Midnight at Al's Self Storage, Truck Rentals, and Discount Psychic Readings

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Amusing MacGuffins and long title make for a fun brief exploration, August 11, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2022

Long titles always give me pause. Will they indicate a long, sprawling game? Or will the game have a tight focus, as sort of a reversal joke, so tight you think they overdid it with the super long title? In the case of Midnight (spelling the acronym would take more keystrokes,) thankfully, there's little to worry about. It's short and tidy and subverts the "pointless task in lousy weird job" genre without overusing the zany or "lousy jobs are lousy" angles. It's well-organized. I replayed it quickly after ParserComp, and though there's only one tricky puzzle, I still fluffed it at first and then felt happy once it was fixed.

You start out with an undemanding task left by your mysterious manager: find three boxes and bring them to the loading dock to the north. The first requires little more than exploration. The second requires fiddling with locks on an elevator. Some may find this tiresome, but it made me recall bad experiences with a frieght elevators and padlocks (not together, thankfully) which the passage of time had healed. The constraints are tongue-in-cheek, as you can't leave the basement if you are even carrying a mere task list. While it's busy work and meant to be, I enjoyed seeing something different than the Towers of Hanoi and the 3-, 4- and 5-liter jugs, and it underscored how badly managed your rental shop was.

Things get interesting after you place the second box on the loading dock. The weather changes. The place shakes enough that you can carry not just a task list into the basement but everything in the game that's not nailed down! This was an exhilarating moment of freedom. Not only that, but a previously-locked door is now open! This was a relief, considering all the futzing with keys and padlocks I'd done earlier.

On your way to finding the third box, you have visions. They contribute to why your place of employment is weird, and you have something to set right. It's not very hard, but it's satisfying, and it ended too soon, with the promise of a sequel I will be glad to enjoy.

Midnight certainly is economical in design if not in its title. And its brevity and oddness make its wit stay. And if the sequel takes a while, I will have stuff to tide me over. I hadn't realized this was the author's third work.

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