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About the Story
You are a young doppelganger, fresh out of School of Humanity, finally realizing your life-long dream to own a human-centric business. You offer a unique service: imitation on demand, living through situations the humans would rather pass on. Embarrassing? Shameful? Boring? You can experience all those feelings on behalf of your clients, while they enjoy their day, unbothered, somewhere far away. Change into others! Learn the secrets of the City of Sand! Avoid foreclosure!
Winner - The doppelganger, Best Individual PC - 2020 XYZZY Awards
11th Place (tie) - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 8
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While the concept of being a doppelganger for hire is brilliant, what really excited me to play and keep playing this game was the sheer enthusiasm of our protagonist. It's hard not to be infected by their joy for their work and their optimism that their career will take off. Because of this, I made the effort to find every line I text I could even if I sensed it wouldn't change the plot or lead to a different ending.
In fact, I was ready to give this five stars until I couldn't reach one of the four endings as the game kept crashing for me while at the recital heading for ending four. The walkthrough was not helpful in avoiding this bug.
If there is a sequel I will be first in line to play as I'm still rooting hard for our rising doppelganger star!
The “fantasy monster gets a job” genre is a fun one – the first example that comes to mind is Dungeon Detective and its sequel (you’re a gnoll and you fight crime!) but I know there are many others – because there’s a lot of comedy baked into the premise of an otherworldly being, sometimes with magical powers, grinding up against the quotidian reality of working for a paycheck. Dopplejobs very much delivers on this, but also offers a setting with some intriguing mysteries, while striking a nice balance with its choices – there are a lot of them, and they feel (and are) very impactful to the success or failure of your various contracts, but the game isn’t overly punitive so most sets of choices will still get you to a satisfying ending.
Let’s get the downsides out of the way early: there are some typos and the writing is a little bit awkward in places, though it’s not 100% clear to me that these are unintentional – there are many places where articles are dropped, for example, as well as some ungainly use of prepositions and syntax, which could reflect an author whose primary language isn’t English, but could also be an attempt to reflect the overenthusiastic, off-kilter (at least by human standards) character of the eponymous doppelganger. There are also some bugs in the code related to your finances – the framing challenge of the game is earning enough “quartz” to pay back your business’s startup loan, and you get varying amounts of it depending on how well you perform in each of your jobs, as well as having the opportunity to plow some of the proceeds into more advertising, a swankier office, or just going on a spree. However, the math often didn’t add up: I’d have 350 quartz, earn 300 more, and be left with 550, or spend 50 when I have 1050 accumulated, after which I still had 1050.
These niggles don’t undermine the experience all that much, though. As mentioned, the infelicities in the prose ultimately have a kind of addle-pated charm that seems very much in keeping with who the doppelganger is. And despite the loan-centric framing, it didn’t seem like the amount of money you have at the end really has that much impact on where the story ends.
So there’s not much holding back the considerable upsides, which are that this is a fun world to inhabit with lots and lots of reactivity. Each of the jobs you take on – your business is to impersonate humans who want to duck out of some embarrassing or annoying experience you’ll go through in their stead – is quite varied, and offers ample opportunities to stick to the remit, try to cause chaos, or poke into the secrets of the city where you work (this isn’t the real world, and its snake-centric superstitions and bizarre infrastructure make it a pleasure to explore). Your choices not only impact client satisfaction – and therefore how much you get paid – but also help define your character. Since doppelgangers take on some of the traits of those they impersonate, if you behave in an especially curious, or introverted, or patient manner, you’ll inherit some of that in the remaining go-rounds.
The jokes are often quite funny – if you underinvest in advertising, a client might say that the reason they sought you out is that they “appreciated the fact that the slogan was small and the office hard to find. It proves you’re discreet.” Or, when contemplating doing something about that: “when it comes to advertisement, you feel like you are a pretty good singer. You could compose a catchy song advertising your business. Something like: ‘Doppel doppel it’s all proper fa la la la la!’” Again: slightly demented, but very fun.
DJ is well-paced, too – each job has some meat to it, but is fairly zippy, and the post-job opportunity to spend some money offers a nice punctuation of each phase. This, combined with the 20ish minute playtime made me eager to jump back in and replay after I’d finished first time – and sure enough, while you appear to always get the same jobs in the same order, there are a lot of variations possible depending on what you decide to do, and the game is fairly forgiving such that even choices that seem suboptimal don’t take that much of a toll.
This is especially nice because I think on my first play-through, I was overly cautious – I was very fixated in paying back my loan, and the way the job payoffs work you always feel like you’re on the knife-edge to be able to do that by the end. So I passed up a lot of choices that seemed riskier, including opting out of the final bonus job since I was just over the 1000 quartz threshold and didn’t want to mess things up. I had much more fun on subsequent go-throughs, when I didn’t feel so much tension: DJ is at its best when it’s letting you try new things, look under rocks for what might be there, and role-play a well-meaning monster whose instincts for human behavior are not all there.
This piece is choice-based and fairly short. You play as a doppelganger, a being from the Reverse Kingdom (I'm interested) living in the human world who has the ability to take on the physical appearance of anyone. You use your skill to complete mundane or uncomfortable tasks for your clients for a fee. But each transformation doesn't quite fade in the way that you advertise, something lingers. And ancient mysteries lurk below your city.
The game is pretty straight-forward, allowing simple choices after a few short paragraphs of text. Some choices simply allow you to gather more details about the world or your task at hand, and others allow you to steer the story. Your stated goal over the course of the game is to earn enough money to pay back a debt you owe to the bank. Your decisions affect how happy your clients are after you complete each task and thus how much you are paid. After one playthrough the game will tell you which of four possible endings you achieved. On my trip through the story, nothing particularly crazy happened, but I was focused on the goal of pleasing my clients in order to pay back my debt. I feel that more interesting outcomes are hiding behind some of the paths not taken. So even though the route I took was not particularly interesting, I think I will eventually come back to this game for another play or two to see if I can uncover those mysteries. Additionally, I felt the game was well-written and just off-normal enough to really help you embody the outsider nature of the main character. Worth your time.
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