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About the StoryThe neighborhood Thanksgiving party was going pretty well until you keeled over and died.
Now you're a ghost, and you're going to figure out who killed you. But you can't exactly interview people or search for clues when you're dead, can you? All you can do is piece together memories about what happened.
No one said the memories had to be yours.
Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner - solving your murder, Best Individual Puzzle - 2018 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 2
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As this ghost, you quickly discover that you have the ability to read people's minds. This is how gameplay works: After watching the detective interview the suspects, you can enter the suspects' minds. You don't have access to all of their thoughts, though - just some of them. In particular, you can access certain relevant topics that become clues. As you uncover more clues you can begin linking them together to generate new memories in the minds of the suspects and thus more clues. The game keeps track of what clues you've used and what you've been able to deduce from each successful pair of linkages, which was quite helpful for me in mentally organizing what had happened. (It's basically the same mechanic as in Color the Truth, the second-place IFComp game from 2016. Erstwhile is choice-based, though, while Color the Truth is parser.) Eventually, you can possess one of the suspects for a brief period of time and force them to confess. Unless there's enough evidence, though, the confession may not stick.
As you slowly uncover more and more of the backstory, you realize that there's more to the relationships between all these characters than appears at first - which is usually the case in murder mysteries. But I thought it was well-done how these relationships were slowly revealed as you uncovered more clues. Also, the most interesting backstories hint at part of the PC's life that he mostly refuses to admit to himself - even now that he's dead.
Gameplay went fairly well for me. I did get stuck for a while somewhere in mid-game, when I wasn't sure what other topics could be linked. I eventually started lawnmowering through the options, and that got me unstuck. However, that was the only place where I had any serious troubles.
Overall, Erstwhile is a solid murder mystery that I enjoyed playing.
You play as a ghost who died, or was murdered, during Thanksgiving. You have to simultaneously learn (as a player) about the neighborhood while gathering (as a ghost) mental clues to find out what happened.
The game is divided into two chunks: exploration and linking. Exploration has you looking through the thoughts of others to gain clues, and linking has you pick two related clues to produce a new one in a complex multi-layered system. I’ve seen mysteries use this technique (and written one), but this is the best implementation of the idea I’ve seen so far, and very satisfying. I got stuck near the end, but I feel like a puzzle game is perfect difficulty if I do well until the end and need a hint then.
Great for mystery fans, and fun for everyone.
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Recommended ListsErstwhile appears in the following Recommended Lists:
Detective and mystery games by MathBrush
These are games where you play a detective or someone else investigating a mystery. Most of them are realistic games which I am splitting off of my realistic list. Some are more magical or science fi-ish.
PollsThe following polls include votes for Erstwhile:
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Overall NPCs of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best NPCs in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest games...
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Writing of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Writing in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest...
I Am You: Games involving possession of another character by Spike
Three games I've played in the past couple of months have featured the PC's ability to possess other characters as a primary or secondary game mechanic. What other IF works feature this possession mechanic?
This is version 4 of this page, edited by pieartsy on 29 April 2020 at 7:00pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item