Who Shot Gum E. Bear?

by Damon L. Wakes


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
All the twisted amusement the cover art promises!, December 13, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

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!