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Death off the Cuff

by Simon Christiansen profile

Mystery
2010

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5 star:
(8)
4 star:
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3 star:
(14)
2 star:
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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-8 of 8


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Charming, campy fun, October 9, 2016
by TLeather (London, UK)
This is a campy Poirot spoof with a delightful premise: the player takes on the role of the detective who has gathered his suspects together for the final reveal. Unfortunately, he has no idea who the killer is, and must ad lib his way through his speech instead, gathering clues as he goes. Once the player thinks they know who the killer is, they can ACCUSE their suspect to end the game. This conceit works perfectly to turn the Poirot-style reveal into a piece of IF, neatly sidestepping the player/character dissonance that would be created if the detective already knew the killer’s identity while the player did not.

The game is well paced: everything takes place in a single room, the small number of objects and characters keeps the player on track, and the plot develops quickly as new clues are uncovered. That said, it was occasionally frustrating to comb through each suspect in turn to find one small detail I had missed, and I spent a lot of time examining characters I’d already exhausted.

The spoof is down to a tee, and this is where the real fun lies. The Poirot parody plays on all the right tropes, featuring a cast of ludicrously suspect characters whose dramatic revelations kept me thoroughly entertained (Spoiler - click to show)(at one point, the detective yanks a fake beard off one of the suspects). If you’re looking for a sophisticated murder mystery requiring Sherlock levels of deduction, look elsewhere: this game is a puzzle-light whodunit full of charmingly hokey reveals.

Unfortunately, the ending leaves a little to be desired, and feels at odds with the rest of the game. (Spoiler - click to show)The murderer reveals himself towards the end, and it’s impossible to accuse him beforehand. This throws the whole mechanic of making accusations out of the window, and I felt cheated of the opportunity to point the finger at the murderer myself. At the same time as the ending feels true to the game’s tone, it also feels a little anticlimactic: all of my sleuthing and clue-gathering eventually came to nothing.

In spite of its flaws, I had a lot of fun playing Death off the Cuff: its clever premise and charming style see it through.

A mid-length conversation parser game that Agatha Christie fans can love, February 3, 2016
I played the Android app of this game, which is the first parser app I've tried on a smartphone. I had some trouble at first getting used to the interface, but I worked it out eventually. It was nice that the author made the necessary commands quite short.

This game is perfect for Agatha Christie fans. You are a famous French detective, wrapping up your concluding speech after figuring out who the murderer is. Except you have no clue!

This is a conversation game with emphasis on details, much like Toby's Nose, Lime Ergot, or Out of the Study. You look at people, pick out details, and talk about it. This prompts people to spontaneously confess. The details that come out are classic Christie, slightly exaggerated.

The version I played had cartoon illustrations. There are about 6 or 7 NPCs, each with a unique personality.

I enjoyed this game as a Christie fan, right up until the end, when the real murderer confessed out of nowhere. I think it's because I had pressed them before, and forgotten about it, later completing the rest of the tasks. Even though I felt the last challenge was too easy, the steps leading up to it were marvellous.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting, but ultimately frustrating, September 30, 2013
Death off the Cuff has a very original and interesting concept: you are a Poirot-style detective, and all the suspects are in the room, waiting for the final reveal; you must observe and evoke relevants topics to move the case forward and ultimately discover who did it.

The mechanics of the game are quite simple, since it's about focusing on the case and the suspects and find out what is not quite right with the facts. However I found several problems with this in the game. First of all, there are a few topics that weren't implemented, and others that quickly run dry, so when you're stuck you end up trying a lot of different things that get rejected by the parser. Second of all there were a lot of reveals, and maybe a bit too many: every character has several things to hide, but they may not all be relevant to the case, in which case they feel a bit futile. Lastly, some clues were very subtle and involved looking around to detect a very small change in the situation, which was a bit frustrating for me because I didn't always think of it and instead tried to talk about different topics that seemed logical but didn't work. (But I guess you can't expect the case to solve itself either, eh?)

On the other hand, the game's writing is very good, since I found it managed to stay in the style of Agatha Christie but with a touch more humor, which made it a refreshing and genuinely funny exercice in style. All the responses to action furthermore fit very well the setting, in that they all seem like parts of the exposition that the detective is attempting to create, and seam together very well. The responses to the observations you make to stall are almost guaranteed to make you chuckle.

On the implementation side, there was a few typos (missing " for instance), the hints were linear (when you can find the reveals in any order, meaning you can find a few of them and get stuck and the hints will hint at the things you've already discovered, which isn't very good), and, unfortunately, a pretty big bug that meant I had to restart and follow the walkthrough to see the end of the game (Spoiler - click to show)(I think I had looked at the constable a bit too much before getting all the other reveals done, and right after I focused on Jonathan's wounds, there was a picture of someone with a gun, and I barely had time to see that the constable had turned into a German murderer without explanation without dying. I imagine that's the trouble with having several reveals you can find in any order, is that if you didn't think of a particular order it produces a bug.) However, the rest of it was well implemented and well made.

To sum up, I wish I could have liked the game more, for its very nice writing and concept, but there was a few issues that made playing it frustrating.
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

More than meets the eye, April 14, 2013
(This review is based on the original IF Comp release.)

