Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand

by AZ / ParserCommander profile

Episode 1 of Gent Stickman

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Number of Reviews: 4
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
More than a sight gag, August 8, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2022

This is one for the books Ė a parser-based text adventure where, other than a few out-of-world commands, the only text is what the player types (those books must be comic books). This works sort of like those old Sierra graphic adventures that still used a parser, where you could see your character and their surroundings, but would direct them by typing Ė except where those games would similarly drop a text paragraph to tell you the results of your actions, here everything is depicted graphically or iconographically, as your stick-man protagonist ponders the unlikelihood of success when rejecting a proposed course of action, or holds out his hands to reveal the inventory. So this is a gimmick game, but itís a fun gimmick that rests squarely within the four corners of the ParserComp rules, which makes me like the gimmick even more.

The game itself, I liked less well. The order of the day here is juvenile comedy, which I think is the right call given the comedy inherent in the interface Ė youíre a stick-dude, a hand with googly-eyes (played I presume by the author(Ďs hands)) kidnaps your stick-girlfriend, you need to raid his castle to save her. Thatís all well and good, and some of the jokes are solid, including the inevitable twist ending. Unfortunately, the gameplay overcorrects with tough-as-nails puzzles which donít always make sense even given cartoon logic (Spoiler - click to show) (the high salt content means peeing on plants is generally a no-no rather than a valid watering strategy, is my understanding Ė or rather, thatís one of the reasons itís a no-no). This high degree of difficulty helps the game last longer Ė there are only four locations, and only two real puzzles plus a (pretty easy) guess-the-verb challenge Ė but it means that playing Gent Stickman means replaying it.

This wouldnít necessarily be so bad, since the various fail states are generally pretty amusing, but I ran into some technical difficulties that increased the annoyance factor. Most notably, the graphics that show the response response to your input loaded really slowly for me, which was a pain on its own but also meant that sometimes Iíd take an action and see two or three blank windows pop up in sequence before dumping me into a game over, which isnít especially helpful! There are also some places where the design conceit makes progress more difficult than it really should be, like where it took me forever to figure out how to read the text on a plaque mounted on the castle wall Ė READ PLAQUE didnít work, and I couldnít help thinking that in a regular parser game, Iíd be told exactly how the parser wants me to refer to the object, while in a graphic adventure Iíd just be able to click on it, so this was worse than the worst of both worlds (turns out I was a dummy and I just needed to READ SIGN).

All this means the middle part of my playthrough was kind of rough, as the novelty of this clever rethinking of how a parser game works wore off and the hard puzzles kicked my butt. After I got OK with abusing the (also entirely graphical) hint feature and powered through to the end, though, I looped back to being amused again. This is a funny, clever game, and I can forgive its Dark-Souls-ish difficulty level even if I canít endorse it. Iím not sure I need a bunch more games using the same interface, but as a one-off gag, Gent Stickman is hard to beat.

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