Bigfoot Bluff

by P.B. Parjeter

Humor
2022

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Highly original and funny, but underimplemented, cryptid adventure, August 6, 2022
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: inform, comedy, spring thing 2022

(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?

>wear glasses

The glare from the reflective coating gives your position away

Score minus two

– Examine the drone I saw hovering near the plane?

>x drone

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.