We begin the game with a exceedingly clever and original premise (at least, not a premise that I've ever seen before). The writing is witty and fun... a few typographical errors here and there to distract, but the prose manages to do what it needs to do without being repetitive, which is a trap it could easily have fallen into given the premise.

This game is interesting in that it's almost entirely conversation driven, but you can only talk about objects in plain sight. This at first makes it seem as if the game will be pretty short, as you're in a room with six people and limited objects, but there is a lovely layering of detail that is not at first apparent, and it turns out there's more to the conversation than it would at first appear. The game looks as though it'll be a banana, but turns out to be a bit more of an onion, and this is a dreaful metaphor, so I'm going to move on and give this game a score.

It wasn't perfect, there were a variety of ways it could have been better. It probably deserves four stars, but I had a lot of fun, so I gave it five.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Floundering was never this fun, November 28, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)
Death Off The Cuff offers an intriguing premise: a famous detective, you've gathered all the suspects for that all-important scene in which you will reveal the true identity of the murderer. The only problem is that you haven't the first clue who that might be. In order to attempt to trick the culprit into a confession, you begin to spout off about whatever's at hand, using the command "talk about" for the majority of interactions, although examine and a few other verbs play a role. You can only talk about things that are visible in the room around you, a clever method of conflating the player with the PC, who is of course casting around desperately for any topic that might yield a confession. Nor is that the only way in which the player and the PC think alike: since neither of you know what you're doing, you'll spend most of the game suggesting random or arbitrary topics of conversation in the hopes that something sticks. The result is impressive in terms of putting you in the shoes of the detective; however, it's too arbitrary to be consistently enjoyable. The limitations on action, and the one-room nature of the game, keep things simple enough for the story to unfold tightly, and there are more than a few twists and turns. Typing "help" at any point will provide a hint on what to do next, and if you get fed up you can always accuse the wrong person. In all, a brief, linear diversion that's slightly more clever than it is fun.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A bit of light fun, November 27, 2010
by Kevin Jackson-Mead (Boston)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2010
I know that there are other murder-mystery IF games out there, but this is the first one I’ve played, and I have to say I really enjoyed myself. I really liked how it excused the fact that you the player don’t know what’s gone on. You are a detective with everyone gathered in the room to make the big-finish accusation, but the detective doesn’t have a clue who the murderer is. So you’re just making random observations about people, hoping that they will confess or in some way slip up.

The first time I was able to accuse someone, I didn’t because I didn’t think he did it. After playing some more and getting somewhere but still not able to accuse someone else (even though I’d started to figure out something of what was going on), I decided to save the game and see what happened if I accused the guy I thought was innocent. And it was a very nice ending. (Spoiler - click to show)The guy is obviously not guilty, but you ruin his life with the accusation, which eventually causes him to commit suicide. The ending part that usually says “You have won” or “You have died” instead says “You have saved your reputation.” Awesome.

One thing I’ve learned is to definitely type “about” or whatever if the author tells you to in the beginning. Some of these games would have been a lot more frustrating without a bit of guidance. In particular, the about text for this game outlines what the interaction is going to be like (mostly just talking about people or objects, with just a little manipulating the environment), which helped me enjoy it more. I certainly would have gotten more frustrated if I went into it expecting to be able to search for clues around the room, move objects, etc. and then finding I wasn’t able to.

The other kind of losing ending I found (Spoiler - click to show)(there are several versions of the “You have saved your reputation” ending, depending on whom you falsely accuse) was particularly great, too. (Spoiler - click to show)I had run out of stuff to do, so I started talking about my own moustache. It lets me keep talking about it, which is usually a sign from the game that there’s something interesting there. But I was saying stupid stuff, and then I was shot from behind while pacing around the room pontificating about facial hair.</spolier>

I highly recommend this game, and it makes me want to go look at some other murder-mystery IF games.


1 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Just Like Sherlock Holmes, October 25, 2010
I must say, this one was difficult to get through. It is a murder mystery told from the point of view of a famous investigator. The story basically involves him (you) asking around a hotel about the death of a colonel. The main character is a Sherlock Holmes-type person, self-assured and witty. I finally had to use the walkthrough to try to get through it, and even then I eventually found myself blocked. It was interesting, both in concept and execution, but it quickly became tedious when I could no longer progress.

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful writing; unusual method., October 20, 2010
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Related reviews: ifcomp 2010
I'm not one who tries to "outguess the author" when I read mystery novels or watch movies. I enjoy the ride. So maybe I'm not the target audience for this piece.

CUFF contains a really fun play idea--I just had a hard time getting it going. The first playthrough, I threw the wrong guy in jail (sorry!). The second time, after I thought I'd exhausted the number of items I could examine, I hit a wall. Almost none of the descriptions repeat themselves more than once, so I reached for the walkthrough.

I don't think I would have solved the crime without it. Even after the walkthrough, I didn't quite catch the thread of logic. But I also feel this way after reading some mystery novels, so it could just be the way my head works.

Definitely play this one--the writing is a plum, perfectly in-genre--just know it takes a very careful eye to untangle the real mystery.


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