Little Blue Men

by Michael S. Gentry profile

Satire/Horror/Science Fiction

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Number of Reviews: 10
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Disturbing, March 25, 2021

Frustrating, but fascinating, LBM is a puzzle of a game in several ways. With a tone that swings from aggravation to black humor to horror, a genre that shifts from slice-of-life to mystery to horror, motivations that are obtuse, and metaphors that are dense, the game may be absorbing, but it may also leave a player bewildered. And, no matter how it's interpreted, the game's notion of what "learning to love yourself" means seems horrifying.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid-length, difficult office drama about frustration and conformity, March 25, 2016

Little Blue Men is a mid-length entry in the genre of 'I absolutely hate my job and office life sucks' genre (other notable examples include Building and Above and Beyond). You have incredibly annoying coworkers and a terrifying boss. As the game progresses, you uncover a deep evil.

This game has strong profanity, most notably at the beginning and at the end.

This game is a classic 90's game difficulty-wise, with some portions very difficult to guess without hints. I had some trouble, as did the Club Floyd team.

The writing, by the author of Anchorhead, is excellent, although I don't plan on playing it again due to the excessive profanity. The game includes some mean-spirited violence which is later justified.

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
LBM, February 27, 2016
by BeerIF (MA)

Fun experience. It's a bit unforgiving and took me some restarts to get it all done correctly, but somehow that all felt in the spirit of the story.

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
a day at the office, November 2, 2014

This game is weird in a fun way. (Spoiler - click to show)Multiple endings make it especially unique. I'd recommend trying it, it's short. I want to say more but it's hard to do so without spoiling!

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
An effective use of the medium, September 19, 2014

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.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Metaphorical, March 1, 2014
by Simon Deimel (Germany)

Blue men is a game about an office worker who discovers that not everything is as it seems. I am not an office worker, but I think I would have similar thoughts about it as the protagonist.

The story is very intriguing, the character descriptions leave no doubt about the protagonist's true feelings. He (we can postulate that the protagonist is male) is obviously on the edge -- there are repeated comments how annoying his co-workers and his boss are. The game can bee seen as a metaphor for the wish to break away from the daily grind. The players even have the choice whether they accept their fate of being trapped in their position as office workers.

I was not sure about the rating -- I wanted to give four stars, but finally gave three. The reason is that the game is quite difficult and mistakes can very easily take place, and then the player has to repeat the previous actions when he realizes that what he did was not the series of actions that will lead to the desired ending. So every player is advised to save the game position frequently and keep various save files to prevent trouble. About the endings: the author states in a postscript that there is no real winning ending -- the player has to decide if the reached ending is satisfactory or not, and that is true: When I reached the final ending (it announces that the player has reached the ending which is considered to be the best), I wondered if I would not have preferred something different. But the author offers some thoughts on it in the postscript, so we get an insight in what he was thinking.

The prose is great, even if it contains some profanity (I tend to dislike strong expressions in written texts). It was still acceptable.

I would rather not recommend this game to beginners; it is quite tough, the puzzles are above average and some things may appear confusing. I can heartily recommend it to advanced players though.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nice atmosphere and writing, but way too underclued, September 10, 2013

This game is indeed very peculiar; the main character is refreshingly pretty much the opposite of a "regular" PC (strong personality and language, very much unlike what a player is used to or would want to play as), and the whole game has its own tone, vocabulary, etc. that forms, I found, a somewhat believable worldview (which makes the PC a very well-written character). And even apart from the PC's personality, the author's writing is great: his descriptions are particularly worthy of note, since they manage to convey a lot of information in a few short sentences.

The main gripe I had with the game was that it was severely underclued. I had figured out a few things, but not all of them, so I was stuck for a while and then resorted to hints, which made me go a bit further, and then I was stuck again. At this point I had to look at a walkthrough for ideas, I found something, I did it, and then I got stuck because of an object I didn't have. So I just restarted and followed the walkthrough ; and looking at the actions you have to do to reach the "optimal" ending, I would have never managed to figure it out - some of them are literally read-the-author's-mind. So yeah, underclued + cruel = a very frustrating experience. This is a shame, by the way: the story is neat, and with a bit more hinting or more descriptions or less of that cruelty, this would have made a very enjoyable game for its whole length, instead of getting increasingly frustrating towards the end, which just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting Ending..., August 14, 2012

I'm going to admit first of all that I had some difficulty completing this game. While it was fascinating, and really quite disturbing, I felt a bit lost at first. Soon, however, I began to get the hang of it, and really, this was quite a well thought-out game.
It was also quite a disturbing game.
This is the first time I've played an office game, and at first I was quite amused by the dialogue, and the reactions to the minor goings-on of office life by the protagonist. As the game went on, though, things get quite a bit more serious...
For fear of spoiling anything, I won't say much about the endings, but... (Spoiler - click to show)The endings quite intrigued me, and I found it quite interesting that, with the exception of one option, the endings were similar, yet unsatisfying until the true end. Very interesting...
Anyway, this was an excellent game, and one I look forward to enjoying at some other time.

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
If you've ever had a job you REALLY hated..., August 23, 2009

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.

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
The whole is less than the sum of the parts, May 26, 2008

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.

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