QuickRecs: RPGMaker Edition

I really enjoyed these short little games! This was a neat indie-genre to be introduced to.


Happy Birthday
When a party for a wealthy family’s ten year old daughter ends with the birthday girl dead, her older sister missing, and the father refusing to call the police, the detective isn’t exactly conventional. She finds herself at the site of the crime – a rented out old mansion – without any trace of memory. It’s the landlady who tells her that she is a private investigator who’s been hired to catch the culprit and bring them to justice.

This was a nice little murder mystery. It was pretty straightforward and not groundbreaking or anything, but it was a fun, quick play. I never felt particularly stumped by the mystery, but the game did a good job of doling out clues slowly and in a way that only revealed little bits at a time, so it wasn’t like 10 minutes in I had it all figured out, though by the end when it was time to accuse someone I knew pretty unequivocally who it was. If you have a half hour or so to kill, this could be a fun way to do it.

The graphics reminded me heavily of older handheld Harvest Moon games. This isn’t relevant, I just felt like letting everyone know that’s what I kept thinking of.

Exeunt Omnes is a rhetorical strategy game, where dialogue is the battleground and you fight for your life armed with Logos, Ethos and Pathos.

This was a fascinating game. More of a concept game than a full RPG, the idea is that you’re a villain giving your final monologue, and trying to convince the hero to spare you. The logic web system is incredibly unique, the art is whimsical, and the endings are surprisingly emotional.

The biggest issue with this game is that it seriously, seriously needed an instruction manual. I spent the first half-hour with no idea what the controls were or how to work them, and I’m still sure I don’t get everything. I spent my first fifteen minutes trying to click “Claim” because I figured that was how I took my turn, since it was a button that popped up when I selected a dialogue option, but it turns out to be (apparently) a useless button and you actually click “Perform” to play. The help screen is no help, as it’s all written in character instead of in a clear, concise way that explains the mechanics.
Once you figure out what the hell is going on, though, it’s fun, intriguing, and very interesting. The game is superbly written… just not well-explained.
The other big issue is getting the “true” ending, which the dev admits she made too difficult. The biggest problem to me was that there was no in-game indication of what you were supposed to do. If before starting it had said, “See if you can convince her of all three points!” somewhere, that would have been enough, but as-is there’s no indication that’s a thing you should shoot for so I had no clue how to get the final ending. Even when you figure it out, it’s ridiculously difficult– even following the dev’s walkthrough I couldn’t do it, and eventually I just gave up out of frustration.
It’s a shame, because overall this was very cool and I do think it’s worth playing.The Last Word
You play as Whitty Gawship, a woman invited to a prestigious get-together at the residence of the impressive Professor Chet Chatters. Members of the party are veteran conversationalists, each trying to gain subtle power over one-another. When Whitty and the others discover that the Professor can get the last word in every conversation via his miraculous one-way intercom, they are forced to remain at the party until he gets what he wants.

 
First of all, I’m really glad I read And Then There Were None before I played this, because it’s an amazing homage. And honestly, I think you should read that book before playing the game, because it’s a quick read (I killed it in like an hour) and I think it would seriously change your reaction to the setup here.I thought this game was unique, clever, and witty (heh). It’s not quite as innovative as Exeunt Omens, but it’s still a really creative take on the verbal RPG, which I’ve learned this week is a genre. The battle system is simple but still requires strategy, and the game was short enough the simplicity of the battle system didn’t become an issue. I appreciated that it wasn’t just a reskinned RPG setup, but an actually different system, and I actually found myself happily grinding because I wanted all the items and all the powerups. The story is silly and serious at the same time, with a consistent and effective tongue-in-cheek tone. There was a ton of optional dialogue, and I talked to everyone about everything because yay flavor text. I liked the art as a way of communicating people and personalities without having to go all-out with drawing and such. For what it was, I thought it worked quite well.

The game did have its issues. The plot wraps up too quickly and too vaguely, something it looks like the dev knew. The game was apparently developed for a 30-day contest, and that does show in several instances where Checkhov’s guns were left unfired and there are loose ends in item collection and topic levelling. Overall though, I found this to be a pleasant little way to kill an hour or two.

