Wolfbiter reviews Spring Thing 2024 -- Social Democracy (all main festival reviews complete)

Zomburbia by Charles Moore, Jr.
Playtime: 2 hours (did not finish)

This made me want to talk about:

  • Pretty cool for Louisiana that “bayou urban fantasy” is basically its own genre—other states can only dream.
  • OK, I mean this goodnaturedly, but rarely have I felt more betrayed by a game than when the hedge trimmers were not the correct item to deal with an aggressive, animate topiary
  • In the spirit of

let me report that because I could not figure out how to increase the size of the typeface in gargoyle, I did all of my play in a window about the size of a post-it note. I do expect sympathy.

  • I enjoyed this author’s game in IF Comp 2023, The Witch, which I reviewed here, and I was not disappointed in my expectation of getting some more fun puzzles! A few thoughts on how the games compare:
- large maps with many readily available items, difficulty lies in determining where to use each item
- patrolling NPCs
- light inventory management required
- key items can be destroyed or lost, rendering the game unwinnable
- game has a “score” command to tell you if it is winnable (in Zomburbia, you have to first use “winnable on”)
Different in Zomburbia
- a bit more player friendly (I didn’t see any timed sections), greater number of straightforward puzzles, other friendly UI adjustments
- more environmental humor and color from descriptions of NPCs and areas

My fervent wish:
I enjoyed The Witch but it was a bit difficult for my taste—so I already felt rewarded that Zomburbia felt a bit easier. I would still love a bit more scaffolding for the player, particularly towards the mid game. For example, I had other issues, but one of them was that after I accomplished some basic goals (escape cabin, get deed, return rifle to ghost) I didn’t feel like I understood what my goal was other than “complete the game,” which was fairly intimidating given the size of the map etc. And it let me kind of take myself in the wrong direction trying to figure out how to cure the other zombies with items.

In sum, I enjoyed my time solving puzzles. The puzzles I did were fun, felt appropriately clued and in keeping with physical intuitions, and it generally wasn’t a struggle to make my intent known to the interpreter.

Gameplay tips / typos:
  • there is a hints file in the distribution under “extras.” I only ended up looking at them after I was pretty played out, so I can’t speak directly, but it didn’t look like they were exhaustive. In particular, it sounded like finding “Kevin” was going to be important to progress, but at least on my quick read the hints didn’t say where you could find that
  • “search” is a pretty important command