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Suzy's Strange Saga

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Suzy's Strange Saga, March 14, 2022
by Gryphon
Related reviews: EndMaster

General Recommendation: I highly recommend this game, particularly for those looking to see the branching cave of time format used in its full power.
Preview: Honestly, I think the less you know what to expect when starting this game, the better. Just jump right in. However: I strongly recommend that you read the other EndMaster games listed in the gameís description before reading this one, as there are a lot of callbacks.


General notes:
The thing that really jumps out to me about this game is just how truly original all the concepts are. I say this primarily about this game, but as Iíve been reading and re-reading EndMasterís games, itís been true of all of them. Many games, books, and TV shows often can be fit into a specific story type; like fantasy quest, space adventures, apocalyptic, etc. EndMasterís games, however, create their own niche. I canít name a single other work of fiction that is comprable in plot and tone to his games Geek, Repression, A Very Special Choose Your Story, Trash, Tales from the Basement, and so on. A good author can take any oft-done concept and make an original work (as EndMaster does with games like Paradise Violated and Ground Zero), but Iím particularly struck by the originality of the ideas behind his shorter works.
Suzyís Strange Saga takes this originality and drives it up to the max. Itís a game that absolutely refuses to be classified. Many staples of common genres are there (Ďzombiesí, dimensional travel, cult politics, etc.), but these elements all have a twist on them making them defy categorization, and the existence of these elements in the same game creates a total narrative thatís nearly impossible to define. It would be very easy for this variety to become a random kind of gimick and prevent a coherent narrative from forming, but EndMaster masterfully ties all the elements together so that each branch is both coherent, and genuinely adds on to total narrative.
One way I noticed this was done is through all the connections between the branches. Though this is a straight cave-of-time story, you run into the same characters and events across multiple different branches. (For example: the confrontation between the carnies and trailer park happens regardless of which side youíre on.) These events play out in a logical way depending on your choices up until this point, and characters act consistent with their personality in different contexts. Of all of EndMasterís works, I would say this game takes the best advantage of the branching format to create a truly unique and connected world.
These connectedness extends to the amount of references to EndMasterís other games. This game follows up on the stories of many of EndMasterís other games. These references are never allowed to overpower Suzy, itís her story after all, but itís a lot of fun to see all the characters and events followed up on from previous games, and learn which endings are canon. This really contributes to the immersive feel of the game. The universe here feels very expansive and complex, thereís the sense that thereís a complete world to be explored no matter which direction you turn in. The existence of 16 complete epilogues certainly helps.
The character of Suzy herself is also handled quite well. Suzy has her own distinct personality, but her personality is allowed to change and grow in different ways depending on the choices the player makes. This makes the player feel like their decisions really matter, as they affect more than just what happens externally. At the same time, the facets of her personality that do remain consistent tie together the different branches of the game.
Finally, Iíd like to note how the gameís originality makes it hard to figure out whatís going to happen next while still respecting narrative structure. As someone who reads/watches a lot of fiction, I can usually predict many of the future plot events in stories. I canít do that in this game; the story never takes an easy obvious way of resolving a situation. Yet itís clear this game isnít going out of itís way to mislead the reader (as some works do, to their detriment). Events are appropriately foreshadowed, this unpredictability is just emerging naturally from its setting and characters. This game is guaranteed to be a fresh and different read, even to those who have difficulty finding media that can still surprise them.

