Josh Grams's Spring Thing 2023 thoughts

I Am Prey

(I had direct-messaged Joey with what I had to say, but since I looked at the review spreadsheet and this one only has two public reviews?!)

I had expected it to be very videogamey, but the writing isn’t half bad either and (depending how you play) there are a fair number of little story nuggets tucked away here and there.

But it is mostly about the game mechanics. And it’s clearly supposed to be tense. But it only takes an undo (or a few of them) to get you back out of the places where you get yourself killed so it’s not that bad. I did save several times but I never needed them.

I played very conservatively so I never tried half the mechanics in the game (I never tried any of the “tricks” listed in the guide, except slamming the door once by accident). But honestly once you learn all the extra map connections and that you can just undo out of anything and try a different route, I suspect the chase bits are probably the most fun part of the game (I have to go back and play again and try this to be sure, but I’m guessing that’s the case).

So. I suspect the manual is overly intimidating: think of it as a limited-parser hide-and-seek board game in a maze with lots of secret exits to find. Your commands are:

  • N/S/E/W (and a few ordinal directions)
  • LISTEN and then PEEK <dir> (to see if it’s safe).
  • CLOSE DOOR quietly behind you so the automatic door closers don’t give your position away.
  • JUMP TO <thing> or CLIMB <thing> (the guide lists lots of other synonyms, but these suffice for everything. I think you can even abbreviate them to JM and CL but I never tried that). And there’s one place in the game where you have to RUN, so if you think JUMP should work but it doesn’t…
  • SEARCH <thing> (you can say open/look in, but this is faster. And it also tells you if you can climb or jump on it).

And then you get to go explore. Check all the containers for parts of the spacesuit you need to escape: shelves, lockers, cabinets, chests, fridges… I think that’s all the kinds? There are a few things to look under as well. You can hear doors closing a few turns behind the Predator, so you can play cautiously and try to stay mostly on the other side of the map from him (this is what I did). Or you can hunt for the “secret” exits so you can just leave another way if he’s blocking the normal door: there are only a couple rooms where you’re really trapped. And at least one of those has a locker, chest, or fridge that you can hide in until he goes away (I’m pretty sure you can hide in chests and fridges: I only tried a locker the once. And if you do hide and then he comes into the room you get to hear him monologue, and I gather he has a bunch of those: hey, story!).

And…that’s pretty much the game. In the “extras” folder in the download there’s a graphical map which doesn’t show a few of the secret rooms or any of the secret connections (or the cubicles in the Admin section) but gives you the whole main layout. You’ll want to download this and have it open while you play. Or if you prefer to make your own maps you’ll (probably) want to play as the cat (safe mode). Or hey, just live dangerously: there’s always undo.

Yeah. I feel like there are still occasional rough spots, but it’s a pretty good thriller digital board game, if you’re into that kind of thing.