Who Shot Gum E. Bear?

by Damon L. Wakes


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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Who Shot Roger Rabbit? but make it sweet and sticky, May 25, 2023

~~ Updated Review from the 2022 IFComp bc I played the game again ~~

You are Bubble Gumshoe, a detective on the scene, tasked to solve the murder of Gum E. Bear. This funny parody of a detective mystery will leave you with a sweet tooth, or a cavity...

Replaying a puzzle game or mystery game is difficult, especially when you know the solution. What is enjoyable is trying to catch all the little details you may have missed in the first round.... which was a lot in my case. The first time I plated WSGEB? I accused the first person I interacted with out of frustration and won the game. Soon after I started again, tried some different commands, accused someone else, and called it a day. Still, there was quite a bit I missed.

As Bubble Gumshoe, you get to investigate clues around the body, examine the 3(5-ish) other locations, ask questions to the NPCs in each spot about clues or other people (or some other semi-related topic). And finally accuse who you think killed Gum. There is also a small puzzle to unlock a room.

The whole concept of parodying murder mystery by setting it in a Candy-land world is honestly hilarious to me. The game really goes in the tropes of the noir-themes, with the hard policeman, the femme fatale, the mafioso hidden behind a locked door. Amidst the puns galore, the dark and gruff background is contrasted by the very sweet names and humourous descriptions following an action (trying to taste everything, even myself was very funny - light cannibalistm).

After a few action, the header displays different bits of text, either related to the setting (It’s always nighttime in Sugar City.) or about how to play (telling you to smell or taste things). But I think there are only 3-4 variations before it repeats itself...

If you are in a location with a named NPC, every time you input an action, that NPC will do something (Officer Donut will click his pen, Candy Kane tries to mix some cocktails...). Those are funny little details, especially when you remember all those NPCs look like some sort of candy.

My main gripe with the game is how obvious who the murderer is: the only person who can hold a gun. And while you can go around the other spaces and question everyone, the NPCs are not the ones giving you an relevant information, the added text under the action description is. Even reading the description of the Alley should give you the answer (you could solve the mystery in one turn). The Who-dun-it seems very shallow when the answer is just right there.

Some other stuff:
> while this parser is pretty short and mainly uses five verbs (examine/X, ask, take, smell, taste) and the cardinal directions, it does not have a hint or help command (and lacked a walkthrough until now). You need to have a bit of parser knowledge (or the parser cheat sheet).
> there was some inconsistencies with the dialogue regarding the use or not of quotes or with the capitalisation of words. It might be nitpicky, but it did confuse or annoyed me me a bit.
> the game also put some spotlight on objects, but does not make them interactable (cigarette) or miss the options for some fun action (getting a drink at the bar).

Still enjoyed it more than the first time around :)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Tall, dark, and delicious, January 7, 2023
by Jim Nelson (San Francisco)

Adapted from a review on intfiction.org

I’m a sucker for hard-boiled gumshoes…but when the detective’s shoes are literally made of bubblegum, you have my attention.

Who Shot Gum E. Bear? is a clever parser-based send-up of detective noir. It’s set in Sugar City, an ice-cream tub of vice and sin. You play private eye Bubble Gumshoe investigating the bittersweet murder of your client, the titular Gum E. Bear. You’re to gather evidence, interview suspects, and ACCUSE when you’ve got your marshmallow peeps in a row.

The author takes the central gag to its logical extremes. Gum E. Bear lies dead in a pool of his own liquid center, his bullet wound caramelizing and his face dusted with nose candy. TASTE and SMELL are an important part of your detecting arsenal in this game, which the author uses to great advantage. As the title suggests, this is a Who Shot Roger Rabbit? set in Candyland rather than Toontown.

There’s plenty of polish, such as the status line (normally a dry display of location and move count) being utilized as a kind of rotating banner of hints and atmosphere. (You're occasionally reminded: “It’s always nighttime in Sugar City.”) The colorful and tasty assortment of secondary characters provides a good deal of comic relief, and are adequately implemented for parser- (not menu-) based interviews. The characters always play to theme, such as the candy cigarette-smoking mob boss:

Tall, dark, and delicious.

The prose is sharp and well-crafted, and the story flows smoothly. Humor is always subjective; you’ll know in the first few turns if this game is for you. The fun-sized half-hour listed play time seems about right, which is good—I doubt the central joke could have been sustained for much longer.

The flaw, in my view, is the solution. An eagle-eyed player can legitimately tease out the killer from the ample details provided, as long as she fully enmeshes herself in the internal logic of the game world. My first play-through was in a group setting, and when we finally discovered whodunnit, it landed on us like the punchline of a shaggy dog story, with groans all around. (Depending on your sense of humor, that might not be a flaw.)

Still, it’s a fun ride, an inventive and original take on a form that’s seen more than its share of satires and spoofs.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Silly, mostly-insoluble mystery, January 6, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).

Props to Who Shot Gum E. Bear? – it commits to the bit. In this absurdist detective-noir parody, you’re the one honest private dick (or Jane, actually) in a spun-sugar city where the candy-bar cast are as crooked as they are sweet, determined to crack the case of who offed the eponymous pop-rock-snorting bear. Your tools are a set of standard parser verbs, a willingness to poke your nose where it doesn’t belong (if you have a nose? X ME just says you’re “a street-smart broad with a hard sugar shell but a soft centre”, so like the green M&M maybe?), and the ability to ACCUSE any character of the crime (er, plus the bonus ability to UNDO if you happen to guess wrong).

