What remains of me

by Jovial Ron


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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal "your apartment and neighborhood" game in an interesting engine, November 21, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

I'm not sure if I've ever seen such a conflict between an author's name and a title. Here, we have someone allegedly happy claiming they are left with almost nothing. Yet there's also confusion in the game itself, and it's not clear which inconsistencies are intentionally there and which got slipped in there. After a while it gets too muddy. But there are some lines I really enjoyed. Which is not bad for such a short game.

Technically, it's impressive, and it suggests somebody did a lot of work to make the interface, even with an assist from the TIC-80 framework found on tic80.com. All the verbs you can use are on the screen. You can click on them or an arrow, and the game has, well, interesting responses to ones that don't work. That the game anticipated some of my weirder tries, borne slightly out of desperation at first, suggests the programmer has a sense of humor. My favorite was when you USEd the atlas by your friend, prompting my favorite line in the whole game: "I dont read books you nerd!" shouts your best friend. Other dialogue and descriptions are similarly simple yet wild. Someone describes themselves as "old school" for no particular reason, and that's all they have to say. A man showers in public as if this is perfectly normal. These all work together in the same way Mad Libs do, but then, they also have the long-term reach of Mad Libs.

All this is part of an adventure to do something with your life after having watched TV for eleven hours. And you get to do something! Reductively, this involves figuring the least senseless item to use on each NPC that pops up. The game often lampshades that the choice doesn't make perfect sense, but only after you get it right. Everything's a bit crooked, and I think that's intentional. If you do things right, you get money from an unexpected source, which lets you buy a train ticket and leaves you with a final message that's life-affirming as long as you don't think too deep.

Playing this I'm reminded of the super-brief Scott Adams parser games and even someone who entered such a game back in 2010, which happens to be when this story took place. The Scott Adams-ish game was a deliberate homage to the fun we got from such limited text. It was great fun to know this sort of thing existed. And here, the TIC computer at tic80.com is neat to know about. It's fun to see the other games, the versatility, and what looks like a nice community based on a retro-styled engine. And of course someone had to write a text adventure, and it's technically solid--you don't ever break the game! I even like the orange text on black background. However, it does run into basic problems such as how DESCRIBE (the game's version of LOOK) tells you certain items you already took are, in fact, in the room.

This one fizzles out after a few quick laughs, though. Taken straight-up and ignoring the special effects, it isn't a great work. I'm not sure how many of the typos are intentional. Some jokes are quite good. But I think even allowing for this, it doesn't have any of the sort of thing that make, say, Molesworth so great. For those who don't know Molesworth, he's the main character of a set of books written circa 1950, a wonderfully cynical student at a perfectly horrible English public school called St. Custard's. Everything is bad there, including his spelling and grammar, but he's observant enough that you want to follow his adventures, and you come to realize things like how he is friends with Basil Fotherington-Thomas, who says “Hello clouds hello sky” a lot. WRoM has the silliness without anything lasting, so it's an amusing curiosity. But when I replayed it, without the wonder of the new interface, I didn't see a lot of substance. It was fun and easy enough. It was a bit like watching a cartoon or sitcom you loved as a kid, and maybe you can see the holes in it.

So it didn't push me forward in any real way, but it also won't make you want to throw stuff. It may inspire you to write some semi-nonsense you always meant to, because the semi-nonsense here, down to the final "profound" message, made me smile. The scattershot jokes are never going to offend anyone, but they never quite cohere, either. However, the ending promises "an expansion of this world with more interactions is available," and I think one day I will give in to my curiosity. It will probably be far more fun and less draining than following social media and, despite being surreal, less confusing too.

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