First of all, this is probably my favorite game of the comp so far, and I’ve played or skimmed almost all of the games in the comp. If you bounced off it, like I did at first, because it seemed like it was going to be slight, I recommend revisiting it. It isn’t slight at all. This is one of my biggest criticisms of the game, honestly – the beginning is VERY much less engaging than the game proper. (For context, this is a “should I score it a 7-8 rather than 9-10” type of criticism, and there is a decent chance this is going to be my highest-ranked game of the comp. But I’ve talked with one person who had the same reaction to the beginning, so it isn’t me.)

That said, I’m not sure if I’ve seen it all:

[spoiler]I discovered the murderer, I got a confession out of them. But there is very clearly much more to the story, w/r/t all the clues you don’t want to think about. Some of them very strongly imply connections – the letter written in orange is probably the most obvious example – but I can’t link those clues in-game. No matter how far I get, even when I know who the murderer is, the PC doesn’t want to think about any of it.

So I really would like to explore these avenues – they seem like major components to the backstory here, and the ending doesn’t mention anything about them at all – but I can also see this theoretically be an intended aspect, an unreliable narrator/“things left unsaid”/“sometimes you can’t always learn the truth” thing.

The problem is that I can’t tell whether this is intended behavior – whether the PC just refuses to go there at all – or whether I’m missing something I am supposed to do with those. The walkthrough – “Some of the items, such as the Rap Sheet, cannot be combined with any other items to unlock memories. They all have the same statement on them indicating as such, and you can set them aside using the feature. Don’t ignore them though; there’s mysteries in this game aside from who the killer is.” – is ambiguous on this point.

A thought I had, probably wrong: Am I supposed to be wrongly accusing other people in order to gain insight into that – is that an intended mechanic? (The “wait, no!” option makes me wonder if it is, but I hit Restart so I’d have to play through again.)

The other reason that I’m curious about those avenues is that, from what I gather, those components touch on a number of themes that can be handled well or very, very poorly.[/spoiler]

I am stuck on this too. I was able to work out the identity of the murderer, and that played out with relatively few sticky points; and I found that if I pruned out items from the list when the system said I’d gotten all I needed, that funneled me pretty smoothly to the end. I also did try falsely accusing a few people to see if that helped, but it didn’t.

However, I have not at all been able to get anywhere with officially unlocking the stuff I think you’re talking about, no matter how much I link up clues. What I think is the case, plus some unresolved questions:

[spoiler]- Justin is trans (the two moon charms, the congratulations you’re a boy card, the matching shapes of their mind-palaces, Justin’s presence with Annie at the pride parade). The “unknown girl” in some of the photos is Justin pre-transition, including the one the protagonist thinks of as particularly tomboyish

  • Terry has an eating disorder and possibly overused diet pills and that is why she would up in the hospital so much; note also the things about her not being a good cook, as well as the ambiguity as to whether the caf pills are hers
  • the protagonist has a bunch of DUIs and did something particularly bad 11/14, which might have involved getting Terry hurt (see the date on one of the hospital stickers) and/or might have led to the death of the person who is in the graveyard.
  • Possibly the deceased person is Annie’s daughter, Le- something, who was lesbian and was dating one of the others (Terry? Pre-transition Justin? I have the sense they were all pretty close back then). (The burning letter is in orange pen, which makes it look to me like maybe Annie wrote it, as it’s a rather distinctive point, but then later Annie’s at the pride parade too. Maybe we’re to understand that Annie’s husband wrote the note, or maybe Annie used to have more homophobic sentiments before changing her views based on having a gay family member.)
  • But then I also wondered whether the person with the cane was injured as a result of the protagonist’s DUI.[/spoiler]

@ifcomp - Worst. Thanksgiving. Evar. Someone has killed you, and most everyone had a reason if you can remember it. Luckily you’ve got all the time in the world to review the evidence since you’re dead. Legit detective sleuthing required!

[spoiler]There are many aspects of the story that don’t sit well with me.

