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Please Sign Here

by Michelle Negron (as "Road")

Suspense, Mystery
2023

(based on 13 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Jackie Parker's life gets turned upside down after getting involved in a fatal car accident with her best friend. Now, Jackie's signature has been showing up at murder sights across the area and she has to think back to who could have done it. You have to prove Jackie's innocence, or, are you willing to throw someone else under the bus?

Get to click and play through different scenarios as a coffee barista to see if anyone you had came across could be the true culprit behind it. Figure out the mystery to who might have decided to frame Jackie or, if Jackie is as innocent as she seems.

Content warning: Distressing themes of racism, police corruption, stalking, mentions/indications of self-harm, and toxic behaviors


Game Details


Awards

52nd Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Single White Barista, December 1, 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).

Please Sign Here is a deceptively complex game. Superficially, it’s a slice of life mystery; as the framing story establishes, the main character, Jackie, has just been in a car crash that’s claimed the life of her best friend Casey. But the police have other things in mind as they interrogate her, since she’s also potentially linked to the murder of a number of delivery drivers whose last stop before their deaths was the coffeeshop where Jackie works. The meat of the story involves flashing back to the events of the last week, when torrential rains and a vacationing boss left her isolated during a series of night shifts, and she repeatedly encountered three customers who each seemed like they could be hiding something…

This moody mystery is more than it appears, however, and that’s not just down to the attractive art. I don’t think it’s fully successful at the tricky moves it pulls – heck, I’m not 100% sure it’s aware of exactly how tricky they are – but I’ve been turning it over and over in my brain ever since I finished it, which I’d certainly count as an accomplishment. Talking about why involves digging into the plot, though, and since this is a mystery it’s poor form to just spoil said plot without warning. So you might want to give the game a play-through before joining me in the spoiler-text below – and if you have and aren’t sure what tricky things I’m talking about, let me just say that you might want to replay and remember your Miranda rights.

(Spoiler - click to show)

Hi there! I’ve got to do a little bit more plot summarizing before we can get to the good stuff. So as mentioned after the in-medias-res police-interrogation opening, you flash back to your shifts at the coffeehouse, with the game progressing day-by-day through the week leading up to the opening car crash. Jackie’s the daughter of a cop, but she’s quite jumpy, starting out suspicious of the three recurring customers: Quan, an elderly recent-immigrant from Vietnam; Aaron, a young Black man who’s juggling a job and his studies; and Marta, a Latina mother with a demanding and thankless job. In fairness, this might be because something odd seems to be happening in the shop; even thought Jackie’s supposed to be alone, the back door keeps getting mysteriously unlocked and opened…

Despite the sense of dread the game’s trying to establish, I actually found the meat of the game surprisingly cozy. In part this is down to the art, which has a warm webcomic-y vibe; there are a few illustrations that are creepy, like the one depicting the fateful pre-crash car ride, but the coffeeshop sections seem to depict a warm, dry haven on a stormy day, with the visiting customers looking friendly and appealing. Intentionally or not, the writing also signally fails to establish any of the three “suspects” as remotely threatening; as far as I can tell, the major details that are supposed to make them potentially dangerous are the fact that Quan drives a black car that might be the same as one Jackie’s seen loitering around, Aaron brings in a big package one day, and Marta’s job occasionally requires her to pick up documents from city hall. You can practically hear the duh-duh-DUH when these details are revealed, since the game frames them as significant, but they’re such obvious red herrings that Jackie’s reactions just mark her out as a paranoid fussbudget – she’s also a real stickler for the rules, not even letting a wet and bedraggled Marta wait for her bus inside the near-empty coffeeshop unless she buys something.

The writing is also, bluntly, not that great, which undercuts the game’s attempts to set a mood. Like, here’s Jackie’s reflections on why she’s friends with Casey, who’s kind of the worst:

>[I]f her dad wants to keep his high chances for donations to become Police Chief next year, Jackie has to keep up playing friendly with one of the richest families in town. The Wintons might only be a truck service company, but they’re the reasons semi-trucks even exist in the first place."

