IF Comp 2011: Death of Schlig

Death of Schlig is a comic science fiction pastiche — science fiction in the sense of Futurama, that is, not in the sense of Kim Stanley Robinson.

Death of Schlig is that kind of comedy with fart jokes and bumbling green aliens, in which some of the lines are funny but the vast majority are zany instead. Puzzle-wise, it has a couple of entertaining ideas, the most extreme of which is (this is hardly a spoiler given that the cover art gives it away) your character has prehensile eyeballs. This takes a little getting used to, but the exploits of those eyeballs are really useful, and contribute to many of the best moments in the game. It’s possible to die unexpectedly, but death is no more than a momentary hiccup in play. The cover art is well above average, and there’s a helpful walkthrough and a list of playtesters.

So we have the ingredients for a silly lightweight romp with a certain amount of panache.

Except. Implementation-wise, it could use a lot of clean-up. There are a lot of spare line breaks every turn (the second time I’ve seen that in this competition). A number of items in room descriptions get re-mentioned in the “You can see…” line, presumably because they haven’t been set as scenery. Various objects lack sensible synonyms. Speed of play slows down substantially towards the end. Many events occur as cut-scene dumps with finicky triggers, so that a room full of characters can feel strangely empty and dead until you hit upon the right action to make them all talk. Some item names contain capital letters for no good reason. Given the level of effort that has otherwise gone into the game, I suspect this might be due to relative unfamiliarity with the IF community and typical output, from the playtesters or from the author or both; I saw no reason to think the author couldn’t have fixed these issues if so desired, given the things that the game does successfully implement. (The eyeball shenanigans won’t have been completely trivial to do.)

Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but I’m hoping that there will be sufficient helpful feedback from the comp to inspire a polish of these issues, at which point Death of Schlig will be much more recommendable than it is now.

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