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The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons

by Marshal Tenner Winter profile

mystery, horror, humor
2013

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(3)
4 star:
(6)
3 star:
(9)
2 star:
(4)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 11
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
fun!, November 26, 2018
by IFthenXYZZY
Related reviews: awesomw!
great storry telling, great creepy crawly factor, puzzles did not interrupt flow of the story significantly and were story based and non gratuitous. real really enjoyed it.
power players that love mind melting puzzles won't find this game satisfying

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mid-length noir Lovecraftian mystery doesn't quite hit the spot, September 13, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[This game describes violence and suicide.]

[Time to completion: 30-45 minutes]

In this noir-esque parser game, you are a private eye trying to find out what happened to Brian Timmons, and it's a case that will bring you through a mental institution to a creepy cabin.

The good: the game is clearly heavily invested in building atmosphere - flavour messages abound at every turn. Story-wise, the game is based on the Call of Cthulhu RPG and has a nice bit of Lovecraftian mystery at its heart, even if it's a bit predictable.

This game also features an efficient way of transporting the PC to various locations, splitting the story into regions a la Pilgrimage.

I'm playing what I assume is the comp version, and, surprisingly enough, it seems to lack in polish. Dialogue was delivered awkwardly; the cogs and gears of the dialogue system sometimes shows. The messages that ASK [character] ABOUT [topic] produces conflicts with dialogue delivered through cutscenes. There were some typos and punctuation errors; exit listings not always listed. State (i.e. changes in variables) was not remembered elegantly. (Spoiler - click to show)I tried to get past the guard without a pass, eliciting a “Hey, sizzle-chest, no one goes up to the patients’ rooms without a doctor’s pass.”, yet could get into the wards without a problem.

Design-wise, the in-universe stakes presented never seem high enough to deliver a sense of true tension, but I realise that this is a tricky design problem, balancing players' ease of use and creating tension.

One last point: the Lovecraftian legacy and noir atmosphere do not help, but this game pretty much demonises mental illness and sketches the flattest of stereotypes. The femme fatale character feels like she was shoved in without context, making the PC's remarks about her figure and appearance all the more jarring.

The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons treads a familiar path, in both the horror and the mystery-solving aspect - sometimes too familiar - so if you like a straightforward mystery story, and you don't mind cutscenes, you might like this.

A solid but flawed mid-length Lovecraftian detective game, August 16, 2016
According to my rating system, this is a 4 star game. It is not polished, but it is descriptive, it made me feel intrigued, the often frustrating mechanics somehow had their own logic that worked, and I could see myself playing it again one day.

However, my personality enjoyment was around 3 stars. In particular, I disliked the macho attitude, especially towards women, the overblown metaphors, and the unnecessary fiddly interactions.

The basic story, which is very solid, is based on preexisting content from Lovecraft, filtered through a paper RPG along the way. You are asked to investigate a young man who has gone insane and is robbing graves. You have to travel to a variety of locations to unravel the story.

You are a stereotypical detective with fedora, trench coat and revolver. The game is lengthy, and many of the programming seems to be simple hacks. For instance, all important conversation occurs on a timer, where NPCS come in, talk, and walk away over several turns. The command 'dig' returns a command that only pertains to one area as the author assumed no one would type that command elsewhere. Rooms are occasionally left empty, many synonyms are left unimplemented, etc. I encountered a bug early on where a character told me to leave, and I didnt, and they just repeated their command over and over, but I was not allowed to leave. Commands were sometimes purposely obtuse, like telling me to push doorbell instead of ring doorbell.

But somehow all of it makes a pattern; if you know a game wants to be unfair, you keep your eyes out. The author has a good grasp of pacing, and of world building. But the sexualization of women and the crazy metaphors are a real drawback.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fun little mystery!, January 4, 2015
by Chai Hai (Kansas City KS)
I had fun with this, it was a good story. The puzzles were straightforward, no walkthrough required.

I had a nice chuckle at the ending, where he asks for his check. :P

My one complaint is the disabling of the undo feature. People like to try other actions and play around with things. Disabling that feature doesn't allow for that. I had to restart the entire game just because I wanted to see what would happen if I didn't do the obvious. Up until that point, the save feature hadn't been required. It was extremely frustrating.

Word to the wise, if you are like me and not in the habit of saving, save before you enter the sanitorium a second time.

Otherwise, great game!

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
I HATE bugs in the finale!, September 7, 2014
by Daemon Pyrate ( Optional. For example, "San Diego, California," "Barcelona, Spain")
I would have given this three stars had I not gotten a ">" when I tried to "cast spell" on Douglas. If that doesn't work then tell me what the bloody heck I have to do in order to finish the stupid game. Frustratingly bad.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
As Fun And Simple As It Can Be, September 6, 2014
This is one great game. It's fun, it's simple, it's disturbing. Honestly, this game is the one you should play if you are a beginner in IF. Never before I could complete a game without looking at a walkthrough, but somehow, I managed to finish this game with no problem at all for the first time. Storyline is pretty good and puzzles are easily done, provided you explore a little. Recommended.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Good introduction to mystery IFs, December 4, 2013
by streever (America)
This would be a good mystery IF for a new player.

