Olivia's Orphanorium

by Sam Kabo Ashwell profile

Casual Simulation

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Number of Ratings: 23
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Fascinating... maybe for all the wrong reasons?, July 17, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I'm a huge fan of casual simulations and resource management games, so when I stumbled upon this game, I was definitely intrigued. Fortunately, the game lived up to the expectations I had for it, which were appropriately low given the limits of the medium and my lack of experience with similar IF games.

This is not a difficult game... in fact, it's one of those simulations where it quickly becomes very obvious how to win. But instead of just amassing huge amounts of wealth, the path to victory is paved with emotional twists and turns. Another reviewer commented on how much affection you can discover for an "orphan" that is nothing more than a name, gender, and age, and I entirely agree. I wanted to see it through to the end not so that I could gain over 10,000 coins or some arbitrary end-goal, but because Ethel came to me as a dirty, sullen toddler and at the age of 16, was beautiful, healthy, and charming enough to stand in as a model for an artists' portrait. She'd later go on to work as an apprentice to a local entrepreneur, and I'm quite certain that if I checked back in with her in twenty-five years, she'd have a family of her own and a legacy to leave them.

The game is presented as a "beat an orphan" simulation and I think it's selling itself short. Yes, it's all sarcastically written to point out how horrifying orphanages have been throughout history (and, to an extent, still can be) but it's got an inner layer of charm that I wasn't expecting to find.

If there are any downsides to the game overall, it's that the difficulty is either completely impossible (but not on my most recent playthrough) or much too easy. I'd also love to see a version of the game that incorporates some visual cues to let you know you're doing, so long as they don't shatter the boundary between immersive simulation and game; color changes to the text to show negative/positive outcomes of your actions, for instance.

P.S. The "Play Online" version of the game appears to be v1, and unfortunately I did not have the time to go back and play v3 to see if the game was improved in any of the ways mentioned. If you have access to an interpreter, I imagine that's the version of the game the author intends for you to play.

Note: this review is based on older version of the game.
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- hoopla, November 6, 2016

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A resource management/optimization game about an orphanage, February 4, 2016

Resource management games aren't super common in IF (Suspended and the Geisha part of When Help Collides come to mind). In this game, you have to manage 30 orphans over several weeks. You can buy equipment for them, assign them various tasks, discipline them, clean them, etc.

The goal is to have a lot of money and to have your kids do well in society. I ended up having 28 of them run away, even though I never disciplined and gave the best food.

As a resource management game, it's very enjoyable. Recommended for fans of sim-type games.

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- Joey Jones (UK), December 20, 2015

- Aryore, December 12, 2015

- cabalia (Ohio), March 6, 2015

- EllaClass, November 5, 2014

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Amusing, Different, February 20, 2014

Might just be that I'm a sim addict (I am), but I wish there were more IF games like this. Not that ALL IF games were like this, just that there were a few more.

It's amazing how easily a few bits of information (name, gender, four stats) and a little responsibility can be converted to genuine (if very mild) affection. I genuinely wanted my charges to be attractive and well-disciplined so that they could get out of my orphanage before despair killed them. And to get paid in the process.

I found the interface simple to use and not overly tedious even in the tail end of the game once I discovered I could "x all" and "assign all". I enjoyed the random story events, and liked that I could dismiss ones that were unfulfillable. I wish there were more of them, or that they were more frequent ((Spoiler - click to show)and that the sewage one came up a lot less frequently, or not at all unless you have wards in every room. I had it happen on two different plays when I had no wards in two of the rooms and it took forever to clean up).

At some points (like when a ward I'd gotten almost perfect bolted) I found myself wishing for a bit more agency. And I would have liked a subplot that required spending money (maybe enriching myself or improving my station) to make the choice of where to spend my money more interesting than just "what order do I buy stuff" or "buy whatever will help solve my current issue".

After several play-throughs, I only found one bug; one of my wards met an untimely end yet was still active and present the next day.

Definitely a game worth playing as both an interesting experiment and a fun game, as long as you don't dwell too long on what the game is actually requiring you to do (or find it amusing).

So, it turns out I somehow downloaded both versions and played the wrong one! The updated version seems to have increased the number of random events and decreased the morale hits. Very nice.

