Sentencing Mr Liddell is a surreal story about domestic unhappiness, with a touch of Alice in Wonderland flavoring.
At least, so I assume. I didn’t finish this game, and am not submitting a rating for it, because it went to a place that I am just not willing to be complicit in right now.
In the game as far as I played it, here’s what happens:
I am a guy who works in a hat shop. I leave my hat shop for the evening to meet my wife, who is cold and unhappy and has spent the day with my toddler daughter in a stroller. I try to kiss her but she’s too miserable to respond. I try to talk to my wife about her unhappiness, herself, and our child, but she either gives nonsensical answers or refuses to reply at all. I think some of the responses I received are meant for later in the game. Then the stroller rolls into a river. I dive after it, and wind up on a train where my ailing mother hands me a squealing piglet. The piglet explicitly represents the lost daughter. Attempts to feed, cuddle, or calm the piglet don’t work. I’m told to hit it. The hints and walkthrough indicate I’m going to need to hit the piglet repeatedly in order to proceed with the game.
So, okay. My character may be in some kind of dream state at this point, and it’s not at all clear that the piglet’s experience is in any way linked to what the protagonist’s daughter is actually experiencing.
Buuut. I just didn’t want to do it. Really didn’t want to. Took a couple turns dithering around trying to psych myself up for it, and failed. It may be symbolic, but hitting the piglet is still clearly about enacting child abuse. Despite the surreal setting, it felt like I was being asked to empathize with the leap from “weak dependent is annoyingly loud” to “it is appropriate to react with brutality.” A couple of people close to me have been abused in the recent past. It’s raw, and I’m still helping deal with the practical aftermath of those events. I’m not in a headspace where I’m willing to playact abuse, not even to find out whether the game has something valuable to say about domestic violence.
So I’m not finishing or rating. What I saw had some implementation flaws that were confusing, but nothing game-stopping. I can’t speak to its overall quality or thematic success beyond that.