It was easy to solve without hints, and I felt a sense of satisfaction at having completed the game.

The writing was at times over-done--more pastiche than parody--and the game suffers from a few pointless stereotypes. Despite those flaws, this was a fun mystery, and one that won't take you more than 20 minutes or so if you have any experience with the conventions.

The game has some truly humorous moments, and some funny writing, mixed in with the sense of dread and horror. I did feel genuinely immersed in the experience when threatening and creepy events were taking place, and cracked a wry smile when reading my horoscope later in the game.

I enjoyed this and am looking forward to more from the writer.

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Hardboiled meets Lovecraft with entertaining consequences., April 12, 2013
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: horror, Lovecraft, Inform
The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons is a Lovecraftian adventure based on a scenario for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, a scenario in turn based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'. In spite of its convoluted sounding provenance, this game is actually one of the most accessible Lovecraft IF games out there. A player doesn't need any prior knowledge of the source material or of Lovecraft's work to be able to get into it, and while it's of moderate size, it's more about linear action than the kind of painstaking puzzling folks often associate with Lovecraftian games ala Anchorhead. A word of caution; it's also a game which gets shootier and bloodier as it goes on.

While Lovecraft's protagonists usually have some kind of personal involvement in the supernatural goings-on they face, the PC in Brian Timmons doesn't. He's a detective from the hardboiled school who gets mixed up in a stranger's supernatural goings-on only because they stand between him and his next paycheck. The novelty of adopting an outsider's viewpoint is a welcome one in this busy IF subgenre, and the detective brings humour, attitude and action to the table – three things you normally don't much associate with Lovecraft. The resulting game is straightforward, episodic in a good way and becomes quite gripping as you move towards its climax, though some elements of the delivery could be improved.

Brian Timmons is divided up into scenes set in different locations. Each car trip you take from one location to the next acts like a chapter break, and you don't have to worry about deciding where to go. The hero chooses the next relevant stop as soon as he's got enough fresh leads from the current one. While the game itself suggests you should use ASK and TELL to communicate with its characters – and at times it's essential to use these methods – the majority of communication actually consists of the NPCs telling you their stories one line at a time. While a lot of games use this method and it gets the job done, the game could be richer if it would allow the player to interject with some relevant ASKing and TELLing (as is, the characters only respond on the most vital of topics), though I acknowledge this is never an easy area to program. The characters do a lot of neat fidgeting of their own accord when not speaking, and the game is also generally strong in the area of random atmospheric detail, throwing in lots of little snippets about passers-by, the weather and other environmental changes.

Where the game has some trouble is in getting all of its content to live in the same place tonally, at least at once. When the hardboiled shtick and language are in evidence, they really dominate. But they vanish too easily when the detective isn't delivering his Chandler-esque wisecracks, allowing the game to be overtaken by more utilitarian descriptive text. The sexy dame character is a bit cringy in this light – she triggers the "poured into her dress" remarks in extremis, but in isolation, and thus comes across more as a reminder of the game's tonal wobbling than an authentic seeming femme fatale character justified by the genre and context.

I have a few other nitpicks. The game suffers a bit from empty porch syndrome. It needs a little more proofreading. The inventory limit can aggravate, though this last point is mitigated by the coolness of having a trench coat with pockets of seemingly infinite depth. And it's just fun to wear a trench coat and Fedora in general. I enjoyed The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons a lot. It's also a game which comes without hints, and I was pleased to be made to solve it off my own back, pausing occasionally to scratch my head.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great game for a beginner, March 13, 2013
I'm fairly new to IF, but I definitely enjoyed this game. It has a lot of creative writing that makes the game a constant enjoyment and never feels like a chore. I look forward to more from the author.

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Really simple., February 13, 2013
Well, the game is really pretty straightforward. It struck me as more of an exercise in programming before writing a much fuller version of the same game. Each area of the game has basically one main test, and the resolution of each is pretty obvious. There is potential here for a good story, but right now, it doesn't offer a lot. Maybe 90 minutes of play?

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Bloody good fun, needs a little polish, January 22, 2013
by Mostly Useless (Leicester, UK)
Related reviews: funny, horror, short, lovecraftian
Marshal Tenner Winter's second IF outing places you firmly in the shoes of a private eye thrown into a mysterious case, and (without spoiling anything the game's tags won't tell you) successfully explores Lovecraftian horror themes from the tongue-in-cheek perspective of the lead character. It's nice to play a game where one moment you're laughing at the dialogue and the next squirming at a grisly description.

There's not much in the way of puzzles, this one's more about the story. My only real criticism would be that there isn't quite enough of it, and there's a few non-interactable items. A bit more work would add a lot of polish, so roll on version 2!


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