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- Katrisa (Houston), February 18, 2014

- Galena, September 11, 2013

- Hulk Handsome (Carmen Sandiago), February 22, 2013

- E.K., September 11, 2012

- Jizaboz (U.S.A.), July 16, 2012

- Molly (USA), June 21, 2012

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Weirdly addicting, June 20, 2012

I found this game very funny and weirdly addicting. The engine for random events is well done. Through several game plays, various mini events would come up. Also the language is very colorful. While there isn't much puzzle solving, its very adept at world building and well, hilarious descriptions of your charges. I do wish there was an easier way to track the progress of each kid.

Also, I think there is a slight bug, where sometimes some improvements didn't have impact. The first time I bought one improvement, it impacted the kids, but in a second playthrough the same improvement didn't seem to register as affecting anything. (In this case, it was the "Harvest of Sin" improvement).

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Dickensian parody, June 17, 2012
by Emily Short
Related reviews: cover stories

The core mechanics of Olivia's Orphanorium are more reminiscent of time management-style games than typical IF puzzle fare.

Your task, as orphan master, is to decide how to spend money on food and devices (such as treadmills, baths, et al) that will in some fashion alter the discipline, vigour, appearance, or morale of the orphans in your charge. Undisciplined but vigorous orphans are more likely to escape; attractive and well-disciplined orphans are more likely to receive good jobs. Orphans with terribly low morale are likely to die. Good orphan outcomes mean more money for the player, while there is no profit from orphans who die or escape.

Most of the active gameplay consists of moving through the orphanage's three rooms (junior, middle, senior); washing and/or beating certain orphans; and assigning orphans to tasks, such as walking the treadmill. The risks and difficulty ramp up gradually. You start the game with just four orphans, but new ones are steadily assigned to the place until you're managing a significant number of them at a time.

One help I would have appreciated is a tabulated way to inspect the well-being of all my orphans at once, in order to decide which could most profitably be scrubbed and/or beaten that day. As it stands, as far as I can tell, one must go around examining them all. I also would have preferred if gameplay weren't so front-loaded with the task of reading the manual. The game starts with the player carrying multiple explanatory items, introducing the major concepts of the game, the commands you can use, and the catalogue of items you can buy. Players with a habit of thoroughness will probably read every entry in each of these manuals before beginning play. They are entertaining reading, which helps, but I think I might have preferred to have the catalogue of purchasable items introduced after a few days of gameplay, since a) none of the items available for sale are going to be affordable sooner than that anyhow and b) this would have spaced out the amount of looking-up necessary, and made sure I received the catalogue *after* I already understood enough about the concepts of discipline, vigour, etc., to know what I might need.

To enliven the core play elements, Orphanorium also features a series of special tasks or missions that pop up every day or two. These typically involve some sort of amusing event, and require the player to do something slightly more puzzle-oriented than the main gameplay: search the grounds for a stolen treasure, for instance, or identify an appropriate orphan to perform a particular special task.

After you've processed thirty orphans, you will be subject to a Periodic Assessment, which tallies up your success so far and assigns you an ending. For me, that was just about right -- the Assessment occurred just at the point when I was slightly starting to wonder whether the game had an end, but before I had gotten tired of it.

Orphanorium might sound like the sort of game that ought to be graphical rather than textual. But most of the pleasure of the game comes from the rich genre parody and descriptions. The catalogue items you can buy to enliven your orphanage, the environment, and the orphans themselves are all described with a consistently tongue-in-cheek mock-Victorian voice, taking the line that children benefit from frequent beatings and near-toxic baths. The actual mechanics of the game are more humane, however, as it is generally most effective to (Spoiler - click to show)feed your children the best, most fattening gruel and to refrain from using The Box for discipline.

So the text-out aspect is definitely a strength for Orphanorium. I'm a little more uncertain about whether the parser is ideal; there were times when the typing got a bit longwinded. Most commands are of the same type and there is little occasion to try out new verbs except, occasionally, during unusual story events. To be fair, the potential tedium of assigning every orphan in a room to a task is considerably reduced by the fact that you can use ASSIGN ALL TO TASK -- but I didn't discover this point until late in the game. A note about this in the instructions might help, or (better, I think) the game could detect whether the player had assigned multiple characters in a row and issue a hint message about combining those into one command.

Overall, Orphanorium is an unusual construct for IF, but it's solid, engaging, and amusingly written. Do not expect difficult puzzles or a strong narrative arc, just a lot of exploration of a particular milieu and mindset.

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- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), June 15, 2012

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