By Mento 2 Comments
Hey, and welcome to Day Two of Mento's May Mastery. We're going through a handful of Steam games this year with the intent to complete, rather than play for just a couple of hours and write up some pithy impressions blog. This new variant is motivated by two reasons: A) actually wanting to clear some backlog, rather than accruing dozens of half-complete games in my Steam library that I admired; and B) getting a fuller picture when it came time to explicate on my findings, providing a more thorough analysis than the first few hours could possibly afford.
It also means this will be a far looser and less-structured feature this year, though I will endeavor to stick through it for the entire 31 day period. Don't be surprised if I can't find much to talk about on certain days: my only promise is that I'll write something on the many games I have prepared for May Madness this year. (And, just to remind folk, my three day rule is still in effect: I'll be moving on regardless if I can't beat the game in three days, rather than keep trying to write new things about it. Good thing I didn't put many RPGs on this list.)
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
I'm running into quite a few scheduling problems already with this feature, choosing to spend a lot of today's free time working on the Wiki and catching up with parts of the BLLSL I missed. Still managed to squeeze in a few more hours on The Dreamer Guild's pessimistic and mechanically curious adventure game. Today saw the conclusion of Gorrister's scenario, and I've gotten quite a bit into Benny's as well. More on those two later.
First, I want to explore a few additional mechanics I discovered while playing through Gorrister's plot. The portrait mechanic, which I erroneously credited to a user's happiness, is actually a sort of spiritual barometer. I must've missed an explanation for it, but with a little experimentation I've found that not only does it drop whenever the player consults the Psych Profile (the game's own hint system) but also when they perform "evil" acts. I suspected, and later confirmed, that getting the portrait color to a bright shade of green (or, ideally, pure white) allows that character to take part in the final scenario, after all five individual character scenarios have been completed. Now, I generally don't like to cheat in adventure games as deducing the puzzles is pretty much 100% of the gameplay. (Though it's perhaps significantly less of the overall experience - hearing the Bombcast discuss cheating past puzzles to see more of the script/artwork made me think about how I tend to approach adventure games in a "pure" fashion despite the awful helplessness of being stymied by a puzzle for too long.) However, I'll make an exception if there's some kind of obtuse mechanic that factors into the game's conclusion that I really needed to know about beforehand.
Gorrister's campaign also introduced a worrisome precedent: it is, in fact, possible to get your character killed. I figured with the nature of AM's torture - that none of his captive victims are allowed to end their own lives, and are instead eternal residents in his jail in the bowels of the Earth - that death would be impossible outside of some possible win condition. Rather, dying or willfully disobeying the laws of the puzzle AM has set up will cause the computer to angrily reset the scenario, undoing all of the player's progress. Each scenario takes around 30 minutes if you know what you're doing, but losing all that progress is still a bitter pill to take. Of course, if you perform too many evil acts and cause the spiritual barometer to bottom out, then maybe a reset is necessary. This is what the save function is for, I suppose, but it still feels like a regressive touch given that the game was made in the mid-90s. I'd guess that, at the time, adventure game developers were still split on whether Sierra or LucasFilm had the right approach: either make death impossible, or make it so frequent that the player would learn to save before touching anything. Being unable to reset your last action still seems like a harsh rule, however.
As for Gorrister's storyline, it is similar to Ellen's insofar as it feels like one of those trendy escape rooms, only created by a sociopathic omnipotent mind for psychologically fragile people built around their greatest fears and regrets. Gorrister deeply rues the fact that he drove his wife to insanity and suicide with his neglect, and while he begins on a rundown Zeppelin (fortunately, the game doesn't become Rule of Rose at this point) he quickly finds a honky-tonk bar that seems filled with reminders of his wife's less-than-pleasant family, as well as a jackal that speaks in riddles and requests to eat Gorrister's heart (which has actually gone missing). It's an unusual scenario, filled with the same kind of nonsensical but deeply symbolic imagery that pervaded Ellen's scenario, but also indirectly serves to help Gorrister overcome his self-hatred and mental torment: a result clearly unintended by AM when he set the whole scenario up. It seems the more noble the player is, the better the end result and the more you end up disrupting AM's schemes. Sometimes AM feels like Star Trek's Q, in that he never seems to quite anticipate the depths of altruism that the humans he toys with are capable of. Of course, AM's hatred of us is a little more overt than with John de Lancie's trickster deity, who never seems to be anything more than mildly amused.
Anyway, I've still got a bit further to go in this game. As I don't have a whole lot on the docket for tomorrow, I hope to blast through the rest of the game's content and provide a more complete appraisal of this grim, psychological anomaly of an adventure game. (Then maybe I can play something that isn't quite so depressing.)