Stink Bug Plague

by zephyo profile

Educational and Humor

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Goofy, clunky edu-tainment, January 12, 2017

Stink Bug Plague is supposed to be an educational comedy game. It's true that the initial passages and the endings are ridiculously over the top. You might even find them funny. And it's true that the research phase of the game packs a lot of entomological info. But these two aspects of the game are badly stitched together. The tone shifts drastically from one moment to the next. No sooner are you immersed in the goofball wild-card antics of the opening scenes than you're expected to switch into hard-core scientific research. There are even links to scholarly articles, like you're going to stop playing a game and go read a scientific journal. I got tired quickly of thrashing back and forth between the madcap flavor text and the dry research.

Luckily, you can skim the research passages, because the game takes notes for you. Your job is to use these notes to stem the stink bug tide. Incidentally, it took me a long time to figure out how to advance to that part of the game, because it's assumed that you will repeat a certain action several times, for no apparent reason. It felt like I'd already done everything and for a while I thought I had made some crucial error.

The last phase of the game pulls things together a little better. You have a well-defined set of choices to make based on your notes. But the winning combination turns out to involve some guess-work, and most of the research results (including those from the heavy-handedly sanctioned scholarly sources) turn out to be red herrings.

After having played the last phase once, I found replaying the research phase a little more fun. It felt a little more like hunting for clues and less like slogging through a mass of overly detailed information. I wonder if earlier access to the lab (and a more logical use of the research info) would help to enliven the early game. It also would be very helpful to get some explanation or hint (perhaps nudging the player back in the direction of a particular source) of why a particular combination of choices fails or succeeds in the last part of the game. I managed to get the best ending on my second try, but I have little idea why!

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