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Walker & Silhouette

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Mystery
2009

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Number of Reviews: 5
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Great characters, but I'm not sure about one-word commands, December 13, 2009
I really liked this game, and for a lot of reasons : the setting (early 20th century with some interesting differences) is original, and its description and references were very efficient in drawing me into this world ((Spoiler - click to show)hysteria diagnosis or expeditions to the north pole are such references I found very much immersive). The duo of detectives works really well : the characters are charismatic, quite antagonistic and their exchanges are often humorous (with a totally British sense of humor, which I like very much!). There's even (Spoiler - click to show)a bit of romance between those two, very subtlely and nicely displayed by the author. The story in itself is not extraordinary, but I found it okay nevertheless, and to my mind it quite fitted the tone of the game. I admit I would have preferred a longer story, because I ended up wanting to spend more time with those characters! (but maybe a sequel is secretly planned ;)

But I cannot talk about this game without mentioning the unusual parsing system: it consists in one-word commands, such as "door" or "corpse". I understand that it's been a parsing system that's quite new and interests people since Blue Lacuna; the attempt to make a whole game not only using this system, but revolving around it, is quite bold! However, I must admit that I need more than what this game shows to be totally convinced by this system. It may be easier for some readers to click on words to interact with them, but it seems to me that it's reducing interactivity and a sense of freedom. Actually, in this game, you can also interact with words that aren't underlined, a fact I liked when I discovered it because I felt that freedom wasn't so much reduced after all. But on the other side, you can make the character perform actions you'd never thought of, and thus you can win the game relying on a "lawnmowering strategy" and without understanding the story: I find this fact not very satisfactory (at least in a normal game you have to figure out the verb, and so you have to deduce first what you have to do). (Actually, it's a little bit the same reproach as the one with the ">TALK TO X" conversation system, because in a way both systems are similar) For instance in this game, (Spoiler - click to show)you have to deduce from the clues in the deceased's room the way he was killed: I had no idea, and just typed "explain" several times because the word was underlined, and the character ended up saying "it was a giant octopus on wheels", altough I was very far from deducing such a thing! (but let's face it, it's hard to create a puzzle in which you have to make the player guess that it was a giant octopus on wheels). To avoid such a "lawnmowering effect", maybe that puzzles that require a series of actions in a precise (and logical) order can be a part of the solution, because it's more difficult than finding the only action that would make the story go further, and I think it encourages the player to figure out what he has to do and how first. (just an idea)
To sum up about this system, I'm not convinced that it's bringing something more or something different to the game; actually it makes it easier, substracting the need to understand what you're doing and why to solve a puzzle or to advance in the story. But I'm not formally opposed to it, and I hope other games in the future will go further enough in the use of this system to show me new and interesting things that the system can bring: but to me "Walker & Silhouette" fails to bring those elements (it's easily forgivable though, because the system is quite new and unexplored).

In conclusion, while I'm not very fond of the parsing system, I found the game very enjoyable. And I'm starting to think more and more that, judging by the quality of every of his games, C.E.J. Pacian will soon become a major author.

Comments on this review

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The Xenographer, November 19, 2011 - Reply
I actually had the opposite problem with the "explain" thing: I guessed that it was a giant squid long before Ivy did, and was frustrated that she was taking so long to get it.

... I'm not sure what this says about me.
Emily Short, December 13, 2009 - Reply
It's interesting that that was your take, because I actually thought (Spoiler - click to show)the "explain" puzzle was intentionally funny: there was no way that a player with normal expectations about the world would *ever* have come up with the squid-on-legs explanation, but because of the way the game was set up, it was possible to bluff one's way through that and let the protagonist do all the work. Which seemed to me like an amusing, slightly meta way of playing on the interface possibilities.
george, December 13, 2009 - Reply
I agree, I think (Spoiler - click to show)the 'explain' puzzle was intentionally constructed to let the player 'figure out the mystery' whenever they wanted, but still let them hear the funny explanations that Ivy would give.

Also, with regard to your point about a one-word parser lending itself to a sequenced puzzle, you see precisely that in the endgame.


It would be interesting to play a one-word game where none of the words were highlighted.
dutchmule, December 13, 2009 - Reply
(To George:) Well, it's true that the two puzzles from the endgame require at least two moves to be solved, but (Spoiler - click to show)for instance I didn't have a precise idea in mind when I typed "fish" (I just vaguely thought I could give one to the squid to make him quiet and friendly), and I had the impression of a puzzle "solving itself" alone.
What was on my mind about sequenced puzzles was that they could be solved by a succession of little but precise actions that would demonstrate that the player understood the mechanism behind the puzzle -- but I don't know if I'm clear here. Something like "button, then lever, then wait until the ball rolls down, then cat". In fact it's not very different of what could be achieved with "conventional interface", but this one-word interface can be better (more useful) in cases where you have objects that you can manipulate in only one way, and rather than typing "push button" it's easier and more intuitive to type "button" (as in "interact with button", and everyone understands what you mean by that). (I just remembered that the right-click in Monkey Island works quite like that, as it performs the most obvious action with the object; but again, there are only nine verbs in MI) But NPCs are not buttons: I want to be able to interact with them in various different ways! ;)
Emily Short, December 14, 2009 - Reply
re: But NPCs are not buttons: I want to be able to interact with them in various different ways!

(Spoiler - click to show)You actually *can* type things like KISS IVY and ATTACK HIM, if you want. And there are amusing results if you do. It's just not necessary to solve the game. I kind of liked that effect, because it was like the keywords were the protagonist's conscious ideas about what to look at and do, but the fuller commands I typed in were like promptings from the id, unrecognized temptations and desires. The way the responses were written reinforced that sense.
dutchmule, December 13, 2009 - Reply
(To Emily Short:) Well, I agree: maybe it's just a way here to introduce the (Spoiler - click to show)squid-on legs explanation. But still, I think that such an interface can lead to similar results in other games (Spoiler - click to show)where the context or the deduction is intended in a more serious fashion. For example if Sherlock Holmes tells you "Well, Watson, now you can deduce everything and solve the case, can't you?", you may type "chandelier" and end up with the good ending and all the mystery explained by your character without having at first the slightest understanding of what happened. This problem is obvious in the Phoenix Wright series on NDS, for example: sometimes everyone in the court looks at you and says "you know you have one piece of evidence to reveal everything", and if you didn't understand how the crime was done, you simply have no other solution than trying to show every piece of evidence you have in your possession, and when you found the right one your character explains to everyone (and to you) all the story, and you say "what? a secret room?" or "huh? so he wasn't dead?". (but in spite of this, I love these games!!)
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