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About the Story
Can you keep a bunch of tourists happy in Paradise?
"Bali B&B" is a cosy choice-based tale of running a Bed & Breakfast in Bali, Indonesia.
There is peril to humans and animals on Friday but your choices will definitely not get anyone or anything killed.
Play online: https://dashingdon.com/play/Felicity_Banks/bali-bb-for-if-comp-2023/mygame/
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Number of Reviews: 5
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For reference, I played this game during the first week of IFComp 2023, but when given the option to play the original IFComp submission or the latest version I choose to play the latest version. Not sure if there was a bug fix or what, but I would recommend this version to all.
In this game you play as the grandchild (you can pick your gender) of a strong-willed woman, who left her native land of Australia as a young adult to move to Bali and turn her in-laws house into a bed and breakfast hotel. You've grown up in Australia, part-Australian, part-Indonesian, and fluent in the languages of both countries. At least once a year you travel to Bali to visit Granny, but this year is different. This year you will not only be unexpectedly thrust into running the B&B, but you will have a chance to decide your own future in a number of ways.
What can I say about this game without giving away some of its best parts, except that the writing is excellent, the characters are the kind that you just want to spend more time with, and it actually got me to care about cats (a minor miracle!). Though getting you to care about cats is definitely a strength of Felicity's as I know from some of her past games. I've only played through once, and I'm reluctant to play it again as the playthrough I got was so lovely, but it feels like there are a number of different ways you can progress through the game. You can jump in headfirst to your duties or you can play the rebel, you can welcome romance or ignore it, you can be a peacemaker or you can choose violence (figuratively!). I thought the choices offered were great, and even for the ones where the difference was subtle I would sometimes agonize over which one to pick as I was shaping my fate.
Truly, the best things I can say about this game is that it really warmed my heart and I read each new passage with enthusiasm and expectation. There was even tension and drama in a few parts that didn't feel out of place in the overall narrative. Stories like this one and the author's most recent IFComp entry make me want to go play all of her games. Highly recommended!
(Also, she is totally right that brushing your teeth ruins the first few bites of your next snack!)
The last several days have been upsetting, so I was attracted to this game’s “cosy” tag. The vibes were, as advertised, lovely. It manages to make a high stakes situation (I personally would be very anxious getting thrown into running my grandparents’ small business) feel, well, manageable. Felicity Banks deftly mixes in enough uncertainty and spice to keep the sunny pleasantries from glazing over into saccharine kitsch without overflowing into frustrations that might upset the mood, and the purling stream of minicrises keeps you flitting about ever so slightly frenetically to disappear the time as swiftly as a week in paradise. Add in a cute but not overpowering backdrop of romance, and you’ve got enough here that, when I reached the finishline, I wished I was only at the halfway point.
Given how swiftly the time escapes you, the game is well served by its fleetness in characterization. A small choice, like how you make your way through a crowd, leads naturally into a bit of insight into a character whose importance exceeds their screentime: “Granny nods in approval as you make your own path through the scrum. Going against the flow is certainly a family trait.” An easy economy that evinces the tightness of the design without drawing attention to itself. Our player character also comes across as having a distinct personality, even though they are largely a composite of our choices, because your choices always feel conveyed through the character, such that they can undertake your impulse but fail to embody the choice in a grounding way: “You spin around, almost falling over in the process, and half-scream, “What a beautiful morning!” / Sharon Dazzler rears back as if you’ve thrown Machupa at her. She gathers herself with a visible effort. “Hello?” / “Sorry,” you say. “It’s my first full day.”” The chagrin feels earned, because the choice makes us confront the fact that we’re trying to act in a way that doesn’t come naturally to the narrator, which is a fascinating path towards resolving characterization dissonance in a Choicescript style game. Sometimes, though, the game gets a little too glib in its quickness of character, leading to stereotypes that seep in some unnecessary bitterness. Surely it is possible to typify a teenage girl more thoughtfully than this: “A teenage girl who wants to catch the best photos and videos, and will cheerfully put her body on the line to get more views.” I get the mild eyerolling natural to the staff that have to cater to richer people at a resort, but this just felt a little unfair.
Still, the characterization does work its magic to forge connections between you and the characters in a vanishingly short amount of time. Like, I felt genuinely happy when I helped the Chinese family who were nervous about the language barrier to relax and have a great time. And the whirlwind of activities are designed with similar swiftness, able to capture specific moods and then immediately move on, like the nervous dauntedness that arises when you try to recall how to videos on tasks that feel way harder now that they’re real and in front of you and this has to work out: “If you’re going to convince a team of Health Inspectors that four cats in a B&B kitchen is a good thing, then you probably need to make sure that they’re not inclined to attack humans. You vaguely recollect seeing an adorable video of a foster carer changing a visibly diseased and furious stray into a loveable house kitty in a neatly-packaged seven-second video. It mostly seemed to involve lots of towels and perfect makeup.” Why do your memories about a thing seem so much more distant when you’re suddenly right in front of it?
Thus, even though the moments rush past, they still seem to linger, like this lovely line which gives us a sleepless night even though we click immediately to the next day: “He pulls back far too soon and looks at you as if he’s seeing a starry sky for the first time.” The sadness I felt having to slip away from this world coheres very nicely with our narrator, returning to Australia after their week abroad. As tempting as it would be to demand more, perhaps it is magical precisely because it is fleeting; stay any longer, and you might start to recognize you’re working a job. Better then to “quietly fade into the background, leaving Granny to deal with them all. It’s not your responsibility. / Not yet.”
...despite the rather stressful situation the PC is in! The PC’s position as somewhat of an outsider who’s suddenly plunged in over their head was a compelling one, and I enjoyed navigating through the various scenarios (especially those involving cute cats or a mischievous monkey). I also appreciated the social management aspects; it was very gratifying to facilitate a nice breakfast chat between guests despite language barriers, and to save two teenagers from a boring day with their parents and also spur a friendship between them in the process.
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