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Nominee, Best Writing; Winner, Best Individual PC - 2005 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 5
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In this mid-length work, you play as Wendy Little, secretary in Pickleby, Otis and Meyer, a position your father got you. You’re engaged to Derek, and, well, everything… is peachy.
Tough Beans is, on the surface, a going-to-work simulator – go to work, perform menial errands and so forth – but the story stands out. It highlights how women – especially those who fit the archetypes of femininity – are so often belittled and infantilised. The game opens with an extended musing on the names that people call you – in fact, barely anyone apart from the PC herself calls her by her given name:
Baby. Babe? Babe?
For as long as you can remember, you’ve never really had a name–never needed one. For 22 years people have swaddled you in epithets, letting you know that even though you’re not quite on the right track, the world is there to hold your hand. Your father, your friends, your boyfriend. Gas station attendants.
This game is heavily reliant on cutscenes (do I hear accusations of “not interactive enough!”?) to tell the PC’s account of a lifetime of being put down. Given that the game focuses on the story of an established character, I’d argue that it works, just that it can look daunting sometimes.
What would have made the game better would be work on the technical aspects and hinting actions that I needed to do to progress were not always obvious. The choice of verbs is not always intuitive (for me, anyway). If it were not for the walkthrough, I would have missed a puzzle altogether. Changes in location were not always clearly indicated in the text.
The story arc reminded me of Hedda Gabler’s play A Doll’s House, with the PC’s progress palpable through the story and contrasted clearly at the end. And I liked that (Spoiler - click to show)the asides, too, were written in a way that foreshadow troubles in the PC’s relationship (in response to examining the PC’s boyfriend’s books, you get “You’re trying to get moving, not put yourself to sleep.”
As someone who likes puzzles, I really enjoyed this game. In terms of implementation, it's pretty sound, with many unexpected objects and actions being accounted for, although I did find a few bugs, particularly with pronouns. The puzzles are well-clued and perfectly solveable; I particularly enjoyed the shoe puzzle at the beginning, and was incredibly satisfied to complete it without resorting to hints. What's more, I felt I really identified with the protagonist, and some of her comments really made me laugh, although I didn't really need the textdump flashbacks in order to feel this way. Sara really captured the paranoia of a woman in her situation well.
All in all, a solid, entertaining game. Nothing spectatular, but definitely well worth playing.
In this game, you play a young woman who has constantly been babied her whole life, and who is sick of it.
Your boyfriend leaves you a note in the morning with a job to take care of, but first you have to get dressed and out the door after some obstacles, including a hungry dog. Then you have to go to work, etc.
I liked the message of this game about standing up and not letting people keep you down. The puzzles weren't bad, with multiple solutions, but sometimes relied on extensively searching. Also, if people are visible from far away, then the description can change depending on where you are when you examine them.
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