IFComp 2010: Gris et Jaune

Spoilers follow the break.

After an enigmatic beginning, with confused perceptions and constrained actions, it becomes clear that the player character is a zombie — and not a Romero-style zombie, or even Gygax-style, but a zombie of an older tradition, a product of Voodoo, a human being with a past and relations made slave to another’s will. Which is to say, a tragic figure.

Details fill in as the game progresses. The setting is New Orleans during the Depression. You’re something of a pawn in a feud between a wealthy doctor who’s researching voodoo drugs, and the mambo who shared her secrets with him. The former is your master at the beginning, giving you commands that you can’t disobey. You can put off obeying them, spending turns on examining scenery objects and the like, but if you want the story to move forward, you eventually have to do whatever he says. The latter approaches you as liberator, restoring your lost faculties, including your free will. There comes a point where you’re allowed away from the doctor’s house for the first time, and, small and spare as the implemented portion of the city is, the increased options make it natural to dawdle even more, to ignore the voice in your head incessantly calling you to Mama John’s house and go sightseeing instead. Good thing, too: obeying the call yields a premature and unsatisfactory ending.

Alas, unsatisfactory endings are the only sort I’ve found. I think I’ve fallen off the tracks somewhat. The doctor is dead now, leaving me wondering what I could have learned from him. Similarly, an conversation with Baron Samedi himself lasted for as long as I could think of things to ask him about, but ended with his assurance that I would never see him again. At least the game seems to be somewhat multilinear, with multiple avenues toward major discoveries. But I do find myself left in the lurch with no clear direction towards the end, my small investigations into backstory and voodoo flora having hit a wall. What’s a zombie without a master supposed to do with himself? Is it even possible to restore yourself to a normal life, and if you can, do you have a life worth going back to?

All in all, it’s an interesting approach to the subject. I noticed a few minor cosmetic bugs (like descriptive sentences repeated in a couple of places), and there’s a general problem with disambiguation prompts in conversation revealing names you haven’t seen mentioned in the game content yet, but other than that, it’s a strong entry. The one game it reminds me of the most is Interplay’s Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster, which concerned a corpse, reanimated by a doctor, on a quest for freedom, revenge, and answers. Except that there’s a strong supernatural element here, and the doctor isn’t so much mad as desperate.

Rating: 7
(It’s always difficult to calibrate one’s ratings at the beginning of the comp. Am I skewing high or low this year? It depends on what’s to come. But by now, I think I have enough numbers that my scale is set.)

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