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All the Troubles Come My Way

by Sam Dunnachie

Comedy, western, contemporary, replayable
2023

(based on 15 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

or; Johnny Montana and His Missing Cowboy Hat

You, Johnny Montana, are a cowboy from 1883 inexplicably transported to modern day New York City. The world is a confusing and awful place, but nonetheless one you have to interact with, especially considering your newly cowboy misplaced hat. Explore the world and interact with what you can to try and find a replacement. This game is intended to be replayed. There are multiple different avenues for adventure, and it is up to you which ones you find yourself on each playthrough. The game contains swearing, and is not designed for young children.


Game Details


Awards

35th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cowboy lawnmower, December 19, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

Is there a name for the genre of games that are structured around collecting all the endings? Insomnia, in this year’s Spring Thing, comes to mind (still need to review that one) but I feel like I’ve played a bunch of others; they tend to be choice-based, with strong Time-Cave-style branching leading to a variety of equally-ridiculous endings, each playthrough is typically pretty short, they have absurdist premises and/or senses of humor, and the only gameplay challenge is typically how much lawnmowering the player wants to do before calling it a day? If not, there really should be, if only because the most interesting thing about All the Troubles Come My Way is the way that it is but also isn’t an Insomnia-like (look, we’ll workshop the name later, let me just get through this review).

On the “way it is” side, we can firmly tick the absurdist premise and/or sense of humor box: you play Johnny Montana, a cowboy from Texas who’s somehow (if you think this “somehow” is ever explained, or at all important, you are in the wrong genre) been transported to modern-day New York City, but instead of the game being about that strange, fish-out-of-water experience, it picks up an indeterminate amount of time later where your biggest challenge is finding your misplaced hat after a bender. The writing also wrests some humor from the clash between your old-fashioned personality and your new, incongruous surroundings:

“No, ma’am, that just wouldn’t be just,” you say. You try to finish the sentence dramatically by looking wistfully in the distance, but being in a bathroom, the distance is limited. You end up just squinting somewhat suspiciously at a toothbrush resting on the sink.

Playthroughs are also pretty short; I counted three major ways to win the game (by getting a, not necessarily your, hat), and not counting the prologue section, which is skippable on replays, the shortest probably takes about two minutes and the longest maybe ten. And as the blurb says, the game is clearly meant to be replayable, with engagement coming from how deeply you explore the possibility space.

Turning to the “way it isn’t” side of the ledger, though, the possibility space isn’t strictly branching; instead, it’s hub-and-spoke-y, with three major locations you can eventually move between, each of which offers at least a few sub-areas you can investigate or different ways you can engage. Relatedly, there’s also a mechanical system that impacts your ability to move between different branches: you have a quartet of RPG-style stats, with evocative yet vague names like Southern Charm and Rodeo, that sometimes increase when you make decisions and which gate certain actions. It’s an interesting idea but I found it an awkward fit: for one thing the player generally doesn’t have enough information to consciously decide how to build their character (at one point, questioning whether dirt is still brown in the future gets you a point of Cowboy Justice) or weigh whether a less-optimal-sounding choice that checks a strong stat is better than a more-appealing one that relies on a dump stat. Making things harder, unless you take notes you can’t even see how your build has evolved in a particular playthrough – I think this might be a limitation of the default implementation of Ink, since I couldn’t help thinking that a Twine sidebar or ChoiceScript stats page would have come in handy.

The system also seems overengineered for such a short game, like it needed more space to feel worthwhile. This is especially the case due to the game’s last major departure from the Insomnia-like template: all the endings are emphatically not created equal, since in only one of them do you find your own hat. And inverting my narrative intuition, that ending is the easiest, quickest one to get – in fact, I got it first time out, just as I was starting to feel like I understood the game’s vibe and systems. I replayed a few times and saw that it’s got a fair bit more to offer, and there are some fun vignettes in this portion of the game – I liked the verbal duel with the Indiana Jones impersonator and chatting with the costume shop clerk about 12 Angry Men – but since those other endings seemed manifestly worse (you mostly wind up with various hats that don’t belong to you and might only be cowboy-hat-adjacent rather than the genuine article), all this felt too much pointless padding; after all, I’d already gotten the “real” ending.

