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(based on 21 ratings)
About the Story
Gum E. Bear lies dead in a pool of his own liquid centre, and only Bubble Gumshoe - private eye extraordinaire - can deliver sweet justice on the rain-sticky streets of Sugar City. Explore the area, seek out clues, interview suspects, and finally ACCUSE the murderer. But be careful: you only have one shot...
Thanks to G. Deyke for playtesting!
Contains violence, sex and drug use, all involving colourful candy characters.
35th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 8
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You are Bubble Gumshoe, a private eye tasked in solving the murder of Gum E. Bear in Sugar City.
The game begins at the crime scene. Gum E. Bear's corpse is in the alley. Officer Donut is nearby. From here, the city is at your disposal.
While the game has a smaller map than I expected it contains engaging scenery. This would be a good choice if you want a mystery game without tons of rooms. Much of the gameplay is geared towards talking to other characters but some snooping is encouraged. The game utilizes the smell and taste command for specific objects which not only assists in your investigation but pairs nicely with the fact that everything is made of candy. And in case you get stuck there are pointers at the top of the screen.
The humor in the gameplay comes from the candy-themed interpretation of a modern-day world. Experience the grunge and exotic nightlife of Sugar City. Adult bookstore? Not what you think. (Spoiler - click to show)
You weren't aware that toffee could bend that way.
Jawbreaker projects a gob of syrup into a nearby spittoon.
Despite the bizarreness of a candy constructed world, the game takes Bear’s death quite seriously. In clinical detail it provides a forensic overview of the crime scene:
Gum E Bear lies face-up on the floor, a gelatinous crater in his chest. A faint trickle of his liquid centre flows from it, pooling on the ground. A scattering of gummy chunks lie nearby, projected from the exit wound.
The fact that the victim is made of candy adds a comic effect to an otherwise gruesome scene. It is a new take on a murder mystery and draws the player in.
Without a doubt the story is a creative premise. I was into the story and characters right from the beginning. Imagine taking your Halloween candy and transforming them into anthropomorphized characters. It was fun to visualize. But things did not turn out like I expected. Not necessarily the content of the plot but its structure.
At one point I desperately needed hints beyond the in-game pointers which I could not find. The game uses the “Accuse” command to make the accusation and end the game. Eventually, I decided to use it randomly to see if I could stumble across the winning ending or at least bits of information to point me in the right direction. And I did. (Spoiler - click to show) I regretted it, actually.
The following has extreme spoilers. I want to discuss the outcome of the mystery because I feel strongly about it, but it will ruin the game for you if you do. Please play the game first.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Unfortunately, I learned that most of the gameplay is irrelevant to solving the case. It made me wonder if I did in fact exhaust every puzzle. Perhaps there would be no more hints to give even if they were available. This saddened me because it meant that most of the content that I thought of as important turned out to be more or less a red herring.
This is a detective murder mystery story. The start of the game tantalizes the player by saying, “Explore the area, gather evidence, conduct interviews, and ACCUSE the culprit once you've determined...” which sets the stage for some investigative gameplay. But it turns out that the investigative theme is quite shallow.
I am giving you one more spoiler warning. Turn back if you have not tried attempted to play the game.
(Spoiler - click to show)
What frustrated me was the flimsiness of the evidence used to nail the murderer, Officer Donut. Gum E. Bear was shot by a handgun which can be found in the dumpster. Apparently, Officer Donut is the murderer because he has fingers to pull the trigger of a gun while everyone else lacks the necessary digits to do the same. Sure, Candy Kane, Jawbreaker, Don Toblerone, and Big Hunk do not have fingers. But what about everyone else in Sugar City? We see people (candy people, I guess) everywhere. Do they all lack fingers? I thought that the game would make you work to solve the murder, to find the evidence. Instead, you do not even need to leave the alley to win the game. You just accuse him, and the game does the rest. That saddened me.
I was surprised that the handgun was the only evidence used to solve the murder. There were so many clues that I was trying to investigate. The main “puzzle” I was trying to solve was about the red liquorice candy woman in the bathroom stall. If you open the stall, you see that she is consuming sherbet, which is an addictive substance. It is also the same substance found on Bear’s face. The subject of addictive substances is present throughout Sugar City. A theme for the story, maybe?
Big Hunk, the club bouncer, says, “’The streets are swimming in nose sweetener. Twenty bucks there's someone doing it in the toilets right now. I'd stop it if I could but I've got my hands full out here.’" I thought there was a potential puzzle here. If I managed to get the patrons to leave, Big Hunk could investigate. Perhaps then, and this is where I started to speculate, the player could share their findings about the broken bathroom sink.
The sink has remnants of a strawberry flavored (remember when I said this game uses the taste and smell verbs? yuck) liquid that is present in Bear’s body. Sure, that would just confirm that Bear did in fact trash the bathroom which we knew from Candy Kane. But then maybe that would lead the game in a new direction. I was excited about the possibilities although I probably got ahead of myself.
I am going to wrap up this spoiler-intensive ramble with some questions. I did enjoy this game and will be eager to give it another go if it turns out that I missed things. And I hope I did. If anyone has answers, I would love to hear them.
1: Is there any goal that you have when you talk to Don Toblerone? If yes, is it conversation related or is it solely for acquiring a pack of candy cigarettes?
2: Is there a use for the candy cigarettes?
3: Is it possible to unlock the door/gain access to the VIP lounge?
4: Is it possible to acquire a quarter to buy a newspaper from the newspaper box?
5: Is there any content involving the taffy factory?
6: Or are all these red herrings?
I did not realize this at first, but Bubble Gumshoe is a female character. We do not have much in terms of backstory, but I loved the character description that says, “You're a street-smart broad with a hard sugar shell but a soft centre.”
