JAY SCHILLING’S EDGE OF CHAOS
The blurb of the game leaves the reader a bit baffled, of course intentionally. But with sentences in it like “Clouds out here were apparently one of the thirty million newly unemployed”, what actually is going on? Ok, reading the blurb further, the game seems to be about a missing woman, and I am playing as a private detective. But why the stutter? Well, let’s start playing the game and finding out what this is all about. The player’s curiosity has been successfully raised.
The starting location, a petting zoo, might not be the most typical one for a private detective to meet with his client, adding to the mysterious flavour at this point. The style of the narrative, from the start, shows the detective as hard-boiled, someone who knows what he is doing, in the style of numerous ‘noir’ type mystery stories. Rather soon, however, we learn the true state of affairs - the main character is still rather young and inexperienced, doesn’t have an official detective’s licence, and lives/is forced to live in some kind of storage pod, sleeping in a sleeping bag. In a funny reference back to the blurb, he doesn’t possess any of the high-tech equipment that is advertised in the blurb, and solving anything is indeed not any walk in the park for him. To underline his greenness and uncertainty about himself, he stutters when he speaks. To use a computer and make a simple Google search, he has to go to the library, for example. So, what initially felt like a hard-boiled noir story quickly acquires a funny undertone. Anyway, he has managed to attract a client and takes on a quest of finding a missing woman. This quest has many funny and surprising turns, even some fantasy elements thrown in. It all takes just about two hours, so length-wise this game is just right. The story is interesting and moves along in a good pace. Besides the narrative, some location names are funny, as well (“Jay Schilling in a taxi” being one example). The parser is very understanding and picks up readily the player’s suggestions and experiments with various objects. There is a helpful hint system available. A nice feature were the images thrown in, for example when examining yourself, and at some other points. There were maybe only a few cases where the player had to really think about how a puzzle would be solved (for example in Winstone’s first house); in relatively many cases, the player was nudged forward by the NPCs, or there were direct suggestions by the game “You could ask about (some object or incident), or try small talk”, or something to that extent. This was actually helpful, as it showed what the parser would be able to understand, and what things were essential to talk about. If I observed correctly, the main character’s stutter seemed to disappear towards the end, maybe signalling that he had gained self-confidence cracking the case at hand (but I don’t know if this was the authors’ intention or not).
Because of the fantasy element in the plot, the story was something that was not even meant to be 100% “real-world” plausible, but it was fun and kept the player entertained. In general, the games this year (at least so far) seem to have a high degree of polish, and this one is no exception.All in all, a fun and polished story that turned out different from what it first seemed. It’s a strong 9.