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About the Story
This isn't the safest neighborhood. A young woman was abducted near here only recently. But as a city sanitarian you are obligated to complete your annual inspection of the local dive. [blurb from IF Comp 2008]
Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2008 XYZZY Awards
You're in a sleazy bar (OK, that's a rip-off from Softporn Adventure)... But you didn't come here to have a drink or entertain yourself - you are a health inspector on duty.
The game has its highs; in particular, I enjoyed the seemingly unending train of health code violations the protagonist can note. But there are pretty many lows, as well - mainly "what a moron" moments regarding the main villain, occasional glitches in writing, and minor bugs. The aforementioned... uhm... not the brightest behaviour of the NPCs considerably spoils the otherwise interesting and not unoriginal plot idea. Still, Afflicted gets its four stars, albeit at a little stretch.
As story conceits go, a fastidious health inspector forced to scrutinize a disgusting, disease-ridden restaurant whose owner happens to be a fat, evil creature of darkness is pretty great. Afflicted has you searching the horrendous dive bar, looking for infractions which you dutifully record in your notebook. These demerits serve as your game score. This was entertaining enough just by itself, for some reason; maybe it's the obsessive-compulsive in me, but I loved discovering and documenting each new repulsive violation, making little humorously bureaucratic suggestions. It's like collecting Snapple caps for the factoids [...] (by Nate Dovel)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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The game begins with a simple premise rich with obvious IF possibilities: you're a health inspector, just arrived at a dirty restaurant. Explore, examine, report. Then, as early as the very first turn (if you begin with READ NEWSPAPER) all pretense of that premise is scraped away to reveal the second layer of what the game seems to be about. In fact, it isn't really about that, either, but to find out, you'll need to maintain the health-inspector pretense for a little while, and it's terrific fun to do, poking into every nasty crevice of a cartoonishly vile eatery with a critical eye and ready notepad.
Beneath the dried-on spaghetti and exposed foam padding, Afflicted offers a pulp-horror short story of great potential. It falls down a bit (a lot) at the end, with some imbecilic NPC behavior that reduces the game to broad camp (Spoiler - click to show)(the game's villain just sits there snacking while you wander back and forth around him, solving puzzles to undo him, and don't tell me I was hiding those severed limbs in my coat so he couldn't see) but along the way, some of the grisly imagery really works, and carving (and grinding) into the layers stays fun throughout. The player-character's own reason can be questionable, too (Spoiler - click to show)(after you've found the dismembered corpse flailing to communicate with you, you can still wander back upstairs and calmly tick off health-code violations on dirty dishes... seeking comfort in the familiar, perhaps).
Beyond the character logic, the game's implementation has some rough edges. Not bugs, exactly (apart from the amusingly defiant cockroaches) but constant little problems where the parser fails to understand clear and fair commands, or understands them poorly or even ridiculously. Some crucial actions are implemented to be clunky and tedious when they could easily have been smooth, and there are far too many occasions where the game demands disambiguation when it really should know better.
With a bit of fine-tuning, this game would be ideal for beginners, since it offers such rich rewards to simply wandering around using EXAMINE (then NOTE) on virtually everything in sight. That kind of constant, stimulating feedback for uncomplicated exploration would be fantastic for a first-time player, and it's set up to gently ease in the need for other verbs as the obvious sham of the "health inspection" gives way to the real story. The basic game design is sound bordering on brilliant; what it needs is a new release with the sand flushed from the gears and its full potential realized. As it is, it's still a good game for those patient with a dazed parser and a bit of gory silliness (intentional or not), and it's scaled well for portable play, too, with environment and puzzles both easy to navigate without mapping or note-taking. The game offers many variant endings, lots of fun along the way, and even a decent (only slightly dodgy) adaptive hint system. Good stuff.
Afflicted is a parser-based horror game by Doug Egan, published in 2008. You're a health inspector who is supposed to inspect an extraordinarily seedy bar called Nikolai's Bar and Grill. The core gameplay involves moving around the bar and gathering information by examining things and talking to people; there's some light puzzle solving to do as well.
You have a notebook that you can use to mark down any health code violations you find. Using it acts as the game's score system too: every infraction you list makes Nikolai's Bar and Grill lose points. A big part of the game's charm lies in simply finding as many infractions as you can while reading colorful descriptions about the Bar's filthiness and seeing the score sink deep, deep into the negative.
The game is pretty easy on the player. While there are some actions that lead to untimely game overs, it's easy to deduce from context when doing something is a bad idea. The game doesn't lock the player out of success either; like the IFDB-page of the game says, it's always possible to reach *an* ending.
The writing is generally good. There is dark comedy in how over-the-top it can get, not to mention some of the multiple endings are also quite humorous in tone.
Sadly, Afflicted could have used some more polish. One example of this is the slightly inconsistently handled player scope. To simulate outdoor areas and windows, the game often adds things into player scope that are not in the same room as the player. This can be mildly confusing, and in one case it directly makes a puzzle harder to figure out: (Spoiler - click to show)at the start of the game "x window" gives you the message for the Bar's front window no matter your location. This is bad because there are three different windows in the area and you have to "knock" on a specific one to progress in the game but the buggy examination message makes it seem like there is only one window.
Another example of slightly lacking mechanics is the (Spoiler - click to show)anti-climactic end game. The villains aren't programmed to do anything very threatening - they just hang around waiting for you to solve some more puzzles.
Besides that, some descriptions lack a punctuation, examining the mirror gives a slightly buggy message, some objects in the game world partially share a name which leads to constant disambiguation questions... Small rough spots like this can be slightly immersion breaking.
Still, Afflicted is a decently fun way to spend one or two hours. The game is not too difficult to complete, especially since it offers an internal hint system for any subjectively tricky moments. It has personality and some gruesome imagery, so you'll probably like it if you're a fan of parser-based horror.
The gruesome horrors a sanitary inspector must endure on the job may be exactly what you needed to face what awaits in "Nikolai's Bar & Grill".
The further you penetrate into this foulest of restaurants in what is already the foulest part of town, the more gag-worthy the anti-hygienic offences become. But there's something else lurking... Something older and bloodier...
Afflicted hits the ground running. Immediately the player finds even the simplest of commands (X and NOTE) garner great rewards, in the form of detailed and creative descritions of just how disgusting this restaurant really is. This was so much fun I purposely held off on triggering the second part of the game to open yet another pot of stinking stew or examining another grease stained grill.
The first part of the game is so packed full of hints that the genre-turn in the second part doesn't come as a surprise. This was a great source of anticipatory pleasure for me, as I was imagining the unholy things I would have to do in the endgame.
The player gets a lot of freedom in the endgame (and even before that, if she chooses to leave early). There are multiple endings, good or bad depending on personal taste. I chose to go for a dark-good ending.
The characters don't have much to say, but they are lovingly (ahem) described and play their role well.
Although Afflicted has a small and constrained map, there are a few surprises duriong the exploration. The surroundings are also so full of things to look at that the map feels bigger than its number of rooms.
Apart from some disambiguation issues I found the game to be very nicely implemented, having layers of foulness on top of buckets of gellified grease.
Lots of fun, very well written.
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