Animalia

cover (32)

There are still more than a couple of dozen things I haven’t seen and done. Having played through about 8 times now until my 2 hours was up, this is impressive.

Just after the sacrifice of a human child to the Forest God, the animals realize they might have made a mistake. Someone’s gonna come looking. To that end, they create a lifesize replica of the child powered by four animals inside it. It’s up to you to save the Taiga.

What follows is a highly branching choice game that is much much bigger than it first seems. Our first choice is to select which four animals are going to populate the human suit. Our selection informs some of the text and choices from that point onwards, the game branches outwards. There is a pinch-point in the classroom, but all the choices you make do seem to be important in delivering the following narrative.

The Totem Pole Trench is explored pretty thoroughly in this game. Much of the comedy derives from it. Is it a coincidence that, aka the Marx Brothers, there are four characters inhabiting this human coat? It’s given a fresh treatment here. In addition to the Deadly Sneeze type of gag, there is a running joke about these creatures attempting to communicate in the most archaic and formal language. And the misunderstandings of human artifacts lead to some very funny lines.

I thought at first that this game was just a light comedy, but there are some serious thematic elements there as well. I didn’t think that the text was going to comment on the fact that the animals are sacrificing human children to the Forest God, but then, one of the animals begins to ruminate on their feelings for humans. “Before, getting revenge on Humans was all I thought about”. I have a feeling that, hidden away in this complex narrative puzzle is more on this. I look forward to finding it.

The game does frequently resort to one of my least favorite choice mechanics : big lumps of expository text revealed paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence on clicking a random word highlighted in the text. I can’t help thinking – what’s the point? It’s just irritating. If you absolutely have to have a big lump of linear text in a game, I’m cool with a couple of short pages linked with a Continue button. Fortunately, the game has a skip button, which means if you have seen these lumps before, you don’t have to go through them all again. Some are un-skippable though. There ought to be a standard generally accepted ‘design rule’ somewhere for all choice games: Have a skip button for exposition after the player has played through the game once.

But this is a minor nitpick in a funny, clever, branching, complex, well implemented game. 9/10.

 

 

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