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Counterfeit Monkey

by Emily Short profile

Espionage
2012

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Reviews and Ratings

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Number of Ratings: 124
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- morganthegirl, December 6, 2019

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Well-executed in every way, November 29, 2019
The novelty of the word manipulation tools would have made this game worth a spin regardless, but Emily Short (with a nod to Steve Meretzky) elevates what could have been a gimmick into not only a variety of satisfying puzzles but a well-realized world in which to integrate them. The theming here is some of the strongest I've seen. The map, the culture, the events and obstacles that drive the plot--everything ties into the central conceit of linguistic manipulation. Short wisely touches on various aspects of the lore without attempting to exhaustively explain anything, providing just enough acknowledgment of the issues that would surely arise in this world without making you stop and question whether any of this really makes sense. The overall style is one of parsimony and understatement. Some of that is probably to cut down on extraneous nouns, but it keeps the game focused. No LOOK UNDER puzzles here.

There's a lot of heady game design stuff going on in general. You can tell a lot of thought was put into the thematic clues, ways to encourage experimentation, and how to remind the player of important elements. The pacing and tiered nature of the obstacles are excellent. There is one challenge I felt was too much of an outlier in terms of difficulty, but given the vocabulary-driven nature of the puzzles, maybe that just means I need to play more Scrabble. Still, the game never quite shakes the feeling of being a vocabulary test at its core, even at its best moments when requiring you to think categorically towards a particular end. Judged solely as a puzzle knot, Short's earlier work Savoir-Faire is the better game, with more clever ideas concerning the properties of objects. Which is not to say that Counterfeit Monkey does not have its share of clever ideas, but Monkey's greater strengths are in the breadth of its implementation, the novelty of the premise, and the creativity and playfulness that arise from seeing just how many things you can make. The range of possibilities means that several puzzles have multiple solutions, and you will probably learn some words you didn't know existed as you experiment with intermediate steps (I was not above using an online word generator to help with one of the harder puzzles).

A final comment about characterization: it's well-written and believable, but I wasn't invested. Especially not in the ending. Some of that is due to me approaching these games primarily as puzzlefests, but it's not like I wasn't interested in the world and the plot. I think the problem is that (Spoiler - click to show)Andra's voice is too intermittent. When a play session is mostly input/output in typical IF fashion, I'm not sure there is room for another strong voice apart from the narrator. I, the player, am ultimately neither Alex nor Andra, and although their issues tie into the plot, by the end I still felt like I was watching two people fuss at each other and occasionally tell me stories about how interesting their friends are, or about drama in their lives. Maybe that's an intentional point about how it would feel to be in their particular situation.

- Durafen, November 11, 2019

- leycec, November 5, 2019

- erzulie, September 24, 2019

- ryd5185, September 15, 2019

- Joan, September 8, 2019

- draziwfozo, September 2, 2019

- librophagus, August 27, 2019

- florzinha, July 12, 2019

- Tarienna, July 5, 2019

- l8doku, July 1, 2019

- Shchekotiki, June 2, 2019

- tzs, April 20, 2019

- IanAllenBird, April 17, 2019

- Joey Jones (UK), March 27, 2019

- e.peach, March 16, 2019

- elias67, March 11, 2019

- Steffan LW Sitka (Los Angeles), March 2, 2019

- ikdc, February 23, 2019

- Stian, January 30, 2019

- Dhary, January 17, 2019

- seltzer, January 16, 2019

- Petter Sjölund (Malmö, Sweden), December 14, 2018

- JoQsh, December 5, 2018


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