Afflicted

by Doug Egan

Horror
2008

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Number of Reviews: 6
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1-6 of 6


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lend me a hand, now won't you?, October 1, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

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.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Mm-mmm (or maybe not), August 21, 2022
by Kinetic Mouse Car
Related reviews: IFComp, Inform, Horror

You are a health inspector conducting your rounds in the city’s dining establishments. Today on the list is Nikolai’s Bar and Grill, an unsavory restaurant with some not-so-hidden secrets. Will you finish your inspection and leave, or will you dig deeper?

Gameplay
The player jots down citations with their notepad. The immediate goal is to gather enough citations to condemn the restaurant. But simply getting in your car and driving away feels like a premature ending. The game has the player to look beyond their health inspector duties and rewards them, rather gruesomely, for it by advancing the story. And another detail: Even though the game has the time listed at the top of the screen (Spoiler - click to show) time does not seem to matter. You can wait until 2:00 am and nothing changes. I am not sure if there is anything significant about it.

Yes, there is gore but much of the grossness is atmospheric. Things like mold and cockroaches. It focuses on what is needed to tell the story. The content is woven into the protagonist's reason for being at the restaurant. As a health inspector, the protagonist is required to conduct a thorough investigation of the restaurant, giving the player a reason to go digging in the trash where moldy leftovers and (Spoiler - click to show) severed body parts are found. That said, this game has its moments. (Spoiler - click to show) Reaching inside the meat grinder was probably the worst part. Even more so than the vampire-body-part-scavenger game. Play the game a bit to see if it is to your liking.

For a health inspector the protagonist does not seem terribly worried about finding (Spoiler - click to show) human body parts hidden in Nikolai’s restaurant. A (Spoiler - click to show) human foot in the soup cauldron sounds like a notable health code violation, but the protagonist does not bother with jotting it down (although the game does add it to your score). And then there is this: (Spoiler - click to show)

>note corpse
You see nothing noteworthy about the mutilated corpse.

Why is it that you can (Spoiler - click to show) note the mold on the floor in your notebook of health violations but not the corpse in the crypt? This sounds noteworthy. If anyone is interested my record for the lowest sanitation score is (Spoiler - click to show) -119.

My only real criticism is that the game sometimes glosses over gameplay details in the endings. If you (Spoiler - click to show) discover the corpse, finish your inspection, and leave by car the game says, "You enter your car and drive away, satisfied that you have gathered enough observations to have Nikolai's Bar and Grill condemned. And yet, you feel as if there is still some mystery in that building which you left unsolved." Perhaps that corpse you found in the crypt? It does not acknowledge that the protagonist saw the corpse and/or the body parts scattered in the restaurant. Also, if the player (Spoiler - click to show) breaks a window and waits in the crypt for the police to arrive, they still somehow manage to miss the corpse.

Story
The blurb gives the impression that this is a murder mystery about a missing woman. Not exactly. It is not a mystery game where you (Spoiler - click to show) try to uncover the story behind the missing woman by talking to suspects and investigating different leads. There is no “mystery” to solve, at least not in the classic sense. Once you notice the body parts hidden in the restaurant you have pretty good idea of what is going on, and it does not take long to match the missing woman in the newspaper with the corpse in the crypt. But that is what gives the game a unique twist. Rather than solving a murder this game is about weathering a territory dispute between two ruthless vampires. There are tiny little hints that suggest “vampire” even before the player finds Sofia such as the vampire book in Nikolai’s office, the anemic waitress, and Angela and Nikolai’s unease when you ask them about vampires. It does not take long for the story to reveal itself.

I thought it was interesting how the author incorporated some (Spoiler - click to show) vampire lore into the story. According to the (Spoiler - click to show) handy guidebook in Nikolai’s office there are different groups of vampires with unique behaviors, specifically Bratislavan and Transylvanian vampires. Bratislavan vampires are always engaged in territorial disputes, whereas Transylvanian vampires prefer to fly solo. Sofia Kozyar and Nikolai are Bratislavan vampires, and the protagonist gets caught up in their mess. For a while Nikolai was the dominant vampire in the area but that changed as his health deteriorated due to diabetes. This weakened him until Sofia became a serious threat, so he had her abducted and killed. But killing a vampire is easier said than done. As the player knows, all it takes is (Spoiler - click to show) some neutral party to gather up the scattered remains to reform a “dead” vampire.

This has one of the highest replay values for a parser interactive fiction game. It is short with light puzzles and has a lot of endings. Finding new endings was exciting because you had to strategize, and that is where the replay value comes in. The game's hint section says, "The game features about seventeen distinct endings." SEVENTEEN! So far, I only managed to find twelve. I would love to know if anyone finds all of them.

Characters
What does it mean to be afflicted? According to Angela, Nikolai’s affliction is (Spoiler - click to show) diabetes. For the protagonist it is (Spoiler - click to show) being bitten by Sofia and turned into a vampire. The protagonist is unnamed and is only cynically described as Mr. Health Inspector by Nikolai. The protagonist’s background is an unusual one. I cannot recall ever playing any other game where the protagonist works for city sanitation, but this background only Afflicted more memorable. There are also other small details, such as a nostalgic love for disco, that make the protagonist more multi-dimensional.

Nikolai’s character is bold but also stagnates. He (Spoiler - click to show) denies the existence of vampires and Sofia’s corpse in the crypt but continues doing so even when the player catches him drinking Angela dry. Even when Sofia confirms that he is a vampire after her voice is restored. At this point Nikolai does not seem to bother (Spoiler - click to show) hiding the fact that he is a vampire. He locks the door and tells the player that they are next to be eaten. Sofia tells us about the territorial dispute between her and Nikolai, I thought this would be an opportunity to hear his side of the story. But instead, he keeps denying it. I wish there was a way to (Spoiler - click to show) stop Nikolai AND save Angela.

Final thoughts
This is one of my favorite (Spoiler - click to show) vampire games (not sure if this counts as a spoiler but I will mark it anyway). It is short with a high replay value and has an icky atmosphere (perhaps an option during Halloween) yet retains a sense of humor.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
When health inspections go wrong, September 18, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008, horror, parser-based, Inform

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.


3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Interactive (pulp) fiction, July 21, 2018
by ialessan
Related reviews: horror

This is a fun horror adventure -- with lots of gross little details, a delightfully horrifying 'smell' function, and several interesting endings. A caricature of a villain, but that's the nature of pulp. Isn't it?

One quibble: I just wish the parser understood more words and word combinations.


1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fun real-life job simulation that takes a sharp turn to Crazyville, February 3, 2016

This game is pretty bizarre. In this game, you are a health inspector checking out a horribly disgusting bar. You get points by 'noting' things in your notebook.

I really enjoyed this part of the game. It's fun trying to think of every way you can get the jerk owner on stuff. Although I should have known weird things were going on when (MAJOR SPOILER)(Spoiler - click to show) I found eyeballs floating in the gutter). I realized that this game may not be for the squeamish; I felt a bit uncomfortable.

After a while, you start to find out weird stuff. I formed an initial theory. After I found the weirdest of the weird stuff, my theory took a blow, and then was shattered into millions of pieces. The final plot of the game was a little cliche, but done inventively enough that I had a great time. At least it wasn't a poorly-done Lovecraftian game (although I have to say, of the seven Lovecraftian games I have played, all were well done).

I needed a couple of hints.


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
"Tell Me, Inspector; how did you manage it?", May 16, 2010
by Ghalev (Colorado, United States)

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.



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