IFComp 2013: Bell Park, Youth Detective

Next up, the first of many Twine entries. Spoilers follow the break.

OK, let’s get the interactivity out of the way first, since I’ve made a big deal of it: Bell Park is presented flat-out CYOA-style, a full page of prose at a time with a list of choices at the bottom, or sometimes just one choice. As far as I could tell from my one full playthrough, it’s mostly static hypertext, with just a little bit of statefulness. But you know something? Just a little state is all it takes to satisfy me, and to make me feel like I’m playing the character rather than just reading about her.

The story is ostensibly a murder mystery set at a tech conference, but it’s really more of a mystery-themed comedy. In particular, you never really get an opportunity to solve the crime, which instead sort of solves itself. As such, your interviews with the suspects exist mainly to let the author make fun of them. Everyone’s a caricature, including the detective, who’s twelve years old and infuriatingly ignorant about anything from the 1990s. And everyone basically spends so much time acting out their personal comedy sketches that it crowds out useful information, with the result that when you’re called on to make an accusation, you have no basis for accusing anybody. You’re allowed to make wild accusations regardless — you’re allowed to make wild accusations during the interviews, too. I found I had no interest in doing so, but I guess it was supposed to be something we’d do for laughs. Perhaps I was identifying with the player character too much to want to make her more of a fool.

I keep comparing the unsolvability in my mind to The Statue Got Me High from Apollo 18+20, which pulled a similar stunt, giving you the elements of an obvious logic puzzle and then literally snatching it from your hands. The difference is that TSGMH actually let you get mentally involved with the puzzle before rendering it irrelevant, whereas in Bell Park doesn’t even let you get started.

Anyway, this one wasn’t to my taste. I find mockery to be a fine seasoning, but a poor main course.

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