[IFComp 22 - Beta] Cannelé & Nomnom - Defective Agency

by Younès R. & Yazaleea

Episode Beta demo of Cannelé & Nomnom

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Number of Reviews: 5
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Overbearing at first but stops horsing around soon enough, January 4, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

So. The bad stuff up front, first. There will be good stuff. But I want to list stuff you may want to zone out to appreciate the strong points of a work. It was necessary for me here. A personal confession about snark: it overloads me very quickly, in many forms. Heck, (political views ahead) I loathe Donald Trump and all he stands for (or how he stands against certain things and people) and am under no illusions of the scorn he would have for me if we met. Yet at the same time, I quickly feel deluged by constant anti-Trump snark that blossomed in early 2017. This was tough to sort out!

But I realized snark could, indeed, be draining, whether or not you agree with it. It's a way of saying "put up with me" without saying "put up with me." And the problem is, if unchecked, it really barrels people over. I've failed to appreciate snark properly in social circles, which got me Suspected of Things. I'm not good at snarking back and forth and don't have the energy--for a while, I thought it was that I didn't care. I think I've grown good enough with words over the years that I can defend myself, and I no longer feel I'm ruining a circle of snark, as a participant or spectator, by saying "hey, this is not for me." Because I feel tense and helpless around it. But hopefully I've gotten some perspective. I want it carefully curated, and if it crosses a line, I have no problem zoning it out.

This was necessary for C&N, but it was also worthwhile. Other reviewers have discussed their own reservations about C&N's snark, which I don't think is needed to establish the characters' eccentricities. They're not the first comically bad detectives in a creative work, and they won't be the last, but they have enough individual touches that they should be charming if they clean up their act in a sequel, which may include an episode to tie up loose ends the authors deliberately laid out. I just wish they'd have dialed it back from eleven. It's funny that they seem to talk about themselves when you're the one with amnesia, looking for someone-anyone to give you a clue about your wallet, or what a rainbow-colored cat was doing, but it shouldn't be oversold.

And while I'm on the hobby horse, I'm grateful I could hold down "space" to get through the dialogue – but it was frustrating to have to do so, and it caused me to miss a few links to click a few times through. The effect was like having to deal with a coworker on their break who doesn't recognize you have something important to do, or who slips in some genuinely awesome technical advice or ideas you'd like to google, but they just have to continue with the small talk that's run its course. This trick of portioning out dialogue the player may just want to get through often leaves me feel like the rat must, in one experiment where they get sugar water randomly when they push a bar. This is stuff I do on my free time! I don't want that, I want fun, especially if the game is a comedy!

And this is compounded by having a score kept track–who has gotten in a good dig at the other. I can't expect the authors to have trigger warnings out there for people keeping score, but fact is, people who do keep score in any form in a conversation for too long tend to be people I wanted to steer clear from. I was hoping for peace. So I think the authors went above and beyond what they needed to establish chaos.

That's the bad stuff. I think this is the harshest I've been on an IFComp entry, and when I do that, it's because I'd love the option to ignore this and work on the good stuff. Which is certainly there.

C&N's conspiracy board isn't just a clever name. There's a useful tutorial for how to pair post-it notes and connect them to a bigger theory. So that established what you would do: look for clues and see which are pieced together. One semi-puzzle in the game has you sorting out which post-it notes were valid, and which were just C&N babbling. I felt like I was getting a bit of my own sanity back in the process. Which was a nice gesture from the game. As was what I interpreted as a hobo paying money to make C&N go away. This establishes C&N's personality better than the lengthy dialogue.

Narrative and puzzles tie together well, too. You learn other people have lost their memory as well. There's a neat card game-slash-word game where C&N are sure you're being hustled, because the experienced players around you are acting forgetful! (I've played chess hustlers who let you win the first game.) How much money I had didn't matter. I always feared getting cleaned out. So the tension there was wonderful. The graphics are very high-grade, and combined with the cover art, it's impossible to miss that the authors have creativity, and they can control it with time and effort. And once C&N realize the hustlers actually lost their memory, it's an aha moment and a nice fake-out. It actually advances the plot.

I also feared the solution to the mystery might try to get too wild, based on the game's intro, but it's cute and sad at the same time, and it's a clever shell-game on the part of the antagonist. So I forgave a lot of the earlier red marks I'd come across. At game's end I was notified the spare post-its from C&N's small talk could maybe be arranged into something, and though I saw some quick possibilities, I was a bit emotionally drained.

There's a lot of care put into C&N and it just feels as though the authors guessed the wrong side of what we'd enjoy. It's tough to capture playful constant bickering versus endless constant bickering. It's heavy on artistic touches, but it gets carried away. Hopefully this sort of warning and assurance you're missing relatively little by skimming the dialogue will make C&N a pleasant experience worth the prep. I've had people where I was flattered they tried too hard to impress me. Whether those tries were specific to me, it didn't matter. What mattered was the follow-up, and on the evidence of that, C&N has a lot more substance and value for your time than the introduction suggested to me.