Specific notes:
-The recap of how Suzyís situation has changed since TFTB is presented in a quick way, which prevents it from being an infodump.
-Iím amused that the serial killer ending with Bobby is the canon one for TFTB.
-Iím not liking any of the options on the first page. Getting help from Peter sounds like a good way to get a part in his next movie. Moving in with Donna and Julie seems like it would not be condusive to getting a job. Relying on Bobby for help flits too close to the possibility of being ritually sacrificed. I guess Iím going to go with Donna and Julie as this option seems to have the least health hazards, but Iím not happy about it.
-Iím curious to see what effect (if any) the GZ references will have on the plot.
-Lol. ďWho would be vaccuming?Ē ďDonna?Ē ďNah.Ē
-Distracted the national guard by pretending (ďpretendingĒ) to be lesbian. Canít believe that worked. Do people really get aroused that easily?
-For a story that doesnít set itself up as a zombie apocalypse story, it somehow manages to be one of the better zombie apocalypse stories on the site. I think the mistake most zombie games make is they focus on the mechanics, while ignoring the emotional tension and stakes that are actually at the heart of the genre. This game focuses on those aspects, making it feel more like a true ďzombieĒ story than many similar games.
-Lol Mel is in this. I find it amusing that heís the leader of one of the surviving factions.
-With EndMasterís two other giant stories (Rogues and eternal) covering decades of a characterís life, itís interesting to see a story that just covers a single crazy week. It allows the plot and characters to be more detailed, and allows them to have a wider variety of possible outcomes (this story has 16 victory epilogues, which I believe is EndMasterís record.)
-Julie is the kind of character who could very easily have become annoying, as sheís not as competent as Suzy, but sheís written in a way that prevents her from becoming dead weight and allows her to remain sympathetic.
-Johnnyís annoying even when heís not murdering people. His initial holier-than-thou attitude towards the other partiers is a good signal for his future/alternate behavior while not immediately being a major danger sign.
-I like the contrast between Suzyís competence in the arcs with Julie and Johnny. In the Julie arc, Suzy becomes strong and action-taking, making decisions and standing up for herself. In the Johnny arc, Suzy allows her life to be pulled out from under her by a stranger, and reacts to danger with fear rather than action. Additionally, her reaction to Peterís phone call shows how unraveled sheís become.
-One thing I really like about this story is the consistensy across the branches. Many storygames have events that change depending on unrelated actions the player takes, or the branches are just so disconnected from each other that consistensy doesnít matter. But in this game, events remain consistent, and youíre allowed to come across the same situation in a variety of different contexts.
-ďProperty of the Ground Zero CorporationĒ? Was Ben working with Ground Zero? Heck, they might even have been the government agents he was worried about seizing his stuff.
-Oh, is Johnny supposed to be the kid from repression? That would explain the mother/sister references, as well as the incest kink. I wonder which ending is the canon one for repression.
-The wide variety of different plotlines in this game fleshes out not just the characters, but the setting. As the branches weave around each other, you really get a full view of the townís geography and nature.
-I like Melís inclusion in the arc with Donna. A familiar face makes his character and the trailer park setting automatically more rounded, and itís fun to see him taking actions in a different context. I didnít enjoy Trash as much as EndMasterís other stories largely because Mel couldnít seem to get up off his ass in any meaningful way, but in this game heís taking initiative and controlling the situation, which makes him more likeable and more fun to read.
-The repeated refrain of GZS commercials is a nice way of tying the days and branches together.
-All of the references in this story are excellently done. Often times, references can go overboard if writers get too excited about them, but EndMaster refrains from hitting the reader over the head with these references, instead allowing them to fit in naturally with the story heís constructing.
-I like the snapshot scene used for the Bandit Blondie epilogue. It does an excellent job of illustrating Suzyís new situation, and the changes in her character.
-The pathes where you leave the trailer park do a good job at showing Suzyís personality and morals changing slowly rather than all at once.
-I like that youíre able to have a positive relationship with Donna in one of the endings. Thatís another strength of this game; Suzy is allowed to have very different relationships with all the characters depending on which branch youíre on. It allows these side characters to be fleshed out in ways they never could in a linear story, and adds weight to the playerís decisions.
-Bobby, practitioner of cult worship and human sacrifice, gets defensive about being compared to a mormon.
-I like that even though Bobby is a cultist, heís self aware, and can raise legitimate poitns about Suzyís odd standards.
-Hang on, are Leslie and Lillith supposed to be the couple from love sick? If so, that would explain a lot about the GZS shelters.
-I like that the chaos god is Tiamat, most readers will have a basic familiarity with who she is.
-Too bad Aidenís spelled with an e, otherwise aidan and nadia would be the names reversed.
-Suzy and Helen are bonding. ďItís okay, everyone thinks about killing people sometimes.Ē
-The cult dynamics and debates over what is the best way to serve Tiamat are interesting. The arc Iím currently on doesnít go into too much detail, so I hope to have more involvement in them in later arcs.
-Like Bobby, Bobbyís grandmother can call Suzy out on some of her strange priorities.
-The epilogue with Enki is oddly touching; Suzy has grown past her basement-dwelling tendencies, and is now trying to instill the lessons sheís learned in a new generation. Albiet sheís grown from a basement dweller into a cult member, but the point still stands.
