The Last Doctor

by Quirky Bones

2021

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A tiny gem, November 30, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

The Last Doctor is one of the slightest games in the Comp – my first playthrough took less than ten minutes, and there are only two or three substantive choices on offer. There’s basically zero context provided for anything, with the central-casting post-apocalyptic milieu only barely sketched and the doctor protagonist getting only a word or two of backstory and certainly nothing as specific as a name. And yet!

Since IF Comp is primarily concerned with text, writing that’s good enough can turn even the most prosaic game into a killer app – and the prose in the Last Doctor is quite good indeed. In the author’s capable hands, even a few details or a single line of dialogue are enough to conjure up an image or reveal character. As with most of the choice games, I played this one one-handed on my phone while Henry was napping, but atypically, I actually went to the trouble of typing out some of the bits of writing I liked so I could include them in this review. Your clinic is host to “two medical beds [and] a chessboard of pill bottles”, for example, and the choice to ask a patient a bunch of questions about their condition is labeled “introduce her to Socrates.” And the writing is good enough to enliven the central moral dilemma, which could feel hackneyed and contrived if told by a weaker pen, but here feels satisfying and just right, regardless of how you resolve it. Again, this is a small thing – but it’s a small, beautiful thing, which is no bad thing to be.

Highlight: I’ve singled out some of the favorite bits of writing, but I also admired the laconic scene-setting of “Your days are long. Your hair is short.”

Lowlight: I may have found a slight bug having to do with how the game tracked my choices: (Spoiler - click to show)opted to treat the scavenger with all the supplies I had, and then tried to save the syndicate boss but failed due to not having what I needed. But in the final conversation with Baba, he said a line that implied the boss had died because I’d refused to provide him treatment.

How I failed the author: I don’t think I did, happily enough – the effort to type out that Socrates gag one-handed was definitely worth it.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A too-brief moral dilemma, November 30, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

This quick effort provides a few moral dilemmas a doctor faces but doesn't explore them as much as I had hoped, given the strong good introduction. You're a doctor in some sort of war-zone. You have a choice of how much to treat your current patient. Treat them properly, and you have no resources for the next patient. Don't treat them, and maybe you can treat more. But will it be satisfactory? The patient seems grateful either way.

The next day, the warlord responsible for the huge conflict comes in, with his posse. He's close to critical. You have the choice to treat him or not (he says he understands, since you're helping the rebels, and nobody will harm you even if he dies.) Either choice you make, he comes back later, offering you a position where you have more resources and can treat more people better. The dilemma, of course, is whether healing soldiers aligned with an oppressive system will, in fact, do more damage.

The themes are treated a bit lightly, as I see it. I don't know if I buy that the soldiers you treat aren't wounded quite as badly if you help the big boss. It reminds me of the flip side of Saki's The Storyteller where the kids say "but wouldn't people have helped her even if she weren't bad?" Perhaps the boss orders less flesh-cutting bullets, or even fewer head shots, but even so that doesn't stop the war. It feels a bit like bullies backing off when security guards are watching.

Without more details, it's impossible for the reader to divine the boss's intent fully, but on the other hand, you've been helping for a long while, according to the story. So you should know something about what the boss does, how he does it, and maybe even how much fault people on your side have for the whole mess.

So trying for a fable- or thought-experiment-like effect ("help 5 mean people or 4 nice ones?") really doesn't quite work for me, here. It feels like there should have been more, and I expected it, from the first interactions with the patient. But it felt like maybe the author ran up against a time deadline and wanted to send in something complete. And it is, but it feels a bit workmanlike after the first patient.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Treat ‘em and street ‘em, November 9, 2021

This game is super-short, but your choices absolutely matter. You play as a doctor in a post-apocalyptic setting, struggling to treat patients with dwindling supplies. It is written very economically, but establishes the situation so well that you never doubt that what you decide is going to affect lives. I enjoyed several playthroughs, and will probably continue playing until I am sure I have seen all the outcomes. I want to make a comment about the endings, because I was really interested in knowing more about how things turned out. However, a lengthy epilogue might clash with the brevity of the rest of story. I’m not usually interested in dystopian fiction, but I thought the setting helped emphasize the urgency of this character’s situation.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short game about doctors and ethics in a future scenario, October 24, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a short Ink game. You are a doctor in a clinic that is almost empty. You have encounters with people and have to decide whether to spend your supplies on them.

The game is pretty short, almost like a demo for a larger game. Each major choice is an ethical one, and at the end the game thanks you for taking an examination (and starts with a similar comment), so I think it's intended for you to reflect on your morals.

Overall, it's a solid idea, but wasn't long enough to draw me in emotionally or to invite replay.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly bitter pill, October 3, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, Ink, choice-based, IF Comp 2021, drama, sci-fi

The Last Doctor is a choice-based game by Quirky Bones, published in 2021. You are an impoverished doctor in a conflict-ravaged, ambiguously post-apocalyptic setting. Some patients enter your clinic, you assess them, and you then decide how to use your scant supplies. The story can progress to a few different directions depending on your choices.

The writing style is compact and stylized. It feels like many details about the game's world are obfuscated by the intentionally vague and evocative prose, but it still tells you enough to create interesting mental images and make you care about your choices. (Spoiler - click to show)It's a pity that the game is very short and doesn't build much on its core ideas. You only take care of two patients, and the story ends so soon that it's a bit of an anti-climax.

The game has some brief descriptions of medical procedures and injury, but they aren't very detailed and come across somewhat milder than I'd expected considering both the main character's bloody profession as well as the grim feeling of the setting itself.

The technical quality of the game is decent. The interactivity is simple but functional. I did notice two text mistakes, including a missing word and a typo. It's nothing deal-breaking, though.

The suggested playing time is 30 minutes, although I think my first playthrough was actually closer to 10 minutes. However, the game does have multiple endings which gives it replay value. Overall, it's not a bad title to try out if you want to briefly dip into a dark setting and think about humanity.



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