicities and it delivers a satisfying experience overall. As a piece of amusing and silly escapism, itís well worth the playerís time.

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