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About the Story
Reginald is your average former soap-sniffer: thirty-two, dumped, and unemployed. You are a voice inside his head. Summon demons, bake cookies, and decide the fate of the Hidden Hills Sanctuary.
53rd Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Deelzebub is a lightly-puzzly comedy game that nails the comedy and got my first out-loud laughs of the Comp.
The scenario – the player character is part of a cult that may be harboring a dark secret – is immediately familiar, but the tone of the presentation quickly subverts expectations, as the player character is presented as earnest, friendly, and a little bit suspicious of many different things and people, but willing to go along to get along. This easygoing vibe fits well with a rather ridiculous but appealing supporting cast, and some engagingly silly situations.
I don’t want to get too much into detail on the comedy, both not to ruin it and because what worked for me might not work for you. But I think it’s really, really well done. The best gags, I thought, have to do with the main character trying to bluff his way through a demon summoning, and this bit alone is worth the price of admission. I can’t help spoiler-blocking my favorite single joke:
(Spoiler - click to show)Dave [the aforementioned demon] looks around the chamber. “So this is the human world, huh? It’s a lot smaller than I imagined.”
“This isn’t all of it. We’re in a basement.”
Deelzebub stacks up well pacing-wise, too. The player character is given a series of tasks, which are generally pretty clear in pointing you in the right direction and none of which overstay their welcome. The structure then opens up during the endgame, with four different endings to pursue (I found two).
The puzzles generally have good clueing, though some niggles in implementation and a little bit of guess-the-noun/verb-ing occasionally undercut the momentum. I also was a little disappointed that Dave, the demon you summon early on, can sort of drop out of the story midway through, since he was the clearest throughline for the first half of the game.
There’s a good amount of scenery implemented, though occasionally objects that seem to be mentioned aren’t actually there (there’s reference to a pamphlet that explains the group’s beliefs in the opening scene, but I couldn’t find or read it), or objects that are important but aren’t mentioned despite being present (Chris was listed as being in the crop field area, but not Ruth, even though you can, and should, interact with her! And I had the same issue with the (Spoiler - click to show)ear in the worm bin). The map felt a bit too big, but maybe that’s just because I had a hard time holding it in my brain due to there being some non-cardinal directions thrown in to confuse things.
There were also a few niggles that might have just been part of the way TADS works, but which stood out as strange to me since it’s been a while since I’ve played a game written in it – in particular, there are a fair number of multi-passage scenes (including the opening) where you need to hit enter to continue, but without specific prompting and with the ability to write text before one hits enter, I wound up being a bit confused because I thought I was playing the game and just getting unhelpful/strange responses before twigging to what was going on.
All of which to say there are a few small rough patches that can hopefully be smoothed over for a post-comp release, because what’s here is really solid and really funny, just tremendously appealing.
This is a game where I found myself resorting to hints. Not because the puzzles are particularly difficult, but because the parser was frustrating, to the point where it was not fun any more, and I just wanted to finish it. In addition to guess-the-verb-issues on every corner, most of the progress is being done with “ask/tell person about something”, which in the end resulting in me adopting a brute-force approach, asking and telling everyone about everything in turn. On top of that, I also ran into several cases of runtime errors – nothing game breaking, but certainly adding to the frustration.
I would like to point out, however, that I loved the premise, the characters, and the writing of Deelzebub, and I sincerely wish I had played a more polished version of it.
This game is related to or part of a school project, which kind of setup hasn't made super successful games in the past (I've run some game camps, and long games take a ton of time; a polished IFComp game is about the same work as a Master's thesis and less like a semester project).
This one manages to be better than most, although it still has some rough edges.
Each of the people who worked on the game had successes. The art for the cover is done well; the writing has very funny moments; and the programming handles some pretty tricky material and multiple solutions to most puzzles.
In this game you play as a young member of a cult who has a very funny reaction to being a parser game PC. Your cult leader wants you to summon a demon, who turns out to be a real mild fellow. Shenanigans ensue.
The weak spots are evident in the game, too. The only file available in the download is a compiled executable for 3 platforms with no t3 file. Some of the conversation feels off (in general, reading your dialogue out loud can help make it stronger). You can't leave your leader's room early on until you ask him certain topics, but there is no TOPICS command or other way I found to remember what you need to do.
All of this can be fixed by general experience and maybe getting a few more beta testers that have experience testing comp games. But I think this is the best school-related IFComp game that I can remember playing, and I'd be pleased to see more from these authors.
-Polish: Could use more polish.
-Descriptiveness: Pretty good, but overall could use some more variety and colorful details.
+Emotional Impact: I found this funny
+Would I play again? Has plenty of replay value.
+Interactivity: Outside of the polish issues, the stuff you had to do made sense. The summoning ritual was very good.
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