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by David Welbourn

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Who Iced Mayor McFreeze?

by Damon L. Wakes profile

Part of Bubble Gumshoe
Mystery
2023

(based on 13 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

A Bubble Gumshoe Mystery

The mayor has only been missing for about an hour, but Mrs. McFreeze has good reason for concern: her husband left to attend some business at the old taffy factory with the notorious Don Toblerone, and she fears he's got himself into a sticky situation. Naturally she calls upon Bubble Gumshoe - Sugar City's premiere private eye - to check up on him.

But unfortunately for the mayor, Bubble Gumshoe comes too late. And Unfortunately for Bubble Gumshoe, the killer is there when she arrives. Locked in the abandoned building - with a demolition charge set for 9am the next day - she must use all her cunning to sniff out the building's secrets so she can once again taste freedom, all while chewing over...

...who iced Mayor McFreeze?

Thanks to Brett Witty, felix, Dave Diamond and Matt Campbell for playtesting.

Content warning: violence, sex, drug use and cannibalism, all involving colourful candy characters.


Game Details


Awards

40th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Candy-based murder mystery, part II, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Last year’s game ‘Who Shot Gum E Bear?’ by the same author had a deeply amusing concept (hardboiled noir detective where everyone is candy) coupled with some solid writing but sketchy implementation.

This year’s game ups the notch a bit on the implementation but uses a more secluded setting.

You are called to an abandoned factory which is scheduled for demolition and tasked with finding out what happened to a missing husband. You get locked in, and have to use your wits to solve the case and to get out.

I’m going to quote my classification of (many but not all) interactive fiction mystery games:

1-Have a standard puzzle game that happens to be about murder mystery, with solving the puzzles leading to solving the mystery. This is like Ballyhoo.
2-Modelling evidence and clues in-game, which have to be combined to form a solution. This is how Erstwhile works, and most of my mysteries.
3-Collecting evidence through puzzles and conversation and then having a quiz at the end (where you have to accuse the right person). This is how Toby’s Nose works.
4-Collecting physical evidence and showing it to someone, being able to make an arrest when you have enough evidence.

This is the first type. Solving puzzles involves collecting evidence as well as escaping and once all puzzles are solved the game is over. Accusations, motive, etc. are all handled by the PC rather than the player, and I think that works well here.

The game has some suggestive/racy elements, enough that I wouldn’t want my middle-school age son to play it but mild enough that if he did I wouldn’t be especially upset, just have to explain the use of certain items.

The implementation is both really neat and kind of bad. The neat stuff is how the puzzles go beyond ‘one item one use’ in clever ways. The bad is that most of the standard responses aren’t changed. It might help for next time to use RESPONSES ALL while programming to get a list of responses and then changing a lot of them. But it’s not necessary; if the goal is just to have a snack-size fun game, that’s already being achieved here. The responses would only be if the author specifically wanted a more polished game. I think I mostly would want that because the writings so good everywhere else that seeing it in the standard responses would make the game even more fun.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Who Iced Mayor McFreeze review, December 20, 2023
by EJ

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bubble Gumshoe’s first outing, Who Killed Gum E. Bear; it hinges entirely on noticing a single aspect of the central gag and most of the investigating you do is utterly pointless. It’s an approach to detective IF that’s bound to be hit or miss, and for me it was a miss, even if the candy-coated noir setting was delightful. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Who Iced Mayor McFreeze. I didn’t doubt that it would be funny, but would it be enjoyable as a game?

Fortunately, the answer was yes. Rather than having you guess the identity of the culprit like its predecessor, Mayor McFreeze traps Bubble Gumshoe in an abandoned factory that is also a crime scene. She must both search for clues and find a way out, giving the player quite a bit more to sink their teeth into than Gum E. Bear provided.

The puzzle design worked well and made clever use of a smallish inventory of objects. The implementation was a little rough, though, and after figuring out what I needed to do I occasionally experienced some friction trying to communicate that to the game. (You’ve heard of “guess the verb,” now get ready for “guess the preposition”!) But I was having a good time in general, so I didn’t mind too much.

All of the clues are technically missable—that is, you can escape the factory without finding any of them—but most of them are wildly unlikely to be missed by a player with enough adventure game experience to instinctively poke into every nook and cranny. The clue that incontrovertibly proves the killer’s identity may elude some players, though; it relies on a mechanic that I remember being emphasized in the previous game, but that isn’t highlighted here. It is covered in the handy list of verbs the game provides, though, so those who didn’t play Gum E. Bear should still be able to figure it out; it just requires a little extra thought/insight compared to the other clues.

The summation at the end is handled by Bubble Gumshoe without input from the player, but varies depending on how many of the clues were found, which I thought worked well. Some players might prefer to have a quiz here, but to me it felt like the real challenge was in solving the puzzles, and once the clues were in hand, interpreting them was fairly straightforward, so I didn’t mind letting the PC do it for me.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An occasionally-wonky thin-mint-stery (am I doing this right?), December 15, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

I feel like there are a larger-than-usual number of sequels in this year’s Comp, and this is probably the most unexpected of them. Last year’s Who Shot Gum E. Bear? was an fun but slight whodunnit that mashed up hard-boiled narration with hard-candy characters; it wrung some solid laughs out of its off-the-wall premise, but gave every sign of being a one-off joke. So when I saw that Bubble Gumshoe had another case, part of me wondered whether the gag would have gone stale. Fortunately the answer is no; Mayor McFreeze still entertains by leaning into its Candyland-gone-bad setting, and changes up the gameplay formula by swapping more traditional IF puzzles for Gum E. Bear’s focus on interviewing suspects.