-ďTiamatís chaos can be as kind as it can be cruelĒ is a nice take on the cult.
-I like that Helen can be an antagonist or an ally depending on the arc. It fits with what we know of her personality, since sheís so easily dominated by whichever strong personality is around her. I also like that sheís more intelligent than Diana when it comes to plotting to kill Suzy.
-I like that the cultís relationship with the trailer park is different depending on which epilogue you get.
-On the path to epilogue 13 (Matriarch of Madness) I thought the chocies got a little repetitive, the final 4-5 choices essentially amount to trust/donít trust Helen.
-Well whaddaya know, the Ebay Escapist has a name.
-Thereís a lot of J names in this game. Julie, Johnny, Jake, Jack.
-I like the inclusion of Jackís character on this arc. Heís not being a jerk (yet), and is adding elements of mystery and unpredictability to the story.
-Iím not sure why thereís a detour where you leave Jack and then return; all it seems to do is provide two more opportunities to die.
-The adventure in the gray building so far is fun.
-I keep thinking this is Rask. EDIT: Oh, it IS Rask.
-If Suzy is the mother, that explains a damn lot.
-Iím quite intrigued by the parallel universe plotline.
-Gay alternate universe Suzy. Lol Suzy just needs to admit sheís bi at this point. On that point, I think Suzyís sexuality has been handled pretty well. It never becomes too important, or pushed aside at times when it should be important, and the two possible gay relationships in this game are healthy (Julie) or at least no more messed up than other comprable male ones (Helen).
-Lol: ďYouíre a writer. Makes sense actually. You certainly procrastinate enough.Ē
-After seeing so many parallel universe plotlines where the protagonists are sent to a version of reality that is slightly worse than their own, itís fun to visit one where the protagonist and world at large are actually better off. Makes me wonder if this timeline is closer to the ďreal lifeĒ timeline.
-I like the implication that the other arcs in this story are books written by Epilogue 15 Suzy.
-The mother character is used quite effectively. Though we never actually meet Suzyís mother in other branches, from what Suzy has said of her to others, we know she loved her a lot and she had a big influence on her life. Having her play a major role in this branch works because of the details we already know about her, and it adds depth to the other branches, where Suzyís mother never shows up in person, but her influence still drives many of her decisions.
-Iím torn on how to feel about Suzyís mother knowing her identity. On the one hand, it makes for a good scene between the two, and is more realistic than Suzy successfully fooling everyone. On the other, itís hard to believe that Suzyís mother could overlook her daughter being replaced by a stranger.
-Every now and then, it feels like the narrator is talking directly to you. Itís intriguing, in a story like this it makes me wonder whether thereís something else going on.
-Ahh yes, Lillith, the GZS employee, and quite possibly incestuous serial killer. Maybe this is the branch where weíll learn whatís causing the crazy cannibalism. EDIT: Yes, it is.
-ďHumanitarianĒ lol.
-Claiming to be sick to avoid Jed and Hugo is quite clever here.
-Occasionally while playing these games, Iíll make a choice as a matter of principle, despite fully expecting it to kill me. Choosing not to go to the shelter with Lillith and Leslie was such a decision, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my gut instinct was correct.
-I find it amusing that in a numebr of the endings, youíre having sex when the bomb goes off.
-Iím surprised that Suzy and Bobby get back together in Epilogue 14, but I think it works well. Suzy didnít want to marry him because she didnít want to risk throwing herself into his power on his terms. Her adventures during the story allowed her to develop her own power and ability to take care of herself, allowing them to have a much more equal relationship.
-I like how the cannibalism thing was built up slowly over the course of the story, with plenty of foreshadowing surrounding the meat and Suzyís capacity for violence, but never so much that it hit the reader over the head with it. This allows the epilogue to be logical without seeming obvious, and avoids it seeming like itís just going for a shock factor.
-I find it amusing that the geek was too drunk to remember the details of his own plotline. I also like that he eventually ran the circus.
-I like that Roger appears in multiple branches, as alt Suzyís husband, and as a national guard.
-The extent of the lust/hate Suzy is drawing from the male and female members of the carnival seems oddly high, I wouldnít think people would react in such an extreme and unified way to a new face.
-I like that you can end up on both sides of the confrontation between the trailer park and the carnival, and that it is optimally resolved in an aggressive or peaceful way depending which side youíre on. The contrast shows well the difference between the two groups, and the differences in Suzyís character on each of those pathes.
-I also like that while the clowns were clearly the main villains of Geek, they have a more heroic role in this story.
-Itís fitting that Suzy ends up with Shrimpy in two of the epilogues. He always seemed to respect her most as a human being, and they had a genuine friendship beyond his attraction.
-Lol, ďRight, like arriving at a door with a group of clowns isnít straight out of a horror movie.Ē
-I think the New Security ending is important for the balance of the story, in this ending, though Suzy survives, she never really grows past her basement-dwelling mentality. It serves well as a contrast to the other endings where she grows in power. It also serves as a more wholesome contrast to some of the darker endings. Interestingly, Suzyís comptence and morality seem to be inversely proportional.
-I like how the Rogue and Zalmora have a fairly equal relationship. Both can hold their own against the other when need be, but are still willing to compromise.

