Theatre of Spud

by D E Haynes

2021

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not ready for opening night, April 22, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2021

Theatre of Spud is another Python game requiring a bit of elbow-grease to get working on a PC. Unlike Space Diner, though, I found the installation process to be a pain, and the payoff not really worth it. I wonít belabor the former point, though will note that there appears to be an error in the setup files in the version I played, which required some manual tweaking to correct Ė see this post for details. The blurb on the festival page is good, though, seeming to indicate backstage amateur-theatre hijinks to come, so once Iíd jumped through the requisite hoops I was excited to dig in.

Sadly, those hopes were frustrated and I found the game itself pretty unengaging. Largely this is because of excessively slow timed text that makes the simplest action take 10 or more seconds Ė timed text is enough of a pain in choice-based games, but when used in a parser game like this, with highly-granular actions and a medium-sized map, it gets excruciating.

But even putting aside this major technical issue, Theatre of Spud has problems with motivation and interactivity. First of all, it starts out confusingly: the blurb sets up a young boy named Spud as the protagonist and then the game asks for your characterís first name, so when the opening scene kept referring to someone named Alan I figured he was an important side-character, but it turns out heís the protagonist. I was able to get Alan into the theatre/er, at which point thereís a monologue from the playís director where he asks you to make sure the lights in the parking lot stay on to prevent the local hooligans from getting up to any mischief, so I guess Alan is a sort of dogsbody for the theater?

This seemed like the first task to take on, except the lights sure seemed to be doing fine on their own so I wasnít sure what else needed to be done to harden them against chav-related misadventure. Compounding this aimlessness, the custom parser doesnít have many actions implemented, including the ability to examine objects so far as I could tell. So my experience of Theatre of Spud was of wandering around a reasonably large map with not much in it and minimal ability to interact with whatís there Ė while the timed-text issue made everything treacle-slow. Itís a shame because again, Iím here for the premise, but Iím putting this one back on the shelf until a hopefully-refined final version comes around.