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Spine-Tingling Text-O-Rama, November 24, 2015
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!