Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win

by J. D. Berry

Espionage
1999

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Number of Reviews: 3
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Murder in a small package, April 18, 2022

I initially hesitated to get into this piece because it was labelled as "religion", which I thought could be rather controversial or preachy. To those who could find themselves in the same situation: fear not, "Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win" is part short puzzle, part satire and part corporate lingo. As a result, players are very unlikely to be offended by the topic from either side.

The player character plays "A" - the elderly but sharp top figure in the game's religion - as he attempts to thwart an attempt against his own life. I found the writing to be to my tastes and very representative of A's personality: witty, playful and accurate. The text quality was also fairly constant alternating between short descriptions, void-filling memories and satirical quips. Some rooms appear quite devoid of content (with A willfully remarking it) but there is enough to read as to gather some backstory on A and the religion he now commands.

On the other hand, there is little to do. A's quest translates to a short and linear game with around six locations and very precise actions and requirements to advance between them. Observation and examination (and searching!) of things mentioned, then putting some pieces together is all that is needed to progress in the game. Puzzles make sense to those paying attention and there is seldom need for a hint (Spoiler - click to show)(well, maybe "show knife" I got by pure chance.

I feel that the game works better as an appetizer than a full meal. Yes, there are interesting implications in the text, witty backstory components (I loved how places were also named after letters and how murder, conspiracy and power go hand in hand), lots of atmosphere and honest fun to be had, but the interaction with the world is quite restricted and some places I mostly rushed through. I can, however, recommend it as a game that might surprise players with its world and entertain them as long as they can follow along.