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Sorcery Is for Saps

by Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum

Fantasy
2016

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Number of Reviews: 1
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A silly and fun court intrigue story with constrained choices, February 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
I have to admit, I didn't have high hopes for this game coming in. My own game is usually near the bottom of the barrel sales-wise (according to the 'bestselling' section of the iOS omnibus app), but Sorcery for Saps is usually right around there, too.

So I was pleasantly surprised by the involved and intriguing mystery story that played out over the couple of hours the game lasted. You have to impersonate your master sorcerer at the king's court, where he has been cursed by an unknown person at a critical time in negotiations.

There are many suspects and many side-intrigues going on, and it all ties together nicely. Even if you guess some of the secrets, it's still fun to see the others.

But this game had a few things going against it.

For me personally, I disliked that many choices were forced on you. So instead of 'Would you like to talk to the servant or do one of these other options?' the game would say, 'You've decided you like the servant, feel sorry for her, and go out of your way to cast a specific elaborate spell to fix her problems and gain her confidence. Why did you do that player?'

Imagine someone doing that when making dinner plans or game mastering. Instead of, 'Where are you thinking of eating tonight? We could go to Taco Bell or Mcdonalds since they're close,' it's more like, 'Well, I can tell already you're going to tell us to go to Taco Bell and get supreme burritos because you love their beans. What made you think of it?'

It makes for stronger storytelling, because you (the author) have complete control of what happens, and perhaps that's one reason I found the story so engaging. But I found it less engaging as a game.

The second issue that a lot of games lower on the bestselling list have (and mine does this too, though I've updated it a bit to work on it) is 'bad stat disease', where you can end the game with pretty much all of your stats between 50% and 60%, and your opposed stats at essentially 50-50, due to a combination of infrequent, low stat boosts, confusion about what tests opposed stats vs setting it, and difficulty figuring out what skill is used in each test.

The last thing is that the game has zany, silly humor, especially in the first chapter, with spells like 'CTRL-Z' or 'Thingius stoppius' (not a real spell, but similar to ones in the game). I've noticed that games with silly humor tend not to do well, even if they're actually pretty fun (like For Sale:Haunted House, Yeti's Parole Officer). The same goes for anything that seems targeted towards children (like my own game or Demon Mark).

So, if the authors read this, I really liked your game, and I think there are some things that can be improved, but overall your mystery was great and I'm going to be thinking about it for a long time. Loved the characterization of the ferret.