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Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!

by Steph Cherrywell


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Number of Reviews: 7
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1-7 of 7

An amusing diversion, October 31, 2018
The style of Brain Guzzlers is reminiscent of old LucasArts graphical adventure games like Zak McKracken and Monkey Island. It's a lighthearted game that uses the 50s sci-fi premise
as an excuse to be creative and silly rather than to mock the era. Maybe there's a little bit of satire with the questions in the beginning, but it's hardly what you would call heavy-handed criticism. It would have been very easy to fall back on the same lazy jabs at oh-so-backward 50s norms that we've all heard a million times, but instead Brain Guzzlers takes the premise and plays it fairly straight, albeit goofily. In fact, if I had to describe the overall tone in a word, it would be "earnest." The narration is relentlessly upbeat. There are lots of exclamation marks. The text is sprinkled with references. But, it never gets annoying, because the writing is really quite good, and the game moves along quickly so new bits of humor keep coming.

Structurally, the game is similar to classic graphical adventures as well. Dialogue options are menu-based, with comic-style character portraits. There's a lot of hinting in the conversations, a couple "collect X, Y, and Z, then come back and talk to me" moments, and even a genuine dialogue puzzle at one point. Implementation-wise, it's alright. There's quite a bit of the environment that isn't handled, but the game is straightforward enough that it doesn't really matter. You rarely need to pay attention to anything that doesn't stand out in the room descriptions, so there's not much reason to push the boundaries of the world. A few of the inventory puzzles are pretty clever, though the items you haven't used yet tend to stick out, because it's a small-ish and easy game.

And that's the thing: it's all too simple and guided for my tastes. I simply can't feel too strongly about something I mostly breezed through like it wasn't even there. It was worth a chuckle, yeah, but I'd probably give this two stars. Maybe a +1 bonus for the strength of the writing and presentation. I suppose I'll just leave the score off entirely since I don't think the game does anything particularly poorly. It's an amusing diversion, but I can't see myself putting it on a must-play list.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, lighthearted (and subversive!) sci-fi piece, June 13, 2016
by streever (America)
This story is a puzzle-light spoof of 1950's (and modern!) stereotypes and tropes.

None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, and primarily consist of 'find the right object' type quests, with simple but fun secondary mechanics. There are any number of red herring objects (based on one play: it's possible they have more utility or alternate puzzle solutions) that add a sense of depth and contribute to the comedic themes.

The dialogue is fun and peppered with classic 'old-timey' declarations--when you are offered the chance, try saying the 'worst' swear your character can imagine.

The writing is concise, terse, and flows nicely: this is a piece that has clearly been edited & written for readability, and the effort is greatly appreciated.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A tight, well-written spoof of 50's sci-fi with comic-style graphics, February 3, 2016
This game was my predicted winner of IFComp 2015. This game is well-written, has great pacing (especially in the first half), a strong narrative voice, and excellent graphics. It is easy enough for people to get into with little IF experience, but provides enough of a challenge later on to be interesting.

You play a teenage girl whose town is overrun by the eponymous Brain Guzzlers. You have a cast of creatively-described friends and acquaintances who help you out. Conversation is menu-based, which allows Cherrywell to express the real flavor of the PC's world (with a lot of 'Jeepers!').

The game has some very creative puzzles, and some more straightforward. Each character of the game (besides yourself) comes with one or more high-quality graphics that show up when talking to them.

Game play is 2-3 hours long, I estimate. I recommend this to everyone; I feel like it will be played for years to come.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Brain-Guzzlin' Fun!, January 20, 2016
I've kept up with Cherrywell's comics since Muertitos, and as a longtime IF fan, was very thrilled to see them branch into the medium. Works very well for their signature quirky humor! Lots of cute jokes, but the fruit puzzle had me banging my head. Also, never knew (Spoiler - click to show)drive-in screens were made of silver...

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Consistent fun, beginner friendly, December 5, 2015
I'm new to IF, but I still had a good time with this game.

In terms of the gameplay, I was never frustrated, but I still found the puzzles to be enjoyable.

I wasn't a big fan of the old (50s? 60s?) setting, but I appreciated the opportunities for humor that it afforded. It made me chuckle quite a few times.

