IF Comp 2011: Beet the Devil

Beet the Devil is a classic puzzler, a light linear tribute to seven-sins-based games of past years. More details after the break.

When Robert Camisa’s Beat the Devil came out in 1999, it already belonged to something of a tradition of seven-deadly-sins-based games, including the parodic commentary on IF creation Sins against Mimesis and the classic John’s Fire Witch, which in 1995 was novel in being a short snack-sized game.

I went in expecting some kind of parodic re-envisioning of that tradition, but that’s not really what happens here. Beet the Devil is an entirely in-good-faith sin-themed puzzler that just happens to focus on a farmer protagonist and a series of solutions about vegetables.

Somewhat less obviously, it also goes a different direction by taking the theology just a fraction more seriously than its predecessors. In Camisa’s game and most of the other entries in the same general genre, there are devils (often rather fiddly, bureaucratic devils) but the side of good is not really represented at all, or else is absent or incompetent. In Beet the Devil, there’s more of an implication that there is a God, an omniscient one who does have your back throughout the story. It’s God who saw that you kept your vegetables and his hints that help you get through things. And that it matters if you go over to evil before you win. It’s not heavy-handed, and it doesn’t go far enough to give Beet the Devil what you’d call a really significant theme, but it’s there.

In any case, I don’t see Beet the Devil startling anyone with its story or structural ambition. But within its own parameters, Beet does a good job — the writing is entertaining and has a distinctive protagonist’s voice; the puzzles are mostly accessible, though for one or two I did need the walkthrough. There’s a built-in hint system that is handled in a charming thematic way, as well as a WALKTHROUGH HERE command that explains what to do just in the current room — which meant checking the walkthrough for one puzzle didn’t spoil any other parts of the game. All good things. The structure is extremely linear, facing you with one sin-related puzzle at a time, but it’s short enough and easy enough that this doesn’t wear out its welcome (or at least, didn’t for me).

In addition, Beet the Devil provides an adorable sidekick in the form of a puppy who accompanies the protagonist throughout the game. The puppy has an impressive spectrum of playful behaviors and useful tricks.

Despite the numerous listed testers, I did feel Beet the Devil could have used a bit more surface polish. There were some undescribed objects here and there; some unrecognized synonyms (puppy/dog, for instance); a few points where I felt that the pointer to the correct solution wasn’t quite obvious enough. These could be cleaned up in a future release (possibly even before the end of the comp).

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