Deus Ex Ceviche

by Tom Lento and Chandler Groover profile

Piscespunk
2020

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Number of Reviews: 5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
I Got Schooled, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020

There were many ambitious entries in the IFComp 2020. This is the only one Iíve played that goes so far as to stake out a new aesthetic school of its own. The bizarre, alien world of Deus Ex Ceviche is inextricably steeped in the unmistakable flavor of this so-called Piscespunk: a marriage of artificial life and marine biology, here examined at the intersection of religion and for-profit enterprise.

The whole experience is packaged with a visually-stunning backdrop of netted fish, rendered with distinctive colors and bold lines that evoke a vague impression of stained glass and its tracery, bringing an ecclesiastical flavor to the table. Against this, the gameís interactive elements are rendered in pixel art that adds a palpable artificiality. The visual design elements of this game are thoughtfully-constructed and I cannot overstate how well they work together to sell the radical new Piscespunk concept.

Gameplay consists of putting disks in slots and seeing what happens, with each input yielding a narrative description of a resulting event, plus a change in your resources (of which a certain amount must be collected for victory). Both the story and the mechanics come off as weird, surreal, and possibly confusing at first. Why is the GUI gooey? How exactly does brine accumulate as a result of accidentally censoring important passages in the holy text? Nothing makes sense according to the logic of reality as we know it.

But much of the pleasure of playing Deus Ex Ceviche is in keeping at it, gradually discovering that this world has an internal logic of its own, according to which everything makes perfect sense. Trial and error (and the advice of a helpful goldfish) will reveal that the strange results of disk-insertion are in fact quite predictable, and one can easily achieve a desired outcome.

Meanwhile, as one becomes more acquainted with the setting and its characters, the weird language and inexplicable causal relationships of the storyís events will gradually decode themselves into something thatís actually quite coherent.

The travails of the faithful as they struggle to perform their duties in the face of a malfunctioning temple apparatus; the underdog tale of an obsolete abbess seeking to fulfil her duties while painfully aware of her own shortcomings; the desperate hope of the congregants to find some kind of comfort or meaning in a corrupt, pay-to-pray religion. From these poignant beginnings, the Section B-2 Temple will spiral into a crescendo of mounting tension, as constructed systems transcend their intended purposes. All aspects of reality - social, ontological, and architectural - will be revolutionized by oneís apotheosis, and oneís faithful will experience the terrible ecstasy of union with oneís divinity. Itís all on display in a series of rich, evocative vignettes. Thereís real, human emotion here. Itís the kind of stuff that could be described in terms of heartbeats, smiles, and tearsÖ if it werenít already described in terms of databanks, replacement fingers, and salt instead.

If that doesnít already have you hooked, then frankly, I donít understand you. Just know that my meager review cannot possibly do justice to the raw power and majesty of Deus Ex Ceviche. Without a doubt among the most unique and memorable games of the comp, it definitely deserves a playthrough (or five).