I had the ADRIFT 5.0 runner set up already, so why not try another ADRIFT game?
So this one’s definitely got a concept. It’s a cloak-and-dagger spy game. You are SILVER AGENT. Wiped memories, a gun. Six bullets. And a CITY of color-coded spies out there. Some of 'em might be willing to help, many more are out to kill you. And there’s a shadowy ORGANIZATION in the background…
What you’re actually doing is moving around locales in the city. The Skyscraper, The Bar, The Alley, The Nightclub. Not a lot of descriptions in all of them, but there are some seemingly random encounters as you explore. And you can choose various actions to take. Do you TRUST the GREEN AGENT, THREATEN them, KILL them? SNEAK past the guard, or BRIBE them? INFILTRATE, or IGNORE The Mansion? This ends up feeling almost choice-based, in a way, because all the actions at each place is listed for you. Some minor issues with not knowing whether I was inside or outside of buildings, or some commands not being understood even following exact syntax. The ADRIFT auto-map helps a lot (I had to turn it on under Window). There are places to hide, and you’ll find some agents and locations will be able to give you more information, about who to trust maybe, or what secrets some locations might offer. So there are a lot of cool ideas here.
Conceptually then, it feels like it should be a limited information game, where you use deductive reasoning based off of incomplete data as you move around the city. In practice, it can feel a bit random, because the info isn’t sequentially given to you. You might not have found any info on an agent you’re facing down, so you’ll be told that they’re a good fighter, that they seem to be looking for someone, but you’re just rolling the dice a bit beyond that, sometimes literally, because KILLing them or SNEAKing past have percentage chances to fail. If you do find someone willing to talk to you, a lot of the questions don’t seem to be based on stuff you already know, so you’re a lot of the time choosing from a bunch of questions on places and agents you haven’t even encountered yet, which also sort of doesn’t jibe with the whole notion of this being about info-gathering. Any encounter that goes awry can end with your death, or their’s. Some stuff is randomized, but the map, and what each location offers, seems to be set, and it seems like some of the agents are stationed at specific spots as well, and that knowledge definitely helps a lot on subsequent playthroughs. I never did get to the point where I felt like I could enact much of a strategy for most encounters, though (and knowing some useful places to visit first doesn’t feel necessarily strategic). It seems like it’d be difficult to finish without at least playing through a couple times to get a layout of the city and the story, at which point both the amnesia angle and the do-or-die one I feel would get diluted?
The prose definitely goes full-bore noir, and it hits it well overall, although sometimes there’s an overloading of the terse sentence fragments, and the rhythm gets a bit off as a result. There was one line like “this is a nightmare” which most stood out as not fitting in with the curt, clipped delivery of the rest of the text. But when people start talking, it feels conspiratorial, it feels like there’s just a glimpse of a web being untangled in front of you, and that does sell a lot of this concept to me.
Overall, then? Tone works: it feels like a shadowy, oppressive city. Paranoia sets in. You second guess. The pieces of info you do get, really do feel like meaningful pieces of a larger puzzle, the only issue being the puzzle itself is maybe a bit too large, especially when so many of the pieces you flip over are landmines (ah, metaphor breaking down, but you get the idea…). I dunno, there are gameplay choices here that seem really at odds with each other, but the pieces of lore are actually pretty enticing, and I like quite a bit of what this is going for. If the setting sounds interesting, maybe give this a try at least.
So I wrote most of the above before reading dfabulich’s review. The 10,000 Bowls of Oatmeal problem seems mostly aimed at describing same-y, meaningless randomness. The randomness in Six Silver Bullets actually seems very meaningful overall, in a way that severely impacts your run-through, while still not being something the player can always seem to play around (the mechanical connection). I played through a third time, quickly, just now, and for example, there’s an agent right outside the hotel room when you wake up, and it turns out they’re random too. First playthrough, I died very quickly to them immediately, did UNDO, then had to shoot them. Nothing on their body. Second playthrough, I avoided them. Last one, they were friendly, so they actually gave me A LOT of background, then an item. Starting off the game, you can get a lot of info immediately, or none, or an immediate game over. So… if the randomness of the results of these encounters were actually a bit more same-y – more standardised, less all-or-nothing – I think, maybe, it’d feel more like I was making progress as I played, and less like I was wandering around the city gathering as much as possible for a “serious” future run before my luck (and bullets) ran out? Thinking about this more, I think I was treating this more like a story where I was very much trying to keep alive, and maybe instead this actually should be treated fully as a roguelike/Varicella?