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I was so ready to go with this., May 2, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)I first read a PaperBlurt Twine story during the 2013 IFComp - his "Dad vs Unicorn" was a surprisingly slippery read. I was held on the wavering line of "This has some serious feeling in it, is this serious? He can't be serious. Oh my gosh this is serious. No it's not!"
I have several of my own stories that deal with the porn industry, so reading the blurb for this one I was totally invested. I was ready to see what the imagined golden years must be like for Ron Jeremy.
The text is immaculately styled, colorful, and the illustrations and typography make this a high class presentation.
Then I had the same experience as I did with Dad v. Unicorn, but this time I'm not sure it was so successful. I was expecting a slightly naughty tale with either feelgood or melancholy elements. I liked that(Spoiler - click to show) Rocky B. has had the life that every guy dreams of, but he feels like he's missing something. I was expecting a strange romance or a pornography comeback with all the humiliating and potential comedy that could entail. PaperBlurt has a great sense of humor, and I love the cell phone conversations with god and satan. Especially when Satan's response to "I want a kid" is an immediate hang up. I thought it would be a one-off joke, resulting in farcical embarrassment as Rocky came to his senses, or a comedic payoff that would be a pileup series of misguided failures which is what the game would be about. But that's the rest of the plot. You kidnapping a kid.
The game forces you to do it. You go to a store and have several chances to steal several different children. (Neither this nor DvU afford agency other than you can click on things in different order). I was still laughing along thinking this was one of those whacky episodes that would pay off. I skipped every kid and was rewarded with a whole entire sequence you will miss, which maybe has the one slight "puzzle" in the game. Escaping this forces you to take the next kid you see. And you drive to Tiujana with your charge sobbing in the trunk through a long and unskippable sequence.
All right, this is going to be some type of serious adventure. At the border you can choose to take the kid with you or drop him off with the border patrol. I'm thinking "of course I'm not going to abandon this kid in Mexico..." but if you choose to keep the kid, the story *makes* you do the "right" thing and leave them. The end. ? Abruptly. No resolution. So Rocky needed to...emigrate to find happiness?
So I know this game was written for competition. and I like the author's subversive sense of humor (The unicorn in DvU was reminiscent of and shocking as the Spanish Inquisition) but this felt sort of like a treatment for a longer independent film that just hit high points with none of the actual meat of the story. (Spoiler - click to show)Sure, justify the trip to Mexico because getting to the border with a kidnapped kid in your trunk is an amazing impossible puzzle setup that gets thrown away.
Something is missing. I think the game needs a conversation with the kid. The kid needs to teach Rocky something profound without realizing it. (Spoiler - click to show)Then he appreciates it so much, he takes the kid back. All said, I felt like I got an outline of a story with promise of substance that was left out.
I don't mean to be completely negative. PaperBlurt is writing surprising and very well executed scenarios that almost all feel worthy of an independent film plot. I hope to see his talent grow and develop!
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Christina Nordlander, May 3, 2014 - Reply
I largely agree with your review. One nitpick under the spoiler tag:
(Spoiler - click to show)It is in fact possible to keep the kid. After choosing the "keep the kid" option, wait a few seconds and a second link will show up. This leads to a different ending, presumably, from the one you got.
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Hanon Ondricek, May 5, 2014 - Reply
OH! Didn't see that. Well, that is kind of a danger of using delayed links. Interesting idea though, to possibly give the player a bunch of untenable choices and then slowly fade one up "You don't like any of these, do you?"