No Time To Squeal

by Mike Sousa profile and Robb Sherwin profile

Slice of life/Surreal

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Number of Reviews: 5
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Not without potential, but sloppy, sloppy, sloppy..., May 9, 2008
by Jimmy Maher (Oslo, Norway)

Let's deal with the obvious first: No Time to Squeal monkeys around with the standard IF system commands in an absolutely unforgivable way. Early in the game, you will appear to have lost, and will get the standard Restart/Restore/Quit prompt. Typing "restart" here will actually carry you on to the next section of the game. Should an unaware player choose to restore to try to find a better way, he's just out of luck. Ouch. The game then compounds the sin by repeating this trick several more times, long after it has ceased to be the slightest bit clever.

As for the rest: the game opens with an immediately engaging (if long) exposition explaining the (first) PC's life as a professional sports agent and describing one of his problem-child athletes. It then proceeds to do nothing with any of this, instead becoming a different sort of realistic drama focusing on "complications" with his wife's pregnancy. About halfway through, that also gets tossed in favor of the dreaded Surreal Profoundly Symbolic Fantasy World full of characters from Alice in Wonderland's nightmares. This is problematic in that these plots are arranged in descending order of interest. Safe to say this one ends with a whimper rather than a bang.

There's a saying in creative writing that every time you introduce a significant character, object, or symbol, the reader puts that in his metaphorical backpack. By the end of the story, he should have emptied his backpack out again, having disposed of everything in its proper place. (Or alternately, see Chekhov's famous comments about the gun over the mantelpiece in Act 1.) By the end of this game, the player is positively groaning under the weight of unused characters and objects and dangling plot threads. Nothing ever comes together into a whole. Even the gameplay is not consistent, going from a railroaded puzzleless piece to a poorly designed (if equally railroaded) puzzlefest without warning halfway through. I started playing from the walkthrough on this section as soon as I ran into the first guess the verb puzzle.

Mr. Sherwin is plainly trying to write in a different mode than usual here, for which he deserves credit. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work for him, just coming off as awkward and constrained -- the latter in particular not being a word I've ever associated with his work before. There are flashes of the old Robb, such as when the nurse's ex-boyfriend begins quoting a cheesy old Led Zeppelin lyric to her -- "ooooo"'s included -- as love poetry, but not enough. And then the writing is riddled with technical flaws -- missing words, misplaced modifiers, and words that just don't mean what Mr. Sherwin seems to think they do. It reads like a first draft.

To characterize the game in one word: sloppy. You may want to play the first half, but feel free to quit when the Surreal Fantasy kicks in. At that point, you've seen everything worth seeing.