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About the Story
Ten years ago you renounced Bigfootdom to become a paparazzi. Now it is your job to do an exposé on your reclusive sasquatch father. Welcome to Bigfoot Bluff.
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2022
Bigfoot Bluff (translated review)
Bigfoot Bluff by P.B. Parjeter is an interactive story programmed in Inform. The reader arrives at a recreation park, called Bigfoot Bluff, whose manager is his father, and must explore what happens in it. As in all these open interactive fiction stories, the result can be tiresome (especially for non-English language readers) because many attempts are required for the parser to understand something.
At least, in this case, there is a map in PDF format, which can help guide you to where you are and what you can do. In any case, the language engine is quite lacking.
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I started the 2022 Spring Thing Festival with Bigfoot Bluff by P.B. Parjeter. It looked like a light-hearted, easy to play through game, but I got stuck, and without a walkthrough, I couldn’t finish it.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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(A version of this review first appeared in my blog during Spring Thing 2022.)
Bigfoot Bluff is a busy parser adventure game of bizarre comedy. You play a paparazzi Bigfoot trying to snap a picture of your dad, also a Bigfoot, in a national park he controls. You're doing this for reasons that are hard to understand at first and hard to articulate later. Plus the park has other cryptids in it and you're photographing them. Why to both? Well, it works out eventually, but this doesn't feel like the kind of game in which one should be fumbling for understanding as often as one is.
BB taps the vein of fun eight-bit adventures with its tons of amusing objects to collect, little puzzles all over the place and a sarcastic parser voice. It's quite compulsively enjoyable already, but simultaneously frustrating to play. Part of the trouble is in the realm of combinatorial explosion. With so many crazy objects in the game (you can sling a goat over your shoulder, dig chocolate out of a pie, wear a falconry glove, take photographs of things, build disguises out of bits of park detritus, etc.) interactions amongst them are underimplemented. This much stuff calls for that much more development work. Many great ideas I typed in received default rejection messages, making my perception of puzzle difficulty go up. There are also minor bugs and almost no synonyms, which leads to time spent retyping and rephrasing good commands.
And, for a good while, I genuinely thought the game was trolling me. Part of the HELP says:
"... Try to do various things that will help you stay hidden in the park. As you do, your score will increase and you will be able to track down Bigfoot Senior and catch him on camera...
Bigfoot Bluff is a forgiving game even though undoing is disabled. If you lose points, don't worry! Just keep playing and you will more than make up for the lost points."
So the score is related to stealthiness. If you act stealthily or increase stealth, your score goes up. But if you bumblingly draw attention to yourself, you lose points. I grew to find the numerous ways you can lose points increasingly hilarious, and suspected that the game's help message about its forgiving nature might be part of the joke.
Here are examples.
What if I...
– Put on some aviator glasses I found on a crash dummy in a downed plane?
The glare from the reflective coating gives your position away
Score minus two
– Examine the drone I saw hovering near the plane?
The drone focuses its lens and you hear a click as it photographs you.
Score minus one
– Try setting a weather-altering machine to SNOW in hopes of making me harder to see?
>set weather to snow
You set the weather machine to snow.
It begins snowing. Your tracks will only make you easier to follow.
Score minus one
Try setting the same machine to WINDY instead?
>set weather to windy
You set the weather machine to wind.
The wind picks up; this will only blow your scent around.
Score minus one
After twelve score-altering events had occurred in the game, I had made a net gain of only three points.
It took me a long time to get on the wavelength of BB. To really understand the premise, and what I was trying to do, and why, and how I should be going about it. I think part of this may be that the intro is too sparse. The premise is deliberately silly, but it's also sophisticated. The opening line is:
"Ten years ago you renounced Bigfootdom to become a paparazzi. Now it is your job to do an exposé on your reclusive sasquatch father. Welcome to... Bigfoot Bluff."
This bit of prose requires unpacking and raises a lot of questions. But the game just starts with you standing in a Parking Lot of short description. Probably the HELP text would be better placed as part of the introduction, and it could all stand to be more focused. I don't think having to make sense of everything slowly by playing the game is the best fit for BB.
The game builds up an effective aesthetic that is simultaneously funny and a little menacing. The emphasis on surveillance inevitably makes you feel like you're being watched. The descriptions of the park don't need to be extensive to create a strong sense of place, a naturally beautiful wilderness with your father's menacing cabin sitting in the middle of it, and the PDF map helps, too. There are wacky cryptids about the place, such as the Garbogriff, for you to photograph, and the taunting announcements / nature talks your father is strangely obliged to give by loudspeaker at such times are amusing as well as truly weird. His later revelations are even weirder and wilder.
BB describes itself as a sandbox game. I don't think I've ever really understood the term, but here it seems to refer to both the nature of the map, and perhaps the mechanic whereby there are many puzzles to be solved, but that you don't have to solve them all. I found this to be a relief because I had a good amount of unused stuff left in my inventory at game's end. And that end is quite spectacular.
BB is a detailed and very funny game, but its implementation isn't a match for its content, and I believe it's unnecessarily hard to get into. I'd like to see these issues addressed in a future update.
