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About the StoryCan you get yourself off the couch?
21st Place - Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The puzzles are kind of fun, involving getting at things out of reach without getting up (though I wonder if it would have been easier to get up and get them then the puzzle solutions).
The problem with this game is implementation. Your cat, Shay wanders around and is relevant to the game, but the game does not understand "cat". Nor does it understand "mouse" (uses "mousie" instead), nor does it understand "cushion" for the couch. In a dream sequence you can see flying cars and robots but the game tells you that you "see no such thing" if you refer to cars or robots.
If you try to repeat some actions, you are given no response. For example, there is a puzzle involving getting a box that requires a certain action. The first time you do it, great. But if you try to do the action again, you get no reply, just an empty command line. These things need to be corrected.
Other than that, it's a unique and clever idea, finding ways to boost your mood to get you off the couch. For a first time game it's good, but if you were just starting to play IF you could easily be confused when the game tells you you can't see any "cat" when "Shay" is right in the room with you.
The small things first. Some verbs just don't do anything (like READ INVITATION). Some verbs that you'd expect to be there aren't (like PET SHAYS). Purple prose abounds, which is more annoying than usual given that this is a one-room game. It's even more annoying that the game mentions a computer many times, yet it's not accessible, which knocks the realism factor down quite a bit.
All those aren't fatal flaws, though. However, Couch also doesn't tell you when your mood changes, and if mood is roughly equivalent to points (or at least progress), it's important that the player realize the effects of his actions. What if I had done something to knock my status down and didn't realize it? It's unfair to not tell the player about important changes to his world. Yes, I used a masculine pronoun back there, and that's because the sex of the main character is never mentioned directly. You can discover it by interacting with one object, but that's not the point. Games shouldn't hide important information from players!
I might have been able to slog on to the end, but the final and dooming problem was that the game was dreadfully missing clues. The entirety of Couch consists of trying things at random until you find something that makes you feel better; that this could be argued as realistic doesn't mean that it makes for an enjoyable game. Besides, even the most dispirited have an internal dialog that gives them some clue what would lighten their mood. That's wholly absent in Couch.
I understand that the deadline for the Jay Is Games contest was aggressive and that many games didn't have the luxury of beta-testing. That's why the little things aren't the problem here, but the fundamental design issues are. If you have only so much time, then make sure that the design is solid first. The Couch of Doom, at least in its current state, would best be appreciated by puzzle-solvers with patience.
There are two main puzzles which are relatively easy and donít require too much ingenuity to solve. Take things at face value in this game. If you want to get something done, donít think of a series of actions to accomplish it Ė chances are one verb will do the trick. Thatís one of the downsides of Couch of Doom. The puzzles are so straight-forward and easy, that they take away from the overall feel of the game.
The writing is light-hearted and the excuses the PC gives for not standing up are amusing (and at times sad) to read. This game will take you no longer than ten minutes to complete and youíll get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you do. In short, Couch of Doom is by no means a great work of IF. It is, however, a great introduction for those new to the genre.
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