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Promising but broken, December 10, 2020
There’ve been a number of folks who’ve written reviews of PISG already, all of whom noted running into the same issue I did – after setting up the premise (win a 99-contestant singing-and-dancing reality show), introducing a small set of characters (the plucky sidekick, the arrogant rival, etc.), and giving a first introduction to the basic mechanics of the contest (via a series of choices during the prep and performance, leverage a set of four skills to determine how the player did, then give opportunities to improve relationships, sabotage others, and grind up skills in the downtime between challenges), the thing just ends, maybe ten minutes in.
This is well short of the advertised hour and a half playtime, so it’s unclear whether this is a bug, the wrong file was uploaded, an incomplete game was intentionally entered, or the whole thing is an exercise in Brechtian audience-expectation-undermining (the joke is that this is probably a single word in German) that puts For a Place by the Putrid Sea to Shame. None of those options present an easy jumping-off point for a review, sadly (well, except maybe the last one), so this will be a series of notes in place of what might turn into something robust if the game gets updated.
There are definitely a lot of typos and grammar errors, possibly the result of translation? Despite this, or maybe partially because of this, the game has a demented charm that arises from the confluence of the heightened artificiality of the game-show setup and a puppyishly overenthusiastic narrative voice. Like, after being introduced to the competition, we get this:
"You meet your new partner/roommate in a dance studio located inside the ships Tudor-style library. Your partner is Fuko Yamamoto, the daughter of a famous ventriloquist. She hopes to reinvigorate the idol community with the true spirit of enthusiasm and creativity."
I have no idea what to do with any of that, but it’s actually amazing.
It also has the coldest burn of any game so far. As the player character is saying goodbye to her family:
"Despite your dad being a 'boomer,' You love your dad dearly and are sad to leave him."
I’m a millenni-old, not a Boomer, but still: ice cold.
(I have been trying to make millenni-old a thing, by the by, to refer to folks born roughly between 1980 and 1984, who are technically millennials per the demographers but who didn’t have the same ab-ovo familiarity with computers and the internet as the rest of the generation, while still being too young to be invested in GenX touchstones like (shudder) Reality Bites or fully experience the impact of the end of the Cold War. Millenni-old – let’s all make it a thing!)
While it’s easy to focus on the style, there do appear to be some systems undergirding the thing, with stats tracked for your singing, your dancing, your “visuals”, and pretty much everything else (like, you have a fourth stat called “variety” that reflects miscellaneous talents, personality, sense of humor…), as well as numerical values for your relationships with other contestants. It’s easy to see how this would support the game-y side of proceedings, as you customize a character who’ll romp through some challenges while struggling with others, and figure out how best to engage in social maneuvering to come out on top.
None of this is in the game at least as far as I can access it, but the bones are there. Hopefully we’ll see a mid-comp update/fix, or at least PISG Phase Two in next year’s Comp – Long Xiaofan, I’m coming for you!