NOLA Is Burning

by Claudia Starling


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I honestly have no clue what I just played. Gangster horror?, September 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is completely off the rails. It started out as weird, segued to somewhat offensive, and then just took off into a bizarre void that somehow improved it.

The main character in this game is perhaps the most despicable MC in any Choice of Games entry I've played. You are a 'headcrusher', a violent enforcer for a local mob boss, and you're famous for torturing and killing people with a jagged, rusty knife. You are in love with your boss's wife and have been given a suicide mission to rescue her within 6 hours.

Now, I have no problem with aggressive protagonists. I've enjoyed taking over Alaska with a robot horde in Choice of Robots and being a slaughtering warrior hero for the Gods in Champion of the Gods.

But both of those games motivated the evil or violence. Before I played NOLA is Burning, I started compiling a list of what I think works and doesn't in Choicescript games, and having a motive for violence is one of them.

This game just kind of throws you out there. I don't know, it didn't really work for me.

Each chapter is a different step on your way to your final confrontation. You pass through an area with friends who practice Vodou, the turf of an Asian gang led by 'The Dragon', the local police precinct, and a strip club.

The game heavily uses slang, such as 'juice' for money and 'large' for (I think?) lump sums of $10,000 each. It uses phrases like 'Let's blow this popsicle stand' and 'hip to my jive'.

No other Choicescript game treats its main character so bad. You're constantly being betrayed or degraded or having body parts deeply injured or removed or having weird stuff shoved down your throat.

It's last few chapters took all this bizarre confusion and made it almost sublimely ridiculous. I had the honor of (Spoiler - click to show)losing my right arm, being possess by a Vodou loa and gaining a bionic bone-shooting arm, confronting the mob boss who was naked and wearing a baby's bonnet in a bathtub full of money before being lured by him into a room filled with robotic spiders.

The only game I've ever seen that can compare with the circus this puts on is Bolivia By Night, which has a memorable segment where you drive an armored hottub that is powered by a DVD from a South American knockoff of the Olsen Twins.

Ooh, boy. I told myself I'd never rate a Choice of Games article below four stars because 1. I love choice of games titles, 2. I wrote one and know how it feels to spend months or years of your life on these things, and 3. they've all gone through a lengthy review process and are generally polished.

So I'm just going to go through my rating system blindly and see where I end up.
+Polish. This game felt completely smooth mechanics-wise. No problems here, no typos.
+Descriptiveness. It had it in spades, often to my regret.
+Emotional impact. Yes, again by the above.
-Interactivity. I felt like the stats were confusing and didn't add up quite right.
+Would I play again? From seeing some others' comments, there's parts I definitely would want to see.

So 4 stars. You know, I almost gave it a point for interactivity anyway because I felt like I had real agency, but I honestly can't recommend this game to people in general, which is what I believe a 5 star review represents. I did not enjoy this game in the sense that its scenes filled me with delight. But as a critic I find it fascinating. I would recommend it to people who are into seeing the weird corners of company back catalogs and other obscure things.

The writer is definitely talented, they just use that talent in ways that give me discomfort, much like the opening scene of this game where I had to chug a bottle of Pepto Bismol after waking up in a dumpster.

I received a review copy of this game.

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deathbytroggles, September 19, 2020 - Reply
It's kind of jarring to see a four-star review from a game you actively dislike, though I want to say I respect your persistence trying to be objective with your rating system. I find objectivity exhausting and strictly rate game on the time-honored scale of "How much did I enjoy this?" I think there's value in both and I appreciate your system.
MathBrush, September 19, 2020 - Reply
You know, I had written a lot longer response, and I was going to talk about how my rating system had evolved over time, about my special responses to Choicescript games, whether I was biased or not, if I had become too positive.

But I looked over my first few dozen reviews and I was surprised to see I was exactly the way I am now. I gave at almost all 5's and 4's. I rated games I disliked highly. At least I'm consistent!
deathbytroggles, September 19, 2020 - Reply
So you're the reason people down vote my two-star reviews! ;-)

I try really hard to articulate my subjective opinion so it doesn't come off bitter or condescending, at least with free games (Roberta Williams I'm not so kind with). I think there's value in reviewers being honest about their negative emotions while playing something (e.g. disgusted, offended, bored, irritated) as long as they can be specific rather than general.
MathBrush, September 19, 2020 - Reply
Negative reviews fill a very important place. Sam Kabo Ashwell, Victor Gijsbers and Sobol are other reviewers I can think of that view things with a critical eye.

As for me, I've taught at 6 different institutions and have gotten in trouble at all but one for giving too high of grades, so it extends to my whole life and personality.

As for downvotes, have you checked your older reviews? There was a troll guy on here with 4 fake profiles who would downvote everything. They banned him and a lot of my review downvotes went away.
deathbytroggles, September 20, 2020 - Reply
And I once got in trouble as a debate judge for giving out too low of scores! My thought was if you don't want me to give out low scores, don't make those scores an option!
MathBrush, September 19, 2020 - Reply
Thanks! You know, I really didn't like Vespers, Varicella, De Baron or 9:05, either. They all left me with a bad taste, and are a reason I took a 5 years hiatus from IF. But I think there's value in games that can create feelings besides enjoyment, and I've come to enjoy Vespers specifically. BTW I enjoyed your review of To Hell in a Hamper!
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