Generally good.
Mastery of Language:
There are sentence structure issues, notably a lack of commas. I noticed a typo here and there, though not many, considering the length of the story. A couple dialogue issues.

Quite good. For a story of this length to have sixteen unique epilogues is impressive.

Player Options/fair choice:
Eh. Not great. For a more story-oriented game like this one, itís pretty much unavoidable, but many actions have consequences that could not possibly have been forseen by the player. Most notably, chosing not to have sex with Bobby in your living room means you later give him a blowjob while driving and cause a car accident.

The only real confusion I have with this game is that sex is extremely important to everyone in a way that seems unrealistic. Itís well-written, it just seems odd that nearly every character views Suzy in some sort of sexual way. Granted, this could accurate and I just havenít been exposed to the places where this behavior is frequent.

Got epilogue 7 on my first run (the bunker lesbians one), I think I did alright as far as not dying goes, though dying a few times is pretty much inevitable in EndMasterís games.
After finishing the game, I think this is probably the best ending. Suzy develops skills and confidence, but she never turns evil, and ends up having a fairly good life. The other endings all have drawbacks to them. (Endings 1, 3 and 8-10 are a bit meh, 5 and 6 both suck, 11-13 are alright but involve being a human-sacrificng cult leader, for 2, 14, and 15 you have to make really unethical choices to get there, 16 you end up losing your entire family and world, coolness factor aside. 4 is probably second best as far as Suzyís situation goes, with 10 being not too far behind.)
Amusingly, I found ending 1 last.

CONCLUSION: An impressively expansive, immersive, and original game that stands as one of the siteís most unique games, as well as one of its best explorations of the branching cave of time format.

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