(Spring Thing 2005 2nd place, back when the Thing had numbered places. Still, only one review and 17 ratings. This heartfelt ode to Bolivia certainly deserves more attention. Bolivia By Night - Details (ifdb.org))
Ode to Bolivia
Hi, I’m Jacqueline Beautemps. I’m a Canadian journalist working on a temporary visa for the Bolivian Herald. Until now, Ive been mostly interviewing the lovely Bolivan people and writing articles for the lifestyle, media and cooking pages. This morning however, our star political reporter seems to have gone missing. I feel the urge to investigate…
I could just as well have been Randy Froomes from the US of A or Miss Topsy Turvy from England. The game would have remembered these bits of information from the short application form to be filled in at the start, and numerous details and customized responses would have been altered in the game-text. Rarely have I come across a game where entering “personal” information at the beginning had such an impact on the feel of the experience. Most of the time I semi-forget who my character was and just keep playing as “me-in-game”. Here I was reminded at numerous small instances of who my character was. This helped in feeling truly immersed in the game world.
The deep implementation runs throughout. There are paintings and photographs and murals and billboards to look at (many with an actual picture embedded in the game), books and newspapers to read. Very few of these are vital or even important, but they add up to a vivid world.
Bolivia by Night is not a puzzle-oriented game. Although there are puzzles, and a few clever and surprising ones at that, they are never meant to be brainstakingly hard. Instead, they are meant to make the player engage with the surroundings more deeply while never stopping the story from rolling forward. Indeed, the game actively nudges, nay, pushes you toward the solutions. By the third chapter, these nudges are given by a certain charismatic Communist leader on your t-shirt…
That is not to say that Bolivia by Night does not pose obstacles. The main challenge is sifting through the huge amount of information about the history of Bolivia and the relations between the characters to find out where the investigation will lead you next.
Who should I ask about what? Where did that character say she was going to be? How does this fit with what I know already?
During the five-chapter-long investigation of the disappearance of your colleague where you discover ancient and more recent Bolivian history which is sometimes quite depressing, the game alleviates the darker context with many, many jokes (try walking into a Burger King with said charismatic Communist leader and see what happens…), and many beautifully written evocative references to the beauty of the land, the culture and the history of Bolivia.
While the game has a definite happy end (and a bad one), the story in which your adventure takes place concludes on a more open but still hopeful message.
What touched me most about this piece is the obvious care and love of the author for Bolivia that shines through the entire text.
A beautiful, exciting and moving game.