The plot this time out is a mystery cliché, but a different one from the straightforward who-killed-the-dead-guy hook of the previous installment: the mayor’s femme-fatale wife walks through the door of your office and asks you to check in on him, as she learned he was lured to a meeting with a notorious crime-boss at an abandoned factory on the wrong side of town. But when you go to investigate, you get locked in, and turns out the factory is due for demolition in the morning – you’ve got to escape, and hopefully solve the crime along the way.

My memory of the previous game is that the comedy came largely from one-liners and delicious puns, and those are still in evidence this time out, but I got the most enjoyment from the places where the author really leaned into the absurdity of the game’s world, piling joke upon joke without once cracking a smile:

"The docks once saw fleets of ships coming in full of raw sugar, and leaving full of premium saltwater taffy. But the pollution from Sugar City’s industrial district has given the cola here an extra kick: the extra maintenance costs involved in shoring up the ships’ dissolving hulls put the factory into the red, and when the Good Ship Lollipop foundered right in the middle of the channel - blocking access to all other vessels - that was the final marshmallow in the s’more."

This kind of scene-setting calms down a bit once you reach the main part of the gameplay, but there are still plenty of good lines slipped in even once things get serious, and the endling features a delightful escalation of noir cliches and dessert-based investigative techniques, again all played entirely straight.

I also thought the gameplay structure here was cleverly done. There are basically two tracks the player needs to work through: to escape the factory, you need to solve a series of fairly conventional medium-dry-goods puzzles that are primarily about traversal. But along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to find and investigate some clues about the titular crime; these aren’t puzzles per se, but the game tracks which ones you’ve found, and then changes the ending based on the information you’ve gathered. This is an elegant way of representing a mystery in IF form – conversing with NPCs is obviously challenging to do in a satisfying way, and requiring the player to demonstrate they’ve figured out the solution can often be tricky, since it’s easy to make things either too easy (most genre-aware players will guess the identity of the bad guy pretty quickly) or too hard (since spelling out the exact way all the clues fit together represents an interface challenge, and may require information the protagonist has but the player doesn’t). And allowing the player to get to the end without solving the mystery helps provide a hint about what they missed, so they can go back and try to do better.

The implementation sadly lets the comedic tone and elegant structure down, though. There aren’t a lot of alternate syntaxes provided, and Inform’s default responses largely haven’t been changed, so I spent a lot of time fighting with the parser and hearing Graham Nelson’s drily amused voice chastising me, which took me out of the world (tip to authors: it only takes fifteen minutes or so to customize the most commonly-used responses, and this goes a very long way to making your game feel polished and unique). There’s a point where I needed to untie a piece of cord from a door, and TAKE CORD, UNTIE CORD, and DETACH CORD were all unsuccessful, with only TAKE DOOR working – which was odd, since I needed the cord, not the door! There are also several things that look like containers that you can’t put anything in, a fair number of disambiguation issues, and long location descriptions that are presented as single unbroken blocks of text.

Beyond the technical aspects of implementation, I also found a fair number of the puzzles required a higher amount of authorial-ESP than I’d like, and solutions sometimes relied on what felt to me like dodgy logic. Like speaking of that guess-the-verb issue I mentioned above, one puzzle requires you to rip a metal door off its hinges using detonator cord, which from my understanding is made of plastic and quite thin, so I wouldn’t have thought it would be up to the challenge. Conversely, I had to go to the hints because I wasn’t sure how to get through this door:

"A cheap, stained wooden door, badly warped by damp. There’s a small keyhole just beneath the brass handle."

Turns out it’s sufficiently fragile that throwing a heavy object into it will break it, but I don’t think that description adequately signposted that brute force would be a solution here (the fact that the keyhole is a separately-implemented object also seems designed to mislead the player).

The investigative track I think is a bit more intuitive than the puzzle track, though again there were places where a bit more hand-holding would have been appreciated, especially where world-building details that might be lost on the player are at issue ([spoiler]I’m thinking here mostly of the need to TASTE various objects, most importantly the dead body, which feels like an egregious violation of crime scene protocol as well as slightly cannibalistic).

As is my wont, I’m harping on details, but it really just is the details that are the issue here; the writing, story, and general design are quite strong, unlike the funny but sometimes-dodgy Gum E. Bear (I solved that one by accusing suspects at random, which I think was a common experience for players). Despite its sometimes-thin implementation and inadequate clueing, Mayor McFreeze represents a real progression; dare I wonder whether we’ll see a completed trilogy next year?

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Who Iced Mayor McFreeze? on IFDB

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Who Iced Mayor McFreeze? appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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The following polls include votes for Who Iced Mayor McFreeze?:

Outstanding Underappreciated Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the most underappreciated game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Outstanding Mystery Game of 2023 by MathBrush
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