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A big, polished, funny horror parser game with a lot of complex puzzles, October 11, 2021
This long game is set on a movie set for a company that makes cheap horror films. After a harrowing experience with your boss, you have to explore five different studios to assemble a team to save your life...and the world!
Each studio generally represents one 'big' puzzle, and most have at least one mini-puzzle as well. The big puzzles range from using animals to complex timing puzzles to story-based puzzles and more. The grand finale is a puzzle with many strategies, many solutions and three distinct outcomes leading to three endings.
The writing is humorous. It is pretty gory (lots of blood and body parts) and violent (with the player initiating much of the violence). There was one instance of mild profanity. Conversation uses a simple menu system which seems to be custom (no Inform extensions are listed). There are quite a few characters to talk to, more than ten.
The game contains several linear action sequences that are predetermined, with only one sensible action available at a time (although that might be just an illusion). When I encountered two such sections (one at the beginning, the other at the end), I felt a bit railroaded, but each one opened up into a large puzzle, so it balanced out and felt great.
Some personal thoughts I had in relation to something I recently worked on (not really relevant): (Spoiler - click to show)I was especially interested in this game as I had just released a game with striking similarities, one I had intended to enter into IFComp. The two games are completely unrelated (this game has clearly been in production for a long time), but I too released a horror game where you wander an entertainment facility, solving big set-piece puzzles (including a lot of animals) and befriending the supernatural inhabitants of the park while it slowly transforms, culminating in an epic battle between two factions. I'm glad I didn't release my game in this comp, as Ade's game is better in every way. I love how he slathered plenty of story, conversation and characterization over everything, leaving very little 'filler' text, which is something I struggled with.
I had a great time playing it! I also enjoyed seeing tie-ins to Ade's other games, both mechanically (the puzzle involving (Spoiler - click to show)ghosts reminded me quite a bit of Map) and story-wise (the animals and their behavior is very reminiscent of Hard Puzzle 2, and other references are even stronger).
Edit: I should say that I worked really hard to solve this without hints. I almost never do that, and only tried because the work was engaging. My biggest mistake (that, once I fixed, solved most of my problems in the midgame) was thinking that (Spoiler - click to show)each studio puzzle could be solved by itself, but that's not always true.