That took me a while to parse, and it’s par for course with much of the game’s prose. The choice-based elements of the narrative also aren’t especially engaging, as there aren’t many decision points and not enough effort is put into making them seem meaningful; there’s one moment where you hear something in the back and go to investigation, and you’re given the choice of grabbing either a broom or a “group handle” (?) as a weapon, but after selecting one the next passage begins “It doesn’t matter.” For the love of god, game, I know this is mostly on rails, but you don’t need to draw attention to it!

Things get much more interesting when the timeline catches up to the framing story, though. After recounting your memories, the cops ask you to pick which of the three “suspects” you think they should prioritize in their investigation. I clammed up and refused to finger any of them, both on general principles – public service announcement, if cops are ever asking you anything, shut up until you’ve got a lawyer present – and because I was quite sure none of them murdered the delivery drivers or was responsible for the car crash. And in that ending, which the epilogue text deemed the “main” ending, the third-person narration shifted from referring to the main character as Jackie to Casey, instead – she’s Jackie’s notional best friend, remember – and mentioned her recent hair-dye job.

The clear implication is that Casey has gone all Single White Female (or Talented Mr. Ripley, if you prefer) and killed Jackie in service of trying to switch identities with her. There are some seeds of foreshadowing throughout the earlier section that point in this direction; Casey seems envious of Jackie’s life in their earlier interactions, and right before the car crash, the flashback sequence ends with Casey asking whether Jackie thinks people deserve second chances – a macabre question when you realize that Jackie is herself the second chance in question. So it could be an inspired twist.

There are two flies in the ointment, though, one more interesting than the other. To get the boring one out of the way: of course this makes no ^%$^ sense. There’s no indication that Casey’s done anything more than the dye-job to make herself look like Jackie, nor that she had much time or expertise post-accident to make Jackie look like her. The twist has nothing to do with the much-belabored deaths of the delivery-men, and in fact Casey killing all of them – as the ending implies – would do nothing but invite further scrutiny of the switcheroo. And did we forget that Jackie’s dad is a cop, and presumably knows what his daughter looks like? So take as read that this is all completely ridiculous.

The more interesting inconsistency in the twist, though, is the fact that you only see it by refusing to try to set the cops on some innocent person to throw them off the scent (this is where the racism/police corruption themes mentioned in the blurb come into play, by the by – the implication is that they’re happy to go after one of the POC “suspects” and ignore the possibility that the white girl is a baddie). You can conceptualize this as a reward for the player – by successfully realizing that none of them is the killer, the player gets a hint of what’s really going on – or as an in-character decision by Jackie, who’s gotten to know these people. But for Casey to make this choice is counterproductive; again, she’s inviting more scrutiny for no reason!

This isn’t a just a plot hole like the ones I mention above, though; it calls into question who exactly is making choices and how those choices are being resolved. Instead of the conventional IF triangle of identities – player, protagonist, and narrator – here we have the traditional player and narrator joined by a competing dyad of protagonists, whose methods and motivations are diametrically opposed, and who, unless you happen to pick just the right options, seamlessly substitute for each other with the player and narrator none the wiser. And now that we think about it some more, the flashback depicts events in Jackie’s life, but it’s being recounted by Casey to the cops as though it’s about her, so this doubling is even more complex than we thought (oh, and this also means the narrator is completely unreliable too and we presumably can’t trust anything we’ve read)! Please Sign Here thus becomes narrative collapse: the game – nothing that comes after the twist makes sense, and it throws into question everything that comes before the twist, too.

I wish I could say the game does something compelling with this move, but per my long-ago, pre-spoiler-text note, I’m unconvinced that it knows how radical it’s being – possibly this is me just being judgmental and overgeneralizing from the weak prose to assuming that the game has weak writing overall, I suppose, but it’s inarguable that the game doesn’t explore the implications of its scenario, seeming satisfied with using it as a noirish capstone to a conventional whodunnit, not one of postmodern dislocation. Still, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even what may seem an often-clumsy mystery can dislocate its player into acute postmodern vertigo.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't Think a Mystery Could Make Me Mad, January 4, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

Buckle up, this one fired me up a bit

This is a murder mystery. A barista protagonist survives a car crash to find her signature figured into a string of doomed deliverymen, and she is the prime suspect! Relive the previous days to see if you can successfully finger the perpetrator. It is a fairly limited-choice work, more fiction than interactive until the final j’accuse.