It’d be easy for the film-noir business to overtake the parodic elements until they were just a layer of surrealism sprinkled lightly over a stale procedural plot, like so much powdered sugar. Bu the writing never lets you forget, in ways both PG and not. Here’s what you see when you peruse the wares at an, uh, adult bookshop:

"You’re never going to look at lollipops the same way again."


There are some light puzzles to solve along the way, allowing you to access some locked areas on the small map, and opening up more people/treats to interrogate using a fairly robustly-implemented ASK/TELL ABOUT system. But lawnmowering your way through these will largely just rule out suspects and resolve ancillary mysteries. Success requires the player, not the protagonist, to make a realization, and if you don’t pay attention to the confectionary nature of your surroundings, your victim, and your suspect, you’ll never crack the case, which relies on the player being a careful, and clever, observer of events (or, again, trial-and-error via the UNDO function, not that I would know anything about that).

This gimmick wound up being my favorite part of the design, helping integrate the comedy with the gameplay. Who Shot Gum E. Bear is still rather slight; depending on how deep you want to get into everybody’s dialogue options before you figure out the answer/start spamming the ACCUSE command, you’re looking at ten or twenty minutes, and the mystery is as thin as the central-casting characters – the mob boss Don Toberlone, the tough-as-nails Jawbreaker, the femme fatale Candy Kane. But it’s amusing and clever, so I’m quite confident pronouncing it the best sweets-based murder-mystery of this or any Comp.

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!

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Murder Most Sweet, November 27, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

So right out of the gate, I knew I wanted good things for this game. After the legally mandated Noir-first-sentence-about-rain, and before anything else, it called me a “Bubble Gumshoe.” The noise I made in the privacy of my own home you have no choice but to call laughter because you didn’t hear it. This entry committed to the bit without question. If you have a low sugar or pun tolerance, this is not the game for you.

Gameplay itself is infrequently searching 6 or 7 locations for clues, but mostly interviewing 4 maybe 5 NPCs depending on how you score it. Then trying to piece together additional things to ask others based on the answers. Cycle through NPCs until ready to Accuse. The dialogue and character business is bizarre and fun, like the Toblerone who smokes candy cigarettes without arms. Because, y’know, no arm candy. (badoom-CH) It was fun for a while poking at characters to see what they could answer and how, and often rewarding to do so.

But then there was a turn. When the topic pool started to dry up, you would cycle through, hear the same things again and get nothing new. Then, the fact that all NPCs use the same, generic, “is no reply” when you ask something they don’t know starts to grate. Searching for clues in unimplemented nouns starts to grate. Asking the owner of a candy strip club about their VIP Lounge and having them say “I wouldn’t know about that” is just lolwut? I mean if not you, who WOULD know? Asking a character about the wedding they JUST TOLD YOU ABOUT and having them give no answer… you get it. I got stuck and I redirected my humiliation to anger at the NPCs.

Mystery IF has a big issue to address, what do you do with insufficiently clever players? Tonight, I will be playing the part of the Insufficiently Clever. Y’know, strictly as a public service. If the mystery hinges on the player asking one specific thing to one specific NPC, you have to at least give a thought to your humble servant who just won’t think of it. The tried and true brute force solution is a hint system, either metagame or in-story (Donut could have admirably served this purpose.) Walkthroughs are even MORE brute force, also established technologies. More elegantly, I recently read some insanely well-thought-out RPG advice that proposed always leaving three clues to every mystery story chokepoint. If you want to get super fancy, design multiple paths with intersecting information chokepoints, each with their own trio of entries! The idea being much harder to miss 3 clues than just one. It seems like there could even be some kind of ‘player not making progress’ algorithm out there, just waiting to be discovered.

This is relevant because there is no conceit so amusing, no joke so funny, that it can survive the self-hating stench of player failure. I’m going to head off what you probably all see coming as a deep digression into “what is a game, and can there be success without failure?” Instead let me pivot to advocating for the Insufficiently Clever who are totally not me. Humans forget nothing so quickly as kind service rendered to them. For players that don’t need the hints, they never need encounter them and can enjoy your game as designed. For the IC, your timely help will quickly fade into the delusion of ‘oh yeah, I’da got that’ and they will end up appreciating it as well! Its really win-win for you, the game author.

So yeah, Sparks of Joy right from the start. And while a not a bug, spinning with no way out was an intrusive break into the experience. Speaking for a friend. Ok, review over, the rest of you can go. Author, can you hang on for a sec?

Hey, if you did plant 3 clues and I missed all of them, can we not tell the others? Please?

Played: 11/1/22
Playtime: 1hr, randomly accused wrong candy, failed. Allegedly.
Artistic/Technical rankings: Sparks of Joy/Intrusively Unhelpful
Would Play Again? Maybe with a hint system?

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A somewhat unpolished but creative candy murder mystery, October 23, 2022
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

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.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
comic noir: the world is candy, October 7, 2022
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022, sanguine

In the best tradition of noir crime fiction, you are a private eye, tasked by the police to find out who murdered Gum E. Bear. The world is indeed candy, but it’s not been the same since the old taffy plant closed down…

This was mostly a conversation-led game, in which you bring up topics and characters to each character. The scope is nicely pared down to the bare minimum, without feeling constrained.

The writing had a light touch overall - from the cultural references (”the sky was tainted by the old taffy factory”) to the dialogue - keeping the whole candy theme from becoming overly saccharine (sorry, had to do it).

Overall pretty straightforward, with what I thought was a very clever resolution/’correct’ ending.

implementation: good

mechanics: time-honoured

storyline: good

writing: just right

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Sweet and sour forensics, October 5, 2022

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)

>x books
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.

Final thoughts
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.

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