IFComp 2020: Chorus

Urban fantasy with a local NGO twist, slightly reminiscent of Skin Horse. The “Chorus” of the title is a sort of civic volunteering group composed of monsters, or at any rate nonhuman sapients — the members range from centaur to an amorphous slime to a cheshire catgirl who does internet videos. Each has a stat sheet you can check out, listing things like their job, their motivation level, and how easily they can pass for human. You don’t exactly play as any character, but rather, decide how to organize them all, assign them to tasks on the basis of their known characteristics and see how it goes.

There are three jobs that need doing: gathering herbs in the woods to help the local werewolves keep it under control, search a library for dangerous magical books, and do maintenance and cleaning of the magical trees that protect the city from haunts. You start off by picking who goes on what team, then have some choice about details within the task — generally there isn’t enough manpower to be completely thorough, so this involves decisions about what to not bother with. So there’s a lot of permutations to try, but it seems to be pretty forgiving: in two playthroughs, the only task I didn’t manage to complete adequately was the herbs.

One thing I particularly liked was that the creatures are characterized by more than just their monster powers. You don’t just have a snake-woman, for example, you have an arrogant snake-woman who thinks she’s the only competent person present. You don’t just have a slime creature, you have a slime creature who lives downtown and knows the city inside out and is friendly with the locals. Their personalities can clash, and interfere with the tasks, or they can bond over the work. It’s not really a story about the tasks, it’s a story about the people doing them.

The presentation is worth noting. It’s stylish, in a clean and minimalist way. Whenever the narration switches perspective, it’s indicated with a sort of title rectangle on a colored background, like a Monopoly title deed, each character getting their own color. It’s in this title card that the link to bring up the character stats lies, in the form of a circled question mark — which, unfortunately, means you can’t look at the stats pages when you’re assigning sub-tasks. As for the text, by default, it does that thing I’ve talked about about so much during this Comp where it gives you only a short bit of text and prompts you to click to display the next short bit — but, mercifully, this can be disabled! There’s a toggle for it in the upper right of the screen, right next the the language switch. (The game was originally written in French, but the Enlgish translation is excellent.) I encourage every author who likes their text to come out in dribs and drabs to look into this, and see if you can make it optional or the sake of the players who don’t like it that way.

No Comments

Leave a reply