I would say up until the final choice, the work has two defining features: 1) very attractive, cartoony artwork, and 2) offputtingly intrusive prose. Word choice is routinely awkward, to the point I stopped grabbing examples after a while. I am not exaggerating when I say every other text box elicited a grimace of “phrasing, please!” “Jackie’s shoulders stricken immediately,” “Until close! No butts!” (wrong kind of ‘but’), a selectable “Group Handle” which to this day I have no idea what it is even after grabbing it. It appears to have had a good supply of play testers, I hope this is not a case of A@%#ole American Reviewer coming down on translation gaps. Best I can say is regardless of source it was endlessly distracting. It is also nowhere near the most infuriating thing about this work.

The character work is pretty light, but when it is applied, everyone feels kind of selfish excepting maybe the college student. A conversation with her best friend about the protagonist’s boss: “I am running the shop this week. Maggie’s on vacation.” “Again??" Casey groans, “That whore. […]” MeYOW, Casey.

The protagonist herself is maybe the worst at this. Her response choices seem to vary between “petty” and “rude” with the occasional “begrudgingly doing her job.” It makes her unsympathetic and kind of a drag to spend all our time with, and something I rebelled against whenever choice opportunities presented themselves. While maybe this is narratively justified… I’ll get there. For sure in the moment it is offputting. Given no alternative, we work with her through four increasingly tense nights as a stalker seems to haunt the perimeter, then suffer a car crash, and hit endgame.

So, who is the killer? As a mystery I would say, drily, it is not very tight. While there are a lot of events that happen, the game goes to lengths to show that any of the suspects might plausibly have a hand in them, or at least can’t be ruled out. When asked to finger a suspect, I went with one whose actions had the least plausibly innocent explanations. Initially it seemed like I was maybe right, or at least in the ballpark? This was far from any kind of smoking gun, btw, but, yay me? Murder motive, a linked robbery, mechanics of the crash, none of those made sense for ANY of the suspects including the guilty party. I could easily have washed my hands at this point, assuming I had ‘solved’ a kind of unsatisfyingly constructed mystery. It was a Mechanical, Notably glitchy prose experience, until I tried to restart from a save game. There seemed to be a bug in the web-play implementation where the savegame was not found and I got error messages, pushing it to Intrusive.

So I replayed from start, laboriously retracing the entire game just to see what happened. I made some different choices that resulted in new incidental text but no new information, and landed again on the “who do we accuse?” And chose someone different. Holy s@#$. Okay, here is the I-promise-its-relevant suspect list: spoilers I guess? (Spoiler - click to show)an African American student, an undervalued Hispanic receptionist, an Asian immigrant, and a spoiled rich White Girl. I reiterate, at this point, I had no convincing clues of ANYONE’S guilt. Instead of my initial guess, I kind of randomly fingered the (Spoiler - click to show)African American student. Not only was I wrong this time (as expected), I unintentionally caused a POC to be gunned down by Police! WTF GAME?!?!?! Is this the game I was playing all along? There is no way I was going to subject other suspects to alternate endings at that point, so I reran again, and this time accused (Spoiler - click to show)no one giving me a reveal that (Spoiler - click to show)I WASN’T EVEN WHO I THOUGHT I WAS???

