Flattened London

by Carter Gwertzman

Adventure
2020

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A game about a two-dimensional version of Fallen London, October 17, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

So, I have played Fallen London for years, and am especially fond of Sunless Seas and Sunless Skies. I also did my dissertation in geometry and am a fan of Flatland. So I definitely think I was the target audience of this game, which is essentially all of the important locations of Fallen London but flat.

The game is quite large, and has a Zork-like structure where you put treasures in a trophy case. There are plenty of locations, people and items.

This game is centered on parser structure, Fallen London lore, and geometry. I want to talk about what worked well and less well for me personally in each area.

What worked well with the parser: The puzzles are clean and solvable, usually, with few red herrings. I had a couple of disambiguation issues (especially with books and with the chess set) but very few if any genuine bugs. Interaction with NPCs generally worked well, always a hard thing to do. The piano puzzle was great.

What worked less well with the parser: The puzzles could use a little more creativity. Many of them are just ‘take the object’ or ‘follow the instructions here’. On the other hand, the chess puzzle was, as your testers indicated, perhaps too hard. It might have been worth giving a visual interpretation or even having a scrawled note in the chess handbook that says what the ‘real meaning’ of rule 1 is so people know they’re supposed to translate the rules and use them.

What worked well with Fallen London: This was clearly written by either a fan of the game or someone a lot of time to browse the wiki (or both?). Locations seem true to form, from poking around in the banks of the river to the exhibits in the Labyrinth of tigers to the expeditions in the Fallen Quarter.

What worked less well with Fallen London: Fallen London relies almost entirely on atmosphere and on the idea that there are forbidden secrets just around the corner. This game reveals many of the secrets of Fallen London, so many that I would almost recommend people not play it if they plan on getting into Fallen London and want to have more surprises. This has a second negative effect, which is that by revealing so much of the secrets at once, they’re deprived of their power, and the impact of the setting is lessened. Likewise, the game lacks the lush descriptions of Fallen London.

What works with geometry: Things like the elevator shaft work very well and the endings. But otherwise the 2-dimensionality is not used very much. How are murals drawn? How do locks work? How can the sigils be drawn as (presumably) 1-dimensional paint? How can you bridge a river without blocking its flow?

So I think this game has a lot of positives, but that it could make use of its three sources a little bit more.

+Polished: Mostly so.
-Descriptive: The writing is, well, somewhat flat.
+Interactivity: There was generally always something available to do.
-Emotional impact: I didn't feel emotionally invested in the game.
+Would I play again? After I've had enough time to forget the solutions, yes.