by richard develyn


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Tale of Two Tree-Types, November 25, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

Mostly polished parser adventure, squarely in my wheelhouse. There is some opening business about a holodeck type setting, but it feels like a bare bones justification to allow you a walking tour of 8 wildly different arboreal climates. That’s a great design choice, actually. It hand waves at the background and quickly ushers you to the main exploring event.

I really liked the ambition of it. 8 different ecosystems, 8 different sets of locations and puzzles, many of which interact with some of the other 7. There is some classic puzzle gameplay in evidence, as well as some nicely novel ones. It's probably not a spoiler to say you bounce back and forth between them to resolve many puzzles. The puzzle text was mostly descriptive. NPCs are minimally rendered which on the one hand feels shallow, but on the other does nicely skirt the “ok this NPC is slowly transforming into a parrot” problem. I liked the “on the right track” hint messages. Still not sure where I land on the parenthetical “you still have the X” messages. Points for clarity, but jarring compared to surrounding text. I was either 1/5 or 1/8 complete at the 2 hr mark depending on how you score it. Right at the 2hr mark, there was what I’m going to call a bug in deceptive text. (Spoiler - click to show)It involves an object landing at your feet at a joust, but the nouns in the text prompt are unrecognized by the game, and per walkthrough the noun you need to use was never mentioned.

Other than that glitch, the puzzles seem capably rendered and satisfying. It feels like the variety and choices of settings are the true showpiece here though. The narration is well up to the challenge of immersively depicting very different ecosystems and geographies. Initial entry also provides a header quote of scientific or cultural interest, in a way that effectively conveys global scope. The variety of settings chosen plays deftly into that as well, creating a really epic feel.

If I scratch a little closer at it though, I’m not sure the 8 chosen settings click together smoothly. Half the settings use the unique trees/ecosystems as background for light puzzle play. The trees themselves little more than scenic/puzzle elements. Hoo boy the other half though. Fully half of them engage deeply dire ecological and/or sociological issues. On first impression I kind of dug it. Since I encountered a few lighter settings first (just by random chance), the heavier settings came as a gut punch. “Look at all the pretty trees… holy crap WHAT!!!” I do wonder how someone who chose differently would react - experiencing a dramatic REDUCTION in stakes. In any case two hours in, the contrast is dramatically jarring in a narratively intriguing way that totally sucked me in.

But but but. I am now petrified. I am petrified that the 4 different very fraught issues are not well served by the puzzle solving mechanic so far on display. That they could be reduced to background setting like the other 4, and effectively trivialized in a way that could be glib and offensive. So far the text has nimbly avoided this to its credit. It has given me no reason to fear I am in incapable hands. But the risk is so large I can’t help but feel trepidation. In particular, confidently invoking (Spoiler - click to show)‘strange fruit’ (google if you need to) feels like stomping your foot on thin ice and boldly declaring “I got this.”

I am Engaged, and also extremely nervous about what lies ahead. Bad time for 2hr timer to expire!

Played: 10/12/22
Playtime: 2hrs, did not finish, 21/100 score with one walkthrough lookup
Artistic/Technical rankings: Engaged/Notable Bug
Would Play Again? Almost certainly, as I chew fingernails to nubs

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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