  1. Terry’s stated rationale for committing the murder strikes me as quite specious. Her concern for Justin’s late patrols, for instance, rings false given that she has been using that time to carry out an affair. Her true motive almost certainly runs deeper than what she confessed.
  2. Who is the gentleman with the cane? Typically one doesn’t knowingly help one’s paramour murder random neighbors, yet I find it hard to believe the cane man is an unwitting accomplice: if Terry asks him to gather leaves under false pretenses late at night, his suspicions would certainly be raised after the inquest determines wolfsbane poisoning, if not sooner. Why, then, did he agree to help Terry with her plan? And for that matter, why did Terry confide in an accomplice anyway, since she could have easily gathered the wolfsbane herself?[/spoiler]


The game code says her name was Lexa.[/spoiler]

I don’t recall the details of how it was linked, but I thought it became clear that this was Bram, who grew the wolfsbane and supplied it to Terry?

I’m pretty sure that the real motive was [spoiler]revenge for someone’s death:

  • The rap sheet indicates that our protagonist did something bad back on 11/14.
  • Terry’s hospital stickers begin on 11/14
  • There’s a consent form for non-voluntary eu-- and then our protagonist refuses to read further. I think the cut-off word is “euthanasia”, and the consent form is for taking someone off life support. This apparently happened very recently.

This someone must be the Lexa mentioned in one of the comments above. (The burning letter gives us Le-, and the torn-up petition gives us -xa.) I think Lexa is the girl in the photo of “Terry, Erin, and some other girl you don’t care about”. (Hah, “you don’t care about” … methinks the spirit doth protest too much.) Note that the “Erin” in the photo is described as uncharacteristically tomboyish, and we end by wondering who took the picture. Answer: the “Erin” in the photo is actually Justin, and the photo was taken by the real Erin.

I’d missed the bit about the burning letter being written in Annie’s characteristic orange, so I never connected it to her. But if Lexa were Annie’s daughter, it would explain why the consent form was found in Annie’s mind.

My guess is that Lexa was Terry’s best friend, pre-transition Justin’s girlfriend, and Annie’s daughter. She’s been on life-support since our protagonist ran her over. They pulled the plug on her a few days ago, and that’s what drove Terry to murder.[/spoiler]

I’ve also posted a review of this game on my blog.

Hello everyone, Maddie, co-writer and coder of Erstwhile here! I’m so glad everyone liked the game! I did not expect it to get 5th at all, I was gunning for top 20 at the absolute best-- when you work on a game for 2 years you accrue some doubts about its quality. This is also the reason for the radio silence on my part during the comp itself; I was terrified of people ripping it apart and wanted to deal with any potential hate only when I absolutely had to (ie yesterday). But all of the reviews I’ve seen have been mostly positive!! And that makes me really happy and proud of what we created.

Most of the crits that we received were related to the noncombinable clues – the rap sheet, the burning letter, the congratulatory card, etc. Most of yall either wanted some way to unlock the deeper mystery/ies, or some signal that you can’t. As many people have guessed, it’s purposeful that you can’t unlock the deeper reasons for the murder and people’s interactions with Mort, because Mort just doesn’t want to think about them. I think this is an important thematic aspect of the game.

We drew from not only Color the Truth (as one reviewer noted) but also Toby’s Nose and some other media (Gravity Falls and Psychonauts). The influence from Toby’s Nose meant we wanted clues that were just there, that you had to puzzle out the meaning of yourself.

However, people’s frustration with that aspect of the game has really been prominent and I definitely want to address it. My ideal method would be to signal that no, you definitely can’t unlock any secret memories or other revelations for Mort. It’s tricky because he’s an unreliable protagonist. I tried putting flags to that effect in the items’ text but even in beta testing people didn’t quite pick up on the significance of those sentences. Any suggestions on how to fix this issue would be greatly appreciated!

As well, Lucea, I’m definitely open to how to improve the introductory passages! Those are the oldest ones, so they’re rough. :’)

FWIW, I loved your game, and I actually loved that you never get a definitive answer on what’s going on under the surface, so to speak. I enjoyed piecing together the clues and intuiting what the further implications might’ve been without being explicitly told, even in the end.

[spoiler]I really loved the gradual realization on my own that actually Mort is probably kind of an a**hole.

I think the “you’ve gotten every use you can out of this clue” signal helped. The first time I played, I did also wonder if I’d missed something somehow, but between the game letting me know when I didn’t need a clue, and it not being a branching-choice kind of game (where a decision could have caused me to leave something behind), I figured it was unlikely.[/spoiler]