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When health inspections go wrong, September 18, 2020
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.