Codex Sadistica: A Heavy-Metal Minigame

by grave snail games

2021

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Number of Reviews: 6
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Several grades above scrap metal, for sure, December 3, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

So I was worried this game would be much darker than it actually turned out to be. Well, perhaps heavy-metal-hating adults from my youth who insisted there were Satanic messages in there, or at the very least it wasn't the sort of thing that helped you be productive in society, would disagree. But it did turn out to be sort of supernatural and dark, or at least, that's the fate that was threatened. It never actually happened. And yes, this effort is about heavy metal music and various subgenres, but this didn't stop my clueless self from enjoying it, and it shouldn't stop you.

You're at a heavy metal club and are very upset your own "real' metal band is being kept off the stage by a very long glam-metal performance. You need to get back on-stage. This is harder than it seems. The lead singer of the glam-metal band is, in fact, more than just a selfish jerk. Your problem? You'll need all your band members together to have the force to do so. They're all distracted by something silly. Emmy, your guitarist, is upset her Switch is low on power. Mae, your cousin ("and more importantly, your drummer") is being accosted by – horror of horror – dudebros out in the back. Tamm's brother insists on playing D&D with her. Clover and Max stuck themselves in a closet to avoid a stalker. All this must be settled before you go on stage. And there's a "horrible" secret why the glam-rock band is so popular: the lead singer is worse than the dudebros. A demon, in fact.

Evasive action must be taken so that the club and, indeed, the world avoids a horrible fate. The key command to use here is JAM: once you jam correctly with a fellow band member, they're willing to do what it takes to get on-stage. JAM also meshes different subgenres of metal into a third. All this is beyond me, and apparently the hybrids aren't relly related to the originals, but it's all in good, clear fun. Clear enough that even an uninitiate like me could understand it.

Minor vandalism is required. You must burn a poster for Acid Lobotomy (there really is a band named this! It's too perfect,) but the game notes they would've wanted it that way. You and Mae have a very detailed discussion about heavy metal minutae that can't possibly appeal to outsiders, but it does here, because it's obviously overdone, and it's used to leave the dudebros bothering her in the dust.

The game map itself isn't very big–it's one of those packed music clubs, after all. So you could trial-and-error everything except the puzzle noted in spoilers. I was worried it might be something much, much bigger due to the word "Codex," but really, I think it's about the right size.

I'm pretty sure I missed out on some of the joke details, and I had no clue whether or not jamming created different fusions of metal styles. But I didn't mind. It's a fun little romp of good (but not, like, sickeningly or boringly good) vs. evil. I very much enjoyed it, and I'm speaking as someone who doesn't really enjoy live music, especially loud live music. I'd almost say the game's good harmless fun, but somehow, that seems like exactly the wrong compliment. Perhaps I get all the excitement of crowds without, well, having to deal with crowds. At any rate, I think the author did a good job of articulating the excitement and humor of metal culture, probably better than I would do discussing college sports fandom or chess ("That Carlsbad pawn structure, eh? Eh?") And I'm glad I played it, as if it hadn't been in IFComp, I'd likely have said, eh, heavy metal? I'll pass.