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About the Story
This game is a joke. This game is a warning. This game is a satire. This game is inspired in equal parts by Vaclav Havel's "The Memorandum" and Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". This game is a big, stupid shaggy dog story.
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Winner, Best Individual PC - 1998 XYZZY Awards
7th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)
An office game--you're dealing with irritating coworkers, malfunctioning vending machines, and the like--but with twists that send it way beyond the office-game genre. The author calls it a "rushed and uneven mixture of gonzo humor and surreal horror," which isn't entirely inaccurate, but it's still an impressive game--by turns nastily subversive and darkly funny. The ending, in particular, is surprising, and it's easy to miss what the author was really driving at if you don't read carefully. The main problem (and, in my book, the only thing keeping this from a five-star rating) is that it's often hard to figure out what to do next; your motivations are often unclear unless you happen to know what the trajectory of the story is already. NB: it's possible to reach what seems to be an okay ending after about 10 moves, but there's much, much more to the game than that, so if you reach that ending, go back and try again. Has adaptive hints (which you're likely to need). Highly recommended both as a game and as an object lesson in IF theory.
-- Duncan Stevens
Little Blue Men is, at bottom, a highly bizarre game. It begins in a ho-hum office setting and abruptly shifts into...well, it's hard to say. Sci-fi/horror/dystopia/fantasy, maybe. The result, though uneven in spots, is certainly unique, and rather disturbing as well: familiar elements of the office environment are given a sinister cast, and the game is enlivened throughout by macabre humor.
-- Duncan Stevens a.k.a. Second April
I quite enjoyed this game, although it was a bit vulgar, but not too vulgar.
-- David Ledgard
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
There's a lot to like about this game. It is written well, and although it doesn't achieve an overall arc, it does contain moments which can be quite moving or frightening. Technically I could find very little for which to fault it, both in its writing and its coding. Its puzzles may have had some unpleasant content, but they were clever and engaging, and generally quite well integrated with the storyline. But for me, it did not succeed as a work of art. Nonetheless, I respect it for being an ambitious but flawed experiment -- I'll take that over competent repetition any day.
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Number of Reviews: 10
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Mike Gentry is a terrific writer, and specifically a terrific writer for IF: his descriptions are evocative without being longwinded, and his viewpoint character gets plenty of attitude. He is also good at getting the player go to along with actions that seem more and more likely to lead to bad places, just because the curiosity to find out what is going on is so strong.
Little Blue Men shows off all these things to advantage. Unfortunately, it also has a couple of things going against it. One is the puzzle design: this game is genuinely cruel on the zarfian scale, and I had to restart three or four times in order to make sure I had everything I turned out to need in the end game. A few actions aren't clued as well as they could be, either. There are some hints, but they don't go all the way to providing specific instructions if you get stuck, and they're not enough to save you from losing objects you're going to turn out to need. In some games this might not matter so much, but I found the disruptions and replaying annoying precisely because I was so interested to find out what was going to happen next. But then, I tend to think that making the player replay from scratch (except in games specifically designed to be understood this way, such as Varicella or Rematch) is a great way to screw up the pacing of an otherwise gripping piece of IF.
My other complaint is a little more subjective: there's lots of creepiness going on here, and sometimes I start to think that I understand the intended reality, only to have that understanding ripple and become mysterious again. I do not absolutely demand that my stories tie everything up with a nice neat bow, but LBM leaves things a bit more confused than I would have liked.
For all that, though, it's definitely worth playing, especially for horror fans.
I liked Little Blue Men a lot. I normally can't stand Cruel (on the Zarfian scale) games, but LBM requires so few moves to complete successfully, and has such a small world to move around in, that it didn't particularly bother me.
The puzzles are tightly put together, the atmosphere is well done, and I rather liked plot and theme both. The author (and some reviewers) speak a lot about motivations of the protagonist being different from that of the player, but... I didn't really have that problem. The story puts you in an office that you loathe working in and loathe everyone else who works in, and presumes that you're a little... off. I didn't have that much problem suspending disbelief and cheerfully putting myself in the protagonist's shoes, really. In real life I wouldn't (Spoiler - click to show)kill and drug coworkers, but it's not real life, it's a game, right?
I also didn't have much complaint with the surprise ending. It's a twist, sure, but it seems to fit well enough with the rest of the story for my taste.
Highly recommended for great writing and well-put-together puzzles. You may or may not like the unexplained bits left over at the end, but you'll almost certainly be left with an impression that sticks around for a while.
Little Blue Men is a piece of interactive fiction written by Michael S. Gentry. You play as a disgruntled office worker tasked with repetitively stamping forms over and over again for the rest of his pointless life -- until he decides to take a stand and do something about the job he hates so much. This sort of premise is considered a massive cliché for interactive fiction, but Little Blue Men does it extraordinarily well. The game twists the familiar situation into a thematic direction you wouldn't expect, and this coupled with the game's excellent writing, which manages to pack plenty of genuine scares in with the hilarious satire, makes the experience worth remembering.
The thing that makes Little Blue Men work so well is the ending, which I don't want to spoil. It throws the player for a loop that gets them to re-analyze the entire story and think, Wait, why did I actually do that? This is one of those stories that only works properly as interactive fiction, told in the second person. When the actions of the protagonist in a story are placed in the hands of the reader, seeing the world through the character's eyes and having only themselves to blame for the outcomes, they start to feel responsible in part for the consequences. This responsibility is what makes the ending work, as it forces the reader to justify their own actions instead of solely allowing the character to be a separate entity, thus driving the game's theme in a little more effectively than it would be in a traditional storytelling medium.
First released in 1998 as an entry in the Xyzzy Awards, Little Blue Men won the award for Best Player Character, and was a finalist for Best Game, Best Individual Puzzle, Best Story, and Best Writing. The last two of these categories were lost to Photopia, another thematically-driven game released that year that combined excellent writing with a central theme. And although Photopia is a more polished product overall, I personally think that Little Blue Men deserved the writing prize a bit more; maybe it's not as technically proficient, but the writing is used here to further the genre of interactive fiction as well as providing an interesting theme that utilizes the dichotomy of player and protagonist. Photopia, while still a great game, could easily have been published as a short story instead, and is therefore, in my opinion, less deserving of a Xyzzy Award.
Technically, Little Blue Men is very flawed. It's one of the author's first works in the genre, and it shows in some small ways. A few of the puzzles are a bit obtuse, at times the text parser can be picky about your word choice, and some of the descriptions go out of sync with what's actually happening in the story. The overall product, however, ties itself together so well writing-wise that you'll find yourself forgiving these flaws. The game is freeware, and well worth your time to download.
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