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Hinterlands: Delivered!

by Cody Gaisser profile

Part of Hinterlands
Science Fiction

Web Site

(based on 4 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

You have only one more package to deliver before clocking out for the weekend, but your spacecraft's tank is almost empty. Your Spacer's Atlas says there's a fueling station on a little planet called Fruppa IX (you've never heard of it). No need to worry, though - nothing could possibly go wrong here!

CONTENT WARNING: This work is intended for a mature adult audience. It contains violence, alcohol and drug abuse, strong language, and suggestive themes. Player discretion is advised.

Game Details


5th Place, Classic - ParserComp 2023


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Number of Reviews: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One interesting package, September 22, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

I’ve tried to write this metaphor three times now, but it keeps getting away from me. Part of me would love to keep tuning it until I get it right, but another, larger part of me would love to clear my review backlog before the Comp kicks off. So we’re going to go with draft number four, no matter how it turns out.

Imagine you’re looking at a cake. And not just any cake – this one’s colored mauve, let’s say, and has little pitchforks of spun sugar crammed into it at odd angles. Now that you look at it more closely, in fact, the whole thing is asymmetric, the various tiers all stacked off-center in a compellingly lurching way, though the structure is impressively solid. You cut a piece, and the cake itself is a marbled red and black with an anarchy sign somehow baked in, the verdigris frosting veining it almost seeming to pulse. Filled with excitement (and maybe a little trepidation) you fork a piece into your mouth – it’s … well, it’s good, and there’s a hint or two of some nonstandard flavoring in there, but actually, it mostly tastes like vanilla cake? Not that you dislike vanilla cake or anything, and again, this is a pretty good example of the form. But wow you were expecting something else.

Okay, I’m not too unhappy with that. I’m going to dive into a more direct discussion of Hinterlands colon Delivered exclamation point now, but keep that cake in mind.

Delivered! is the second in a series of Hinterlands games (the first, Marooned!, was a one-move game with a lot of jokes and even more gore), and its setup promises a slice of blue-collar sci-fi – a driver for the interstellar Parcel Express service, the protagonist gets caught up short on fuel and has to stop off at a godforsaken rock to gas up. Unsurprisingly, what starts out as a straightforward errand quickly winds up going off-track, but the twists and turns are anything but predictable, involving stealing a golden bucket from a sacred well, befriending then betraying some space moonshiners, drug abuse (like, using it for something other than its intended purpose, though yeah, people also use it to get high), mail fraud, freelance espionage, cross-dressing, blasphemous pyromania… oh, and here’s what X ME gets you:

"You are a more or less average specimen of Outer Lumpan heritage. Your leathery skin is pale blue and completely hairless. Your large spherical eyes are solid black. Your mouth is a lipless slit below an eggplant-shaped nose. Your small rounded ears protrude from the sides of your head in a way that is (apparently) comical to anyone who isn’t from Outer Lumpus. On top of your bald head are several dark blue nodules, which your dermatologist assures you are perfectly normal. Your build is tall and lanky, but you slouch (as your mother is always so keen to mention)."

In other words, this isn’t just blue-collar sci-fi, it’s Heavy Metal sci-fi, full of louche characters, oddball aesthetics, and shaggy-dog plots. This subgenre is pretty thin on the ground these days, so it makes for a refreshing change of pace, and Delivered! is a well-implemented take on the theme – the protagonist even after his triumphs remains firmly a loser, it feels like every single character you meet is running a scheme or scam (or is a gigantic dupe), and the setting boasts a scuzzy detail to go alongside every exotic one. And crucially, there’s some actual worldbuilding on display – unlike some games that are wacky for the sake of being wacky, here the setting is there to play host to jokes, rather than just being a joke. Speaking of implementation, things are solid on that front too. There’s a lot of depth in Delivered!’s medium-sized map, with tons of scenery, some complex set-pieces, characters with a ton of non-obvious conversation responses, and prose that communicates the weirdness of the world without getting overly prolix. There is an occasionally bit of guess-the-verb annoyance – I quickly figured out how to (Spoiler - click to show)drill holes in the wall to spy on the neighboring hotel room, but getting the syntax right took some trial and error – but nothing too bad.

So this is overall a fun, unique game that I really enjoyed. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add a few critiques, though. First is that the puzzles, while generally reasonable in terms of their difficulty, are occasionally unmotivated. For example, after suffering a certain reverse that meant that the most logical source for more fuel wasn’t going to pan out, I was stymied for what to do next – turns out the solution was to open a certain package, with no indication so far as I could tell that it would have anything to do with resolving my dilemma. And I had a similar experience two or three more times, when I took an action because it was the only thing available to do, rather than because it seemed likely to advance the protagonist’s goals.

