Death Off the Cuff

Simon Christiansen (2010)

In this game you find yourself playing the part of Anthony Saint Germain, the great French detective that has never failed to solve a case. With everybody assemble in the lounge for the Seafront Hotel; youíre ready to reveal who killed the Colonel, a person who had been staying here only to be killed the night before. The only problem is, you have no idea who did it. But that shouldnít be a problem for someone like you. You should be able to sweet it out of one of the suspects in the unique piece of interactive work.

Death Off the Cuff takes interactive fiction in a new direction, through Saint Germain talking about each of the suspects. Iíve never seen this approach before, and it lends itself to smaller stories revealed as the detective tries to get someone to break down and confess to the crime. But one of the side effects is it takes some time getting use to the restrictive format. I guess it just me, but I like the ask/tell method that allows the player to explore a deeper subset of topics. But then the one thing that I didnít realize was you could also talk about objects in the room, not only people, and this is where the game really opens up with the objects becoming the deeper subset.

The story here was great, it was really easy to get through, but I think thatís because itís told entirely through dialog. Exposes takes so much longer to get through. And the character is witty, always covering everything up with stuff like.

"I know," you say. "You'll better tell the whole story, Doctor. For your own sake."

Itís hilarious, and strong writing with a bit of humor can go a long way. Take a look at Lost Pig. The game also has an amazingly strong hint system that is pretty direct, but not overbearing. Every game needs something like this; a small hint at the right time can go a long way. But I did run across a technical problem at the end that killed it for me, and just felt that I had to turn to the walkthrough. Plus the hint system led me to it so that wasnít cool. Itís a death daemon right at the end and it kills the pacing, what a shame, because right up until then it was a solid 10.

And to you new programmers out there, a death daemon is about the worst thing that you can put into your game. A long death daemon will probably cause someone to never pick your game up again, and the short ones people hate. Theyíll have to undo it a number of times to get the game to the state before the daemon started, and if the interpreter canít handle multiple undos you probably just lost another player. Only a few people might have a saved game close to your daemon point. End of lesson.

I loved this game, not only is it ground breaking, but itís fun and a quick read. But the unforgiving end that bugged out for me cost it a technical point, dropping down my vote to a 9. But donít get me wrong, this is an awesome game, and even though itís the first one that Iíve played so far this year, I think that itís going to place in the top 5.