- Keepsake, by Savaric
- Death of Schlig, by Peter Timony, and
- Vestiges, by Josephine Wynter
Keepsake, by Savaric: You’re a man out for revenge, and you’ve just shot your target. Now get back home. It’s a simple premise, but all sorts of bizarre stuff keeps happening as you make your way home.
((Warning: Massive spoiler for the whole premise of the game follows!))
Although the author himself cites the film Memento as inspiration, it reminded me of nothing so much as the last level of Braid. You perform actions under the assumption that causality is running in one direction, and then at the end of the game you’re shown that things are actually running in the other direction.
There’s a fatalism in the game that is strangely appealing, and a moral rating system that is apparently based on whether you give a girl back her stuck basketball and/or give an old man back his crutch. To me, these are several orders of magnitude less important than the premeditated murder you commit at the beginning of the game, but as you are not given any context for that action, it’s hard (impossible?) to say whether or not it was justified.
I enjoyed the ending sequence, which made what the game was trying to accomplish clear. This was good, because it was certainly not clear while playing. In the end, this is another short, not very difficult game that I find hard to rate. On the one hand, it isn’t equivalent to the longer, more ambitious titles. On the other, though, this has a very interesting concept that is executed rather well, and it deserves to be rewarded for that. I think I’m going to go with a 7 for this.
Death of Schlig: Hmmm, the writing style and overall tone reminds me of Professor Frank, but in space (and it is axiomatic that everything, including being grounded, is better in space). There are the same wacky, crazy events combined together without any regard for common sense, or even internal consistency. The main differences here are that Death of Schlig has a very clever remote-action mechanic that you can play around with, and that Death of Schlig keeps you in the same general area, which at least takes the wacky geography changes off the table and lets you focus on the wacky puzzles and wacky writing.
Due to some clumsy alien genetic manipulation, you acquire the ability to extend and control your eyeballs, which lets you remotely explore areas and even perform actions there without risking your body as a whole. This is very clever, but seems only half-implemented. You can’t take any items held by your body, for example, although if you drop an item on the floor before extending an eye you can then pick it up as expected. Any actions that have timed, localized results that you perform while extending an eye (the [sigh] fart mode on the gun, for example) give you the timed message regardless of where you have moved in the interim, as if the actions where linked to the eye’s location rather than the location in which they were performed.
The game was winnable and generally played fair if you examined things thoroughly. It was a fun, gonzo adventure that should satisfy if you’re looking for zany. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I did have fun with it, so I’m rating it a 6.
Vestiges: I’m generally trying not to read reviews on these games from other players until I’ve written my own, but I did mistakenly read the beginning of Sam Kabo Ashwell’s review of Vestiges where he described the setting as “Hot Topic Pagan”, which I thought was spot on.
This is a tough game to like. There’s tons of unimplemented scenery, very brittle syntax (I acquired both the red and blue keys but couldn’t for the life of my figure out the exact phrase needed to combine them — the one in the walkthrough does not work), and the game is written such that it doesn’t tell you the compass directions rooms are connected in. Doors and gates also seem to have issues with whether they’re singular or plural — the engine treats them as if singular, but they’re named in the plural.
There are vestiges of an interesting backstory here, and with a longer, more fully implemented game I’d be inclined to play further to see where the author took me, but as it is I can’t recommend this. It’s unwinnable and frustrating even to get as far as you can go in it. Rating: 3.