As for the other point: remember that cake? Delivered! has a lot of off-kilter aspects, but both the overall structure of the plot (look for MacGuffin, suffer reversals until finally obtaining MacGuffin) and the details of the puzzles (there’s a disguise one, and a couple swap-stuff ones, and some keys to find) actually wind up being pretty normcore. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – heck, I’m wearing khakis right now! But given the lurid, gutterpunk vibe Delivered! so capably projects, I think I wound up feeling a little disappointed there wasn’t more gonzo on offer. In fact, for the author’s first full-bore piece of IF, the game is admirably controlled. From a design perspective, that was probably the right call, but I can’t help but hope that a notional third Hinterlands game will really cut loose.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
ParserComp 2023: Hinterlands: Delivered!, July 17, 2023
by kaemi
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

A journey into the far reaches of the galactic hinterlands teases you with the mysterious exoticism of interstellar adventure, but Hinterlands: Delivered! chugs instead into parallel mundanity. You’re operating a Parcel Express cargo craft into an “inconveniently located” planetary system, turning into the culdesac to drop off your last delivery before the weekend. The diffident fiction of the craft molds easily into the delivery van vibes, with an air conditioner that doesn’t work, an adjustable visor for the sun(s), and, we’re annoyed to notice, a fuel gauge running low.

So we swoop by the nearest rest stop and find ourselves either on a strange desert planet or in Utah: “The south side of the trail is blocked by an impassable overgrowth of brush, cacti, and weird spindly trees. Towering buttes are barely visible in the far distance.” This demonstrates the tension that low lore scifi exhibits, which is the need for compressing the expressive range to remain within a communicable shorthand. Otherwise, you end up with the dense flights of fancy that Hinterlands: Delivered! does make one go at: “To the other side of the farm is a closed pen containing a blurghon, a g'laar, an ooloo, a wyrgnacht, and a yiggim.” Gosh, guess we’ll need to destim the doshes! Because of that jabberwocky rattle, I rather enjoyed this sequence, which sizzled flair beyond western with rayguns. It’s exciting to explore when your examinations can yield “The g'laar is a large amphibious beast that resembles a bright yellow flea with pink fins where its legs should be. It has large compound eyes on either side of what must be the creature's head, which is otherwise featureless.”

This, being the highlighted exception, can lead you to intuit the rusted backroads detritus which instead makes up most of the world: “Slunk's room is not so much messy as impossibly over-crowded. Every inch of every surface is cluttered with something or other: shelves bowing under the weight of hundreds of old magazines, several rows of household cleaners on the dining table, the television perched atop an massive stack of old stereo equipment, accompanying remote controls lined up on the coffee table, multiple laundry baskets full of clothes on the bed, ashtrays and coasters scattered about everywhere, and so on and so on from floor to ceiling. There's barely space to stand.” These televisions, magazines, and stereos assure us that our spacefaring hasn’t dragged the text adventure out of the 80s. Classic puzzles like climbing a cliff with a rope and grapnel or using a cane to hook a key adhere to the orthodoxy. Our PC even has a classically heavy dose of the Adventurer’s Sociopathy, getting NPCs to look the other way by wreaking havoc with waspish disregard, stealing the sacred orb after which the planet is named by desecrating their only other sacred object as a diversion.

This all works, of course, to the extent that you’re here to play along. Weird details that don’t add up like a recreational drug that “any basic fusion reactor based engine can run on just a tiny pinch of the stuff” become humorous specifically because of their wild grasping. Dissonance becomes silliness, as when I had a tense chase with an assassin which led to a dramatic gunslinging confrontation, only to discover they’d had time to write up the entire sequence in their diary in meticulous detail. Look, I know I’m not the fastest gun in the west, but you don’t have to livetweet it!

In that vein, there is enough stuff around to make your jaunt feel complete by the time you’ve scrabbled together a liftoff. Plenty of twists keep up the momentum, and every noticed detail proves useful in a satisfying way. On display is a clear intentionality and ambition, even if it usually boils down to locks and keys. Which will surely prove a crowdpleaser in a ParserComp!

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cause havoc as an interplanetary courier, July 2, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is set in the Hinterlands, which I believe is a setting designed by the author (I've played another game from that setting). The setting reminds me a lot of the Max Blaster comics in Calvin and Hobbes: rayguns, oozy monsters, bizarre aliens, and a daring hero.

This game features a pretty large town with a wide variety of locations, like a farm, a temple, a distant shack, a nearby military base, an apartment building with many individual apartments you can enter, etc. However, everything is designed compactly to be easily traversible.

Your character is kind of a rogue or rascal. In the course of the game, you commit several heinous acts, but with the framing it comes of as more of an anti-hero than a pure villain, more like Rocket Raccoon than Darth Vader.

I didn't encounter any bugs. At one point there was a large rock I needed to interact with that didn't have any adjectives, while I also carried some rocks. So I had to go to another room to drop them; if the rock was 'large rock' or 'heavy rock' that could be avoided, but that's a minor quibble in a very polished game.

I had to use the hints three times, but they're organized pretty well, and each time the solution was fair, just involving more exploring and more talking.

Sometimes the logic isn't clear; you can get away with a lot of things that someone might reasonably stop you from doing. But I feel like it operates with the same kind of consistent logic as a Looney-Tunes cartoon (although darker!). It would make a pretty funny animated short.

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Hinterlands: Delivered! on IFDB

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