IF Comp 2010: Death Off The Cuff

As has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game, if appropriate.

I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with a couple of years ago: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. In 2008 that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale, and it made my reviewing process a happier one in 2009, so I’m sticking with it. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.

Next up: Death Off The Cuff

This is a very very thinly disguised Poirot story, with the fine starting hook that you don’t actually know what’s going on and are going to have to bluff your way through the big Confrontation Of All Suspects Scene until you get to the truth.

Puzzle-wise, it’s entirely about observation: you notice stuff, you mention it, people change their stances or admit to new facts, you look at everything again, you mention something incongruous. It doesn’t capture the feel of being a detective or thinking anything out because the leaps of logic are entirely performed by the protagonist rather than by the player, but there is still something a bit charming about it.

It’s short enough not to outstay its welcome, despite this pretty simple and mechanical mode of interaction.

It could have been a little stronger (mostly by leading the player a little more towards interesting things to note/talk about — currently it’s a little too hard to get started). But I was impressed by a few coding touches: in particular, if you mention someone’s hair/beard/suit/etc., it sensibly and automatically disambiguates to the hair/clothes/whatever of the person you were most recently examining.

Kind of fluffy and silly, and I didn’t find the ultimate resolution completely plausible, but it’s also totally in-genre for it not to be plausible.

I enjoyed myself without feeling this remotely approached the depth of classic detective IF such as Make It Good or even An Act of Murder.

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