Quick recap: Blind guess #1: “correct.” Blind guess #2: SO SO VERY WRONG. #3: The “real” ending I guess? (Assuming for a moment this ending made a lick of sense, which it very much does not.) How do I parse this? In a traditional fiction narrative, this would fall apart under the weight of its own contradictions, but it might not be actively offensive. As an IF work though? The game has specifically put us into a mystery solving role. The player is both invested and complicit in getting it ‘right’. With the first solution, you are convinced ‘yeah I got!’ by uncertainly pointing the blame finger and through no active agency or knowledge, seeming to serve justice. That EXACT SAME process, pointed elsewhere led to atrocity. If I hadn’t taken the third path, what would this be saying? Certainly it is saying racial profiling is bad, I get that. Why did it “reward” me for a guess then? Is it saying, God forbid, to serve Justice you sometimes just have to GUESS?? Does it actually make a difference WHO you point an unsure finger at? SHOULD IT??? What clue did I have, other than some time remaining in IFCOMP judging period, that I should keep playing, that this WASN’T the message of the piece?

When you add in the possible third ending, “WHY IS THE GAME EVEN RAISING THESE KINDS OF QUESTIONS AT ALL WHEN IT ISN’T TRYING TO ENGAGE THEM?” As a player, I was complicit in ALL the endings, why is the game sucker punching me, then moving on like its shoddy construction had no role in this?

So let’s engage that third ending. (Spoiler - click to show)If you accuse no one, it is revealed you are actually the murderer, stealing the identity OF THE PERSON YOU FRAMED FOR THE MURDERS. Like, murderer? Literally steal ANYONE ELSE’S IDENTITY but the person you PERSONALLY have ensured the police will scrutinize most closely! And you only learn this because you REFUSED to give the police another angle to pursue, NOT EVEN YOUR OLD IDENTITY, which maybe should have been plan A in this branch!? Nevermind the whole thing coming down when the stolen identity’s COP FATHER swung by to check in. It doesn’t work at all on its own. In some sense the whole piece would at least be more coherent if this ending DIDN’T seem to work, if the police noticed the same inconsistencies and the murderer ended up being too deranged to put together a coherent plan.

Had it done that, it might have retroactively recast the other endings as ‘oh snap, murderer actually got away with plan!’ Or maybe been a slightly more coherent scheme if #1 and #3 were combined. There’s still plenty of gaps for sure, but maybe get at least a slight charge before it crumbled on closer inspection? What gets me is, this thing put me on a journey of player complicity that was deeply uncomfortable. If it had followed through on this in any way, had something to say about it, maybe it would be justified? But in service of AND SUBORDINATE TO a clumsily executed shock twist, it is clear all that turmoil was not the point of the piece, may have even been accidental. That made it kind of offensive. At best, I found it thematically unfocused and deeply illogical. At worst actively Bouncy.

Played: 10/29/23
Playtime: 45min, 3 endings
Artistic/Technical ratings: Bouncy, Intrusive restore bug, language
Would Play After Comp?: No, do not poke the bear. Twice, I mean.


Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Coffee shop horror, October 4, 2023
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

I'll spend some of this review being critical about the prose of this entry, but I'd like to start with the good stuff, of which there is quite a bit. First off, there's the pictures. There's not that many of them, but they help not only set the mood, but also make the people you interact with more concrete. The immediate, visual knowledge of who it is that has walked into the coffee shop somehow makes the encounters more real; and therefore it makes it all the more disconcerting when you have to pick one of them as the potential serial killer. It's all the more disconcerting because there is literally no reason to think any one of them is guilty of so heinous a crime, and the only reason you, as a player, are likely to pick a name anyway, is that the police imply very strongly that they'll try to prosecute you if you don't.

The scenario is pretty fun too! It's a good choice to start the game with the police interrogation. This ensures that the coffee shop scenario, which is relatively slow in terms of the build-up of tension, is immediately charged. You're already looking at all the NPCs with suspicion, which is precisely what the games wants you to do. And it feels less strange that the protagonist is so easily scared, because we know that's she's right to be scared. I enjoyed wondering what was going on, and I enjoyed no knowing what to do when I was called on to accuse someone. Then... well, depending on what you choose, you may either be left in the dark (which I suspect is not a very satisfying ending to get) or you may find out what is really happening... and that's pretty horrific. A good twist ending that left me blinking in disbelief for a while. (On further reflection, it's an extremely literal take on the idea that you shouldn't fear people who don't look like you, but you should fear people who DO look like you. A pretty good idea for a horror story!)

