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Real reams: seal seams, November 21, 2022
The first Grand Guignol I’m playing is also one that I tested, because it’s currently got only 12 ratings and I’d like to increase that number. This is another of Schultz’s Prime Pro Rhyme Row games, like There Those Dare Doze, based on rhyming alliterative pairs of words.
This one has some very helpful features that TTDD lacked, such as telling you when a command is half-right, or needs a homophone, and giving hints in return for good-but-wrong guesses. It means that coming up with a good pair feels good, and actually helps you in the game, even when it’s not the solution the author had in mind.
Unfortunately, the implementation of these features feels incomplete. Examining the help device, for example, only tells you how to turn it on—even when it’s already on—and prints “(hard to do without taking it, so you do)” every time, even when you already have it. It’s supposed to tell you when you have a command half-right, but sometimes didn’t, for no apparent reason. (I typed (Spoiler - click to show)PHONING FAE instead of PHONING FEY and got a generic error.)
The writing similarly feels a lot less coherent than in TTDD. The plot of that game was slightly absurd (which is to be expected from a wordplay game like this) but both the story and the geography made sense: you’re travelling in different directions to find other people, and convince them to help you wake the Prayer Pros in the Rare Rows.
This game is a lot vaguer, without much of an overarching structure or geography to connect its various areas. And while it has a lot more rhymes implemented than TTDD, I was still often annoyed when a perfectly good pair wasn’t recognized. (Or, in one case, caused an RTP: “TOE TALL” at the Woe Wall led to a division by zero.)
Finally, for a specific example, there’s a place where the author has clearly put a lot of effort into punishing players who use a bad word (you’re asked to find rhymes for “why witch” and the game tells you specifically not to insult the woman in front of you; if you do, the game snarks at you and crashes itself). But I have to wonder—who does this benefit? Whose experience is improved by this feature? The writing is nice and snarky, but wouldn’t it have been better to just leave the command unrecognized (as other unpleasant words are; you can’t rhyme “wee wight” with “she shite”, for example), and dedicate that effort to polishing the rest of the game? It reminds me somewhat of Graham Nelson going to great pains to hide “swearing mildly” and “swearing obscenely” from Inform 7’s index…which just made it really annoying to remove them if you didn’t want them, and didn’t really benefit anyone.
All in all, I had fun with it. The wordplay puzzles were great! And I think there’s a really solid, really fun game between CSDD’s user-friendliness and hint system and TTDD’s cohesive plot and well-arranged structure. I just wish it had been one game instead of two, because as it is, both of them felt slightly lacking.