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About the Story
You can go home when you learn to be good.
Winner, Best Game; Co-Winner, Best Writing; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner - The Bogeyman, Best Individual NPC - 2018 XYZZY Awards
2nd Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
McT's Interactive Fiction Reviews
What begins as a fairly unsettling depiction of this childís imprisonment by the bogeyman, turns into something darker. And then darker again. It builds slowly, this horror. It pulls no punches Ė all your worst imaginings of what might happen to children who canít learn to be good are here. All moving towards an inevitable, uncompromising conclusion.
...If I had a criticism of this game, it would be that I would have liked to have had more in the way of a result of some of my choices Ė there are many times when I can make a decision to be, for example, nice or nasty to the other children Ė it would have been nice to have had those choices gradually reflected throughout the game.
This is my favorite choice game of the competition so far. 9/10
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The Interactive Fiction Community Forum
Bogeyman postmortem (by the author)
Hey! Iíve written a long, spoilery postmortem about my ~process.~ [...] I have a lot to say. I hope somebody will find part of it either interesting or useful.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
OH, MY WORD. I'm tense by the third screen or so of this game. I'm still a little tense, having played through it twice now. I'm so glad I played this game in the morning. I think it would have given me nightmares if I had experienced it right before going to bed.
Bogeyman is a choice-based horror game. Horror is one of my least-favorite genres. When horror doesn't work, it usually just feels dumb to me. If it does, then why am I reading fiction or watching a movie, just to be scared? Real life is scary enough as it is (just glance at a random day's headlines); why should I seek it out? But I'm playing through the games in this Comp and trying to give feedback, so I played Bogeyman anyway.
Maybe because I don't seek out horror in fiction much I'm more sensitive to it. Whatever the reason, I am still tense, even though I'm now three paragraphs into this review. Okay, deep breaths. I'll try to be objective from here on.
The blurb and cover hint well at the menace to come, especially the tagline: "You can go home when you learn to be good." Then you start the game, and you're faced with basic white text on a black background. This, the simple font, and the spare writing together just ooze menace. Something about the choices being in all caps enhances it, too.
I don't know that I want to say much about the content, other than that it is terrifying. For some reason (Spoiler - click to show)the prayer at the table, "We are truly grateful for what we have," was one of the worst moments. I suppose it's that effect of "Not only can I make you physically experience these horrifying events, I'm going to twist your soul so much that you'll be thankful for the horror." Then combine that with the fact that it's being done to children, in a perversion of a simple act of gratitude that many of us daily choose to make... Shudder.
The absolutely worst thing I've done in IF - ever, in any game - in terms of how it made me feel, was (Spoiler - click to show)eating Grace. Eating Grace! After saying grace! It would be kind of funny if it weren't so awful.
Despite my dislike of horror as a genre, I don't think I regret playing this game. Even while I'm feeling what I'm feeling, I'm thinking, "Wow. What an amazing piece of art, to be able to produce this reaction from me."
My conclusion: Bogeyman is an excellent horror game. Play it, and experience it for yourself. Just not right before bedtime.
I wrote the above review on the authors' forum during IFComp 2018 right after playing Bogeyman. It led to a discussion among several of us about the themes in Bogeyman, as well as horror in general. I had always thought that the primary (sole?) purpose of horror is to frighten or disgust people, and those are not experiences that I've ever been interested in seeking out. However, the authors' conversation convinced me that horror can be used effectively in the service of worthwhile artistic goals.
For example, Chandler Groover argued that Bogeyman does an excellent job of making the player feel what it's like to live with an abuser. It's not a pleasant experience, but it's true, in the sense that there are people who do live under an abuser's power. It's important that we know this - and that there is art out there like Bogeyman that can dramatize it for us.
So, I no longer stand by my dismissive comments about works of horror in the second paragraph of my original review. Horror is still not going to be my go-to genre, but I have a much deeper appreciation for it than I did before I played Bogeyman.
That makes Bogeyman one of only a handful of works I've experienced that have been integral in changing my view of an entire genre.
(Warning: This review might contain spoilers. Click to show the full review.)[Abduction, violence against children, abuse]
Although the titular character is framed as the bogeymen of childrenís stories, to another eye - an adult eye, probably - he is a more quotidian, though no less terrifying variety of criminal. Fairytale elements meld easily with real-life methods of cruelty and control: the strange food and drink; the deserted cabin in the middle of the woods; turning frightened people on each other.
Bogyeman is largely linear, but where there are choices, they are difficult - emotional dilemmas most of them, choices between self-gain and protecting your fellow captives.
In other aspects, itís simply a good game. Its slick design reminds me of A Good Wick, though much more readable. The layout of choices, especially where they concern exploring a space, are laid out to reflect that space. This has been one of the things that I found difficult when building a map of the story world during choice-based games. The directions I can explore are almost always laid out in lines of text, which I must translate in my head to how they would look on a diagram.
Bogeyman is certainly not an easy-going read, but grim and focused and well worth playing.
For me, this was a tough read. And no, not just because of the content. The layout was horribly distracting for me. Each page had 1-3 sentences on it. I guess that was for effect, but if Iím going to read a story, Iíd like to read it, not spend more time clicking ďnext.Ē But also, the font changed on pages. I think this was for speech, but it wasnít clear, was really distracting, and really would have been so much clearer if there were simple quotation marks. The fact that all the short lines were centered on the page added a little more difficulty for me as well.
While there were options in the story, there were not a lot, and few seemed to have much of an effect on the story. I see that this story won a lot of awards, but maybe this just isnít my scene, baby. Indeed, it was dark and just kept getting darker. And maybe if I had analyzed a lot more later into the story, I would have seen choices that made a difference, but it honestly wasnít all that pleasant for me. Maybe for others who really like horror with kids, this is something for you. But if you donít, you probably want to skip this one.
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