I don't think you can do much in the game to learn more about what is happening, or to change the outcome. If you can, I'd love that, and it would raise my rating of the game. But I didn't find any promising avenues to explore.

Okay, so as I indicated in the beginning, the weakest part of *Please Sign Here* is the prose. It's always possible to understand it, but it's marred by frequent grammatical mistakes and sentences that don't quite work in a variety of ways. Sometimes it's a metaphor gone awry:

Silence cuts through Jackie's next intended sentence.

A cutting silence might already be a bit of a stretch, but how can you cut through something that is only intended, and doesn't come to existence precisely because of the things that's supposed to do the cutting? In other cases, it is word choice:
The cop returns the evidence and brings forth new ones.

You can't use 'evidence' as a plural this way to describe a bunch of photos. Or there's an unfortunate, but in this case hilarious, typo:
Until close! No butts!

What is meant is 'no buts', but 'no butts' is pretty funny, of course. Here's a passage where we see many of the weaknesses coming together:
It begins to thunder outside, and the lights of the store flickers. Jackie makes a move to look out the window, rain blearing reality and greyness together. The road is empty, and the light from the streetlamp barely illuminates against the concrete.

Here "flickers" should have been "flicker"; 'making a move to look out the window' is a weird phrase (why doesn't she just look out of the window?); blearing (blending?) reality and greyness together is a recherché metaphor; and the final phrase, about illuminating against the concrete, also doesn't seem to work very well.

Did this impact my enjoyment of the game? To a certain extent. I love good prose, and Please Sign Here didn't always deliver. But it didn't sink the game. Everything was clear; I could follow the story just fine. However, prose quality is where the greatest improvement, either for this game or the author's next game, is possible (perhaps with the help of testers who enjoy doing proofreading).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Twine murder mystery with good art, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a creepy game in Twine with well-drawn backgrounds and characters.

You play in a coffee shop where a variety of customers keep coming in, but also several murders have occurred in the recent area and shadowy figures are hanging about you.

The characters were all distinct and mostly believable. Everything is tinged with just a hint of grey realism, so everyone has mildly depressing flaws.

The art was very well done. My only complaint on the visual side is that the very first background image is close to the text color in parts, making it difficult to read.

I played through to two different endings, including what appears to be the final ending. I was a bit surprised by the implications of the final ending, as I’m not sure how the rest of the game would make sense in that context. Although as I’m reading this it just dawned on me how it could all tie together, so hmmm…

Overall this was a game that improved my day to play, so I hope others check it out.

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Will we ever know the truth?, November 22, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

Please Sign Here is a fairly linear visual novel mystery. As a coffee barista, you have been brought in for interrogation after being involved in an accident that took the life of your friend and the police finding your signature linked to other incidents. The game goes through the events of the past week, ending with you potentially naming who you think did it. There are about a dozen endings.

Out of all the things I would expect to see in Twine, a visual novel wasn't really one of them. Usually made in RenP'y or Godot, this one was made in Harlowe, a Twine format. Even if the scaling doesn't always work, or the positioning is not always quite right, or the music bar being distracting, just for trying to do that, kuddos to you!
Just a little note on contrast, the text sometimes blended with the background, which was a bit hard to read. A darker text background or different positioning of the image would help a ton!

The story itself might be a bit generic (oh, no! you were accused wrongly!), and the prose awkward at times, but throughout, the game managed to keep up with the suspense. When it starts to mellow out a bit, here's a creepy sprite, or the background changes with darker tones to reflect the state. It is also made clearer with the main character slowly losing her sanity, which is already exasperated by working too much.

Though most of the story is pretty linear, you have a few choice on how you interact with your surrounding and the people entering the coffee shop. Still, your agency stays fairly limited, as the majority of the game happens in a flashback. The main choice happens at the end of the game, with most endings being fairly similar to each other (not one felt quite satisfying).

A big big plus for this entry was the illustrations for the game, especially the backgrounds. Really added to the vibe of the game. I think I liked the car scene the most.

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