I should note that I’m no exponent of slavish adherence to a formula, and in theory, the attempt to expand out the Insomnia-like approach to include more robust gameplay systems is one I could see working. And the writing does a good job of being funny without becoming too annoyingly zany. But some of the specific choices made by All the Troubles Come My Way undercut the benefits of the new tack it’s taken; either make the RPG system lighter and more of a joke, or more important and legible to the player, and put the good ending at the far side of the content rather than right at the start, and I think you’d be on to something.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Wandering, branching cowboy game in Ink, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

I think I underestimated this game going in. It seemed just like a regular old Ink game with a silly premise that would be over in a few minutes.

Instead, it was a somewhat longer ink game with a pretty funny premise and a lot more state tracking than I’m used to in Ink games.

You play as a cowboy who was been transported to New York City (I read that in the voice of the old pace picante commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi6AFz2fbr8&t=13s 1). Once there, you have to find your cowboy hat!

I liked the tone of the game. It reminded me a bit of old ‘holy fool’ operas/plays where someone’s pretty dumb but is resistant to suffering and oddly accepted by everyone around them.

I had recently revisited NYC after moving out years ago and it was fun to see how his experiences paralleled mine (like wandering through the city and accidentally ending up in Times Square, having wild youths follow you around–in my case, the students I was chaperoning–, a helpful city native who doesn’t really care what’s going on with you as long as you don’t get in their way too much).

There was a kind of stat system. I couldn’t tell if it was actually checking stats or just being goofy, but I liked the stat names. And frequently I had to strategize to try to figure out what to do next.

So overall, this seems just right for a mid-size game in IFComp: not long enough that you get tired or bored, not short enough that you feel like you didn’t play anything. Good middle ground.

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That's Not an IF, THIS Is an IF, December 27, 2023
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

This piece brought home to me that relatively speaking, Westerns feel underrepresented in IF. Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance and Trauma all have significant bodies of work. Maybe not SO surprising, given the sun had set on Westerns before IF really became a thing. Finding one, or even a work adjacent to Western, is a pleasant surprise.

This is a comedy about a cowboy time slipped into modern New York, looking for his hat because “A cowboy without a hat is just a guy in a poncho.” Well done game, quest economically established! The protagonist is a full-of-himself Old West maybe-lawman. The game gives him RPG-like stats, but really amusing cowboy-based ones. Choices present themselves throughout the game that map to one or other of those stats, either increasing them or testing against them for success or failure. Decide how you want to lean into the search and Find That Hat!

The opening had a real Crocodile Dundee vibe to me, the overconfident frontier man asea in a metropolis he vaguely understands. A lot of it is wryly funny, especially when stats like “Rodeo” are employed to simple modern tasks like following street signs. (Though I’m reasonably sure that technology predated the Louisiana Purchase.) Incidental text is warmly amusing too: “There is a lot of trust in this table and its structural integrity. There should not be.” As is the best case with these things, some atmosphere and humor is competently built through the choices on offer - reasonable things to do that would not occur to a time-displaced cowboy are simply not available!

Between the light tone, brisk pace (fueled by narrow gameplay) and often funny text, the Sparks were flying. I feel though, that it could have been sharper. For as many tasks and activities that sparked with fun as many felt flat, needing a bit more salt to really land. There is an extended (Spoiler - click to show)conversation about the movie 12 Angry Men for example that needed a little more punch. The work’s use of profanity was a bit at war with its vibe. It felt more Singing Cowboy than Deadwood so the profanity jarred. I’m not saying don’t curse. Do what you f&@#$%in’ want, game. Nothing is quite as funny as well-employed profanity, but it should reinforce your piece not stand out.

Second time through, I made different choices (as one does) but still kind of ended up on the same path. To its credit, it was still amusing with enough new yucks to justify the playthrough. The quest thread though, resolved in victory with an almost trivial conclusion. This doesn’t HAVE to be fatal. Low stakes, trivial problems exacerbated comedically by fish-out-of water humor is a pretty reliable formula. Again, here the need for additional spice deflated things just a bit.

The game proclaims it has multiple paths and endings. I expected more divergence than I got, and certainly it is possible for yet-untaken choices to unlock those. For me, the too-repetitive play and unsatisfying victory was just a higher bar that the comedy couldn’t quite clear. Now that the Writer’s strike is over, maybe a script punch up cycle could really make this thing shine?

Also, this game is dead wrong about gin, but whaddya want from a traildust-encrusted palate?

Played: 10/22/23
Playtime: 30min, two playthroughs, found hat!
Artistic/Technical ratings: Sparks of Joy, bonus for inspired Western RPG stats )
Would Play After Comp?: No, experience seems complete


Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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All the Troubles Come My Way on IFDB

Polls

The following polls include votes for All the Troubles Come My Way:

Outstanding Ink Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Ink game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible games...




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