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About the Story
You are Bonnie Noodleman, Ordinary Well-Adjusted Teen-Ager, on an ordinary well-adjusted drive up Make-Out Mountain--until some gooey monstrosity from beyond the stars guzzles your boyfriend's brains clean out of his head! Jeepers, what a pickle! Can you convince the townsfolk you're not koo-koo, or is your thinker next on the alien menu?
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle - 2015 XYZZY Awards
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
As poor Bonnie Noodleman you have just seen your date have his brain straight-up guzzled. You leg it down from Make-Out Mountain and thus begins a textual parody of 1950s B-movie shlock. There is a magazine personality quiz which you do at the beginning of the story that determines your characteristics and what things you carry (I got a handy switchblade!). It’s something Bethesda probably wishes they could have come up with for the beginning of Fallout. I smiled and chuckled a lot.
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Brain-guzzling aliens have arrived from outer space to torment a New Mexican town. The citizens are oblivious, and it's up to you to convince them they're in danger before they've all been brain-guzzled. You play as Bonnie Noodleman, a Well-Adjusted Teen-Ager, and your yearbook profile lists your accomplishments as:
Winner, Miss Human Compass Junior Orienteer, 1956
Winner, Pine Nut Days Girls’ Grocery-Balancing Competition, 1958
I think this succinctly encapsulates the game's intent. It's a traditional text adventure that is self-aware about its tropes, and it's going to exploit them to have fun. And that's exactly what it does.
Structurally, the game is divided into a prologue followed by two main parts. The prologue is pretty much perfect. A character customization system built into an in-game magazine questionnaire, which then segues seamlessly into the action and establishes the setting, tone, and Bonnie's motivation all at once. It's great.
After the prologue, both of the game's two main halves are centered around object fetch-quests. You solve puzzles to collect items to deliver to an NPC in order to progress the story. When the first half concludes, you're treated to a satisfying action set-piece that feels like it will fundamentally alter the game. But then the dust settles, and not too much has changed, and you have to solve another puzzle sequence very similar to the one you just finished.
The second set of puzzles is actually better than the first, and the first set was already good. But the structure saps tension from the story right when things are starting to get dicey. I wanted the stakes to keep rising.
Of course the stakes were never going to be really high, because the game is a parody of B-movie horror. But parodies can have their own high stakes. And actually, the game is more a satire of American society "back in the day" than it is of horror films. It takes place on the cusp between the 50s and 60s. You've got Scooby-Doo hijinks, "ultramodern furniture" in "avocado, orange, and mustard-yellow," and the town fair has a Tomorrow Pavilion whose displays (including a robotic wife) are "glittering with the promise of tomorrow."
This reminded me a lot of The Venture Bros., which has a similar nostalgia for the era, even though it recognizes and criticizes the era's bigotry, repression, and naiveté. Brain Guzzlers is also critical, but it's never as scathing as Venture Bros. It's more interested in using the time period as a playful backdrop.
In the end, this is a very solid text adventure that will appeal to both sci-fi and horror fans, and it's got nice character illustrations too!
A good story-driven game with easy puzzles and a menu-based conversation system, so nothing gets in the way of defeating the Brainguzzlers and saving your 1950s American Smalltown.
I really liked the game for the first half hour of play. After that the caricature of 1950s scifi horror, and of 1950s American society began to wear me down. I began half expecting The Jetsons coming down in a UFO of their own to drop off the Fonz who would then save the day.
I also doubt that "Jeepers!" would last long as the swearword of choice during an alien attack.
Technically, the game is very well put together. The scripted conversations are perfect for an uptempo story like this. Intro, middle and endgame are well paced. I would have liked some more implementation of scenery, but that would have slowed the game down, so it's understandable. What did bug me, and slowed the game down is the lack of synonyms available. A fast-paced story-game like this would have benefited from a wide choice of different names for your items so you didn't have to stop to remember how something was called in the description. I hated that in a scifi setting such as this, "blaster" was not recognized.
Probably best played in one go, straight through to the (slimy) ending.
This story is a puzzle-light spoof of 1950's (and modern!) stereotypes and tropes.
None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, and primarily consist of 'find the right object' type quests, with simple but fun secondary mechanics. There are any number of red herring objects (based on one play: it's possible they have more utility or alternate puzzle solutions) that add a sense of depth and contribute to the comedic themes.
The dialogue is fun and peppered with classic 'old-timey' declarations--when you are offered the chance, try saying the 'worst' swear your character can imagine.
The writing is concise, terse, and flows nicely: this is a piece that has clearly been edited & written for readability, and the effort is greatly appreciated.
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