by Morgan Elrod-Erickson, Skyler Grandel, and Jan Kim


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Devilishly funny, December 6, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

Deelzebub is a lightly-puzzly comedy game that nails the comedy and got my first out-loud laughs of the Comp.

The scenario Ė the player character is part of a cult that may be harboring a dark secret Ė 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 donít 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 itís 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 canít help spoiler-blocking my favorite single joke:

(Spoiler - click to show)Dave [the aforementioned demon] looks around the chamber. ďSo this is the human world, huh? Itís a lot smaller than I imagined.Ē

ďThis isnít all of it. Weíre in a basement.Ē

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.

Thereís a good amount of scenery implemented, though occasionally objects that seem to be mentioned arenít actually there (thereís reference to a pamphlet that explains the groupís beliefs in the opening scene, but I couldnít find or read it), or objects that are important but arenít 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 thatís 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 itís been a while since Iíve played a game written in it Ė 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 whatís here is really solid and really funny, just tremendously appealing.