(I beta tested this game)
The first three sentences of Bigfoot Bluff land like a clap of thunder:
"Ten years ago you renounced Bigfootdom to become a paparazzi. Now it is your job to do an exposé on your reclusive sasquatch father. Welcome to Bigfoot Bluff."
This opening crawl efficiently answers every question you could have about the game – you have your who what where and why all cleanly laid out, albeit “how” is a bit trickier since you don’t start with a camera – while raising a whole host of new ones a player wouldn’t know they had to ask, like “wait, can you just choose to stop being a sasquatch?”, “have I been like photographing celebrities in Santa Monica sushi joints for the last decade? As a sasquatch?”, “couldn’t I just do the exposé on myself?”, and “wait, shouldn’t it be paparazzo or is that not how Italian works, because I’m pretty sure ‘paparazzi’ is Italian” (maybe that last one is just me).
To its credit, Bigfoot Bluff is adamant about not answering any of those questions – it’s given you all the backstory you need, and now it’s time to just roll with it. Beyond just the disorienting setup, the overall vibe of the setting took me a minute to get a handle on, before realizing that the author’s riffing on early-90’s tabloids, from the blurrily-photographed cryptids to a late-game cameo that I won’t spoil. In fact the ending pulls out a number of rugs, questioning the premise and raising significant questions about what’s going on outside the eponymous park. Squint, and you can see the game touching on questions that go beyond the terminally silly, about media production and overzealous parenting and identity – which it then comprehensively undercuts, so maybe the joke is on me for starting to take it seriously. Regardless, it’s a uniquely-combined set of reference points that come together into a mélange that’s memorable even if it might not be to every player’s taste.
The gameplay is also something of a rara avis. Bigfoot Bluff bills itself as a sandbox game, which calls to mind a certain structure – of a fairly open map where the player has a lot of freedom to solve puzzles, which are largely of the medium-dry-goods variety – but here also speaks to the mechanics. Rather than requiring you to run through a linear chain of barriers to unlock the endgame, though, the game takes a more systemic approach. Instead of points, you have a stealth score, that abstractly represents how noticeable you are; the finale is gated behind getting a sufficiently high score, on the theory that at that point you’re sneaky enough to get sufficiently close to your bigfoot dad to snap a pic.
Even more intriguingly, this doesn’t only increase monotonically – while solving many puzzles will increase your stealth, as will wearing the appropriate disguises, but some actions can also decrease your stealth. Sometimes these are signposted, but sometimes what feels like ordinary IF-protagonist behavior gets you dinged. For example, you might think that wearing sunglasses would help you blend into the crowd, but in the park environment, the glare they give off winds up drawing attention to you. The game is clear that you can always regain lost points by taking appropriate actions, which adds an interesting wrinkle, though it also necessitates disabling UNDO to prevent the player from ignoring this aspect.
I’m of two minds about this – on the one hand, this moves the gameplay in a roguelike direction, creating the expectation that part of the fun for the player is rolling with some punches, but on the other, sometimes it can set up situations that feel like gotchas, which hits doubly-hard when the player convenience of taking back the offending action is removed. I personally like roguelikes, and given the large number of ways to get points none of these setbacks wind up being that punitive, but at the same time keeping UNDO enabled might encourage players to opt into the chaos, rather than leaving them to start save-scumming or declining to poke at dangerous-seeming situations. At any rate, experimenting with traditional gameplay axioms like this is exciting – it gives me lots of ideas for other ways to import roguelike or immersive sim mechanics into IF.
I keep using, or circling around, the word “unique”, because there’s very little that Bigfoot Bluff does that’s conventional. It’s notable that the author has previously made choice-based games, I think – I’ve mentioned my thesis that the long-established division between these two kinds of works is breaking down, and BB may be an example of how that hybridization is shaking things up, since my sense is that the kinds of systemic design it uses are more prevalent in the choice-based space. If it’s an experiment, though, it’s a generous one, letting the player choose how deep they want to get into the puzzling and allowing them to roam the (nicely-illustrated) map to their heart’s content. Even though I mostly wound up wittering on about design, here, it’s still very much a fun, playable game – it just might leave your brain bouncing in a bunch of different directions when you’re done.
P.B. Parjeter is an author best known for complex twine works, usually long and intricate. This seems to be the first parser game by this author.
You play as Bigfoot's kid, a sasquatch on a mission to expose your father to the world by photographing him and other cryptids. You explore a park while working on your master plan.
It's quite a bit more solid than most first parser games by authors who already know twine. I didn't see many, if any, capitalization or punctuation errors. There were a couple of things I think could be polished (like using custom appearance text for items and a smoother introduction of some items in the initial scene).
What goes write is the creative and inventive puzzles, and the forgiving point system where you only have to get 60 points to win. That means that if you're beating your head against a particularly tricky puzzle or having trouble getting the parser to listen in one section, you can just skip it. So I skipped all the light puzzles and the ants.
The game lists several parser authors as beta testers, which may help explain why the game is so well put together for a first author. I can only expect that the remaining rough edges would be fixed up in a subsequent game as the author gained more experience. Overall, I had fun with this game.
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