I particularly liked the conversation system. I've been constantly frustrated by conversations in other IF, and having a multiple choice system like this works well, IMO. I've heard a common criticism of this type of interaction is that it feels too much "on rails" and doesn't feel immersive because you're not able to do whatever you want with regards to interacting with a character. I don't really agree with that criticism - in practice, you ARE limited to what you can do with a character even when it's not a multiple choice dialog system. Sure, you can type whatever you want, but a large class of actions are going to receive an identical or very similar non-response, so, effectively, you get the same experience. Even for choices that may seem like valid things to say to a character, the author might simply not have had time to implement responses or the parser might not be good enough to anticipate them. I like the compromise the multiple choice system achieves. Instead of spending time figuring out how I'm supposed to say what I want to say, I can just see my options right away.

The choice-based dialogue may not work so well, though, for a more first-person type of game where you're supposed to get more of a sense of "being your character", and it also has issues with regards to hiding information from players and having the dialog choices change when certain events occur, since, as the player, you don't always know when an event is going to let you say new things to a character. But I still liked it for this game.

I also really liked the inclusion of character portraits when you start a conversation. Just a few images to characterize the characters and give you a bit of an easier time imagining what the author intended adds a lot to the game, in my opinion. I thought the style of these portraits really went well with the style of the game, too.

So, overall, I definitely recommend it if you're new to IF. It's quite short, but it's solid and lacks some stuff that can make other IF frustrating to new players.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Spine-Tingling Text-O-Rama, November 24, 2015
by CMG (NYC)
Brain-guzzling aliens have arrived from outer space to torment a New Mexican town. The citizens are oblivious, and it's up to you to convince them they're in danger before they've all been brain-guzzled. You play as Bonnie Noodleman, a Well-Adjusted Teen-Ager, and your yearbook profile lists your accomplishments as:

Winner, Miss Human Compass Junior Orienteer, 1956
Winner, Pine Nut Days Girls’ Grocery-Balancing Competition, 1958

I think this succinctly encapsulates the game's intent. It's a traditional text adventure that is self-aware about its tropes, and it's going to exploit them to have fun. And that's exactly what it does.

Structurally, the game is divided into a prologue followed by two main parts. The prologue is pretty much perfect. A character customization system built into an in-game magazine questionnaire, which then segues seamlessly into the action and establishes the setting, tone, and Bonnie's motivation all at once. It's great.

After the prologue, both of the game's two main halves are centered around object fetch-quests. You solve puzzles to collect items to deliver to an NPC in order to progress the story. When the first half concludes, you're treated to a satisfying action set-piece that feels like it will fundamentally alter the game. But then the dust settles, and not too much has changed, and you have to solve another puzzle sequence very similar to the one you just finished.

The second set of puzzles is actually better than the first, and the first set was already good. But the structure saps tension from the story right when things are starting to get dicey. I wanted the stakes to keep rising.

Of course the stakes were never going to be really high, because the game is a parody of B-movie horror. But parodies can have their own high stakes. And actually, the game is more a satire of American society "back in the day" than it is of horror films. It takes place on the cusp between the 50s and 60s. You've got Scooby-Doo hijinks, "ultramodern furniture" in "avocado, orange, and mustard-yellow," and the town fair has a Tomorrow Pavilion whose displays (including a robotic wife) are "glittering with the promise of tomorrow."

This reminded me a lot of The Venture Bros., which has a similar nostalgia for the era, even though it recognizes and criticizes the era's bigotry, repression, and naiveté. Brain Guzzlers is also critical, but it's never as scathing as Venture Bros. It's more interested in using the time period as a playful backdrop.

In the end, this is a very solid text adventure that will appeal to both sci-fi and horror fans, and it's got nice character illustrations too!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well written, funny, parser-based interactive fiction., October 4, 2015
by besmaller (Portland, OR)
If you enjoyed Hunger Daemon or Chlorophyll, waste no time -you need to play this one.

Funny, great setting and characters, but most importantly a fully formed game, reacting well to player interaction with the environment. Fun, challenging, and sensible puzzles.

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