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Tough, nasty, guilty fun, November 16, 2009
Broken legs is a gloriously written game, one that revels in the sheer vileness not only of its protagonist but of the world in which she dwells. This is a character who makes Varicella look like Francis of Assisi, and the basic idea of the game is much like Varicella: the loathsome PC must eliminate a series of equally loathsome rivals within a time limit. Rather than a struggle for political power between courtiers, however, this is something much more vicious: a group of teenage wannabe starlets competing for the last place at a prestigious stage school. Lottie, the protagonist, has screwed up her audition, so the only thing to do is to ensure that all her rivals do the same thing even more disastrously. And so the mayhem begins.
I donít think Iíve ever played a game with a more over-the-top hateable main character: it both adds to the game (as an interesting experience) and detracts from it (you really donít want Lottie to succeed, given that sheís the nastiest one of the lot). The gameís light touch and superb writing do much to make the nastiness fun, however. The author captures and parodies the ghastly valley speak, not to mention the two-faced bitchiness, of these would-be clean-cut starlets in such an exaggerated way that its basically humorous nature is never obscured. (Spoiler - click to show)The effect is enhanced still further by the glorious twist at the end, complete with the option to play through the game again with additional comments in the light of what we now know is really going on. It turns out that the wickedness of Lottie as revealed throughout the game is entirely fictional Ė but only because there is even greater duplicity at work. The world of this game is revealed to be even more fathomlessly nasty than we thought.
I found the game staggeringly difficult. Some of the methods needed to eliminate the rivals are decidedly hard to work out. That is, of course, as it should be, but some are harder than they need to be because of the fairly basic interaction system. Much of what you need to do involves getting other characters to do things for you, but the limitations of the ASK/TELL conversation system make it hard to do this. (Spoiler - click to show)I worked out, for example, that I needed to get Rosanna to lie to Kassie about the audition, but I couldnít find any way to even suggest it to her. It turned out that I needed only to give her the memo. But it wasnít obvious to me that it was merely a lack of the memo that was preventing her from telling the lie. One or two also seemed insufficiently clued to me. (Spoiler - click to show)When talking to Alexandra, the topic of her shoes and music never came up. In fact even after I knew, from reading the hints, that these were the key to defeating her, I never found a way to get her to talk about her music. And these items werenít visible in the room. So without the explicit clues, I would never even have thought of focusing on them. However, the in-game hint system is a lot of fun and gives helpful hints. It still wasnít enough for me, though, since I ended up using the walkthrough to see enough of the game to try to judge it fairly. And in this case, Iím glad I did, as I would never have solved most of these puzzles left to my own devices.
For me, the difficulty and rather random nature of many of the puzzles is a negative point against this game, although they may not be for others. Apart from that, though, the gameís gloriously nasty premise and excellent writing make it a very strong and enjoyable offering.