4 Comments

  1. illhousen says:
    Glad you like it.

    I may recommend more RPGMaker games, if you are interested. Most of them are pretty short, some has very pretty art.

    Happy Birthday is a small nice game. It does what it’s supposed to do and not much more. I am not sure about the ending, though, some stuff (like time shenanigans) kinda came out of nowhere. I would prefer to find a book or something foreshadowing it.

    Exeunt Omnes is more a prove of a concept than a complete game. It certainly has a potential, but the gameplay is very unrefined.

    I actually did get the Logical ending by replicating the screenshots posted by the developer as close as I could. It takes 8 turns. The ending is pretty meh. What’s a policy on spoilers there? Should I tell you about it?

    Either way, you didn’t miss much.

    I would also add that the square grid and metallic colors didn’t fit the setting, in my opinion. It’s more a cyberpank feel than anything, I think. I would prefer something more fancy as a backdrop. Same for the nods and connections.

    The Last Word was just fun. I liked the atmosphere playing on common closed circle setup, and I liked the protagonist. She was, well, witty and generally felt like someone I wouldn’t mind meeting in real life.

    I liked the battle system, though I think if became too repetitive after awhile. I think the level system wasn’t needed. A series of plot relevant fights where you start closer and closer to the left end as you go against more and more skilled opponents would work better, I feel (plus later opponents would have skills).

    Maybe add an ability to challenge opponents you’ve already “cleared” for practice and fun.

    I liked that the skills were designed with changing the gameplay in mind: the ones that rise your pools give you more breathing room and expand your options on the first few turns, the second chance skill allows you to challenge more experienced opponents with a chance to win, the calming down effect changes the dynamic in the latter part of a fight, the skills that mark certain places on the board could affect your tactic (though mostly I didn’t pay them much mind unless there was a clear opportunity to take advantage of them present).

    All in all, it’s clear that there was thought put in them.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t really save the system from becoming repetitive over the necessary grinding.

    Still, it’s a fun game, and I wouldn’t mind playing a more polished and expanded version.

    EDIT: Oh, and I think the verbal battles is not so much a genre as a relatively recent trend. Your recommendations list includes pretty much every game with social combat in it that I know of. There could be more, I’ve seen a game about a mage solving psychological problems of asylum residence, but I didn’t check them yet and don’t know how battles are presented.

    1. actonthat says:
      No matter what I did, I just could not get the Logician ending in EO. I have no idea what I was doing wrong, but I got frustrated and gave up. Do you know if there’s a gameplay video out there or something? I’m curious, but don’t have the drive to go through the ringer again. If you just want to tell me, feel free.

      I actually liked the mechanical look of it and the logic web, because I thought it fit with the “proof of concept” idea and let you see the machinations behind the characters and thought the contrast between the characters in the foreground in a very whimsical style and the hard, mathematical look of the background gave it a kind of meta feel.

      Last Word was definitely my favorite of these, though. It really is just fun, and I do hope it get polished up someday as well. I didn’t get sick of the battle system, but I also have a very high grinding tolerance, and I can see how people would find it boring after a few go-rounds.

      1. illhousen says:
        Well, it is possible that you didn’t claim a connection between two nodes despite claiming nods themselves. It happens when you approach a node from a side way rather than from the center.

        I wrote a step-by-step walkthrough for getting the ending if you are interested:

        Turn 1
        – You don’t want to hurt me
        – Too many have been hurt

        Turn 2
        – You are a good person
        – We know each other better than anyone
        – You need me (the right-up big point attached to the center. Use the arror connection to claim it)

        Turn 3
        – You need the fight
        – Better fight me than someone else
        – I hold worse people at bay

        Turn 4
        – This world needs me
        – This world needs me -> You are going to let me go connection
        – Only I am free

        Turn 5
        – Heroes only react
        – Heroes fight for retribution
        – Every hero starts as a victim

        Turn 6
        – The nature of evil is arbitrary
        – Society defines its deviants
        – There must be two poles

        Turn 7
        – There must be two poles -> Evil is necessary connection
        – The center cannot hold
        – The two poles reinforce the same values
        – Entrepreneurship and greed

        Turn 8
        – Care and jealousy
        – Freedom and selfishness

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