The characters, both main NPCs and background characters, are cleverly named with humorous personas. The only downside is that character dialog is limited. Often you are unable to ask a broad range of questions about the murder. Or even their own work or themselves. But they are still fun and interesting to interact with.
As I started to play the game the experience was going at a solid four stars, but this slid as the (Spoiler - click to show) weak implementation of the player’s investigative choices began to emerge. This did not just affect the gameplay’s depth, but it also dragged the story down. Made it less dynamic. But the humor and creative premise makes it worth a try. In fact, the humor still makes me laugh. And with a protagonist named Bubble Gumshoe, well, you have got to play it.
Please excuse this analogy, but I say this earnestly: Playing this game conjures the idea of planning elaborate, decorative cookies. Stay with me. You have the frosting, and sprinkles, and whatnot planned but you run out of time and only complete the basics without the extras making it into the final product. I am not suggesting that the roughness in the game was because the author ran out of time. Instead, it merely seemed like a well thought out piece that lacked the finish that would have made it a fantastic piece. But kudos for a fun game, nonetheless.
My dad use to run a video game company, and one idea he always had was to make an incredibly bloody and vicious fighting game with entrails and gore, etc. but with all characters made of chocolate, so that it would technically pass Nintendo rules.
He never got around to making it, but this game reminds me of that concept. It's a hardboiled detective story with candy version of murder, gore, hardcore pornography (alluded to only), a strip club, etc. All of it is bowdlerized through the candy medium.
The author of this game has made quite a few interesting and/or bizarre experimental Twine pieces (and one using an RPG making software, I think), so I associate him with creativity and innovation in a choice medium.
In this move to the parser medium, he's brought the creativity and the amusement. One thing I think is lacking though is dealing with 'bad' parser responses. Due to the parser medium allowing theoretically infinite possibilities, a large part of parser craft is nudging players gently (or not) towards commands that actually do something. So more custom parser responses, implementation of basically every noun in every description (or turning them into synonyms of other nouns), etc. This can often take up a huge part of programming time, but it also represents a huge part of player time, since often half or more of a player's commands will result in an error, as they try out whatever they think of in the moment.
That, coupled with some capitalization problems in room names, makes me feel like what this needs more than anything is some more time in the oven. I've found that the best way to get this part of the game nailed down is to have a bunch of testers send transcripts and then implement a response for everything they try (or redirect it to a pre-existing response).
Overall, a clever concept.
WSGEB is a fun, and funny, short effort by someone who's been here before with others. I used to call them good-citizen entries, because they do not demand too much from you, but if you want, you can look into them and see more. The only problem here is that WSGEB doesn't contain any good citizens! Or, rather, nobody's perfect, and everybody is suspected of murdering one Gum E. Bear. He wasn't a great person/candy thing or even a good one, but nonetheless, a murder is a murder, and murders must be solved. Every character here is some sort of candy, and the comic potential piles up and is largely achieved. The technical bits are a bit lacking--I say this, hopefully not to neg, but to brace you, so you have no letdowns as you enjoy the funny bit.
Your job, as a private eye named Bubble Gumshoe, is to figure out who it was. Or, you know, you can just ACCUSE everyone (and I mean everyone!) and undo until you guessed right, for humor value. You don't need any actual evidence, and in fact there really is no physical evidence to collect. Given the jokey tone of WSGEB, you may suspect it ends on a deliberate clanger, and you're right. Rest assured the villain's "you got me, but..." speech is funnier than the game bashing you when you pick the wrong person. (Note: my initial guess was right, but for the wrong reasons. I'm still proud of it.)
There's not much else to say. There are relatively few locations, and the characters are all entertaining. There is Officer Donut, Big Hunk who is a bouncer at the local nightclub, Jawbreaker who guards Don Toblerone's room with an intentionally stupid password, Don Toblerone himself, and Candy Kane, who operates a seedy bar. You can ASK them about stuff or (at least try to) SMELL and TASTE. This fits in well with the general candy descriptions of Sugar City.
WSGEB is about as light-hearted a murder mystery as it gets. Overbearing cop, seedy environs, rough dialogue, and so forth. The jokes landed home for me, with the stipulation that nothing was profound or meant to be. So it was a game about empty calories that didn't have much empty prose. I think people who give it a shot will enjoy the descriptions and dialogue enough to try everything they can. I did. And it's fortunate there's not too much--the implementation is spotty, which would become a factor in larger games, though on the other hand, WSGEB is high on my replay list.
It even hits a few serious issues. My sympathies tend to the ACAB side, and I found the swift portraits of police contempt for those who "serve and protect" quite effective and worth laughing at. I was genuinely glad to see the guilty party get their comeuppance. As someone who did not want to use drugs but always felt boxed in by anti-drug messages, some of the lines around it are just great, and they're infused with candy jokes without being tasteless, so the author is sympathetic to the victim.
As for what more I would do? This sort of thing seems ripe for having a suspect picked at random, with details shifted around, a la Christopher Huang's An Act of Murder, which has been on my to-play list for ten years now. WSGEB seems ripe for this treatment, maybe with a sequel or expansion pack--the author's a very experienced Twine writer, but shifting from choice to parser is tricky. I think on the whole, implementing the senses worked better to get the laughs across, and my technical quibbles are just that, and yours should be, too. Part of me wonders if the author should be so cruel as to carry out their "you can't undo once you accuse" threat in that case, to make a legitimate challenge. Maybe this all could be a hard mode you could unlock.
And I really enjoyed putting the game file through a disassembler to see the funny stuff I missed. So, one last suggestion for a post-comp release, or the author's next effort, because dang, there was a lot to laugh at: give the player a list of AMUSING stuff to do!
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