Sunday Afternoon
for Interpreter (Z-Code)

Mr Creosote:proc:Overall:
Company: Christopher Huang
Year: 2012
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 27328
Review by Mr Creosote (2012-10-03)

Many things are considered clichés in the text adventure genre. Every once in a while, a game comes along which embodies so many of these clichés that it is almost not imaginable that it is not supposed to be a meta satire. Sunday Afternoon is such a game. It stumbles from one cliché into the next one with an earnestness that is hard to interpret. Until, at least in one small occasion, it gives things a small ironic spin.

Though what are those clichés which Sunday Afternoon falls into? First and foremost, it is a so-called 'escape' game. The protagonist is trapped in a location and it is the ultimate goal to get away from there. In this particular case, the young protagonist Hector is 'trapped' in the care of his aunt and uncle who force him to read his uncle's latest sermon when Hector would much rather go outside into the sun and play. Oh well. What these games usually consist of is the more or less clever physical manipulation of the small game world resulting in the final door to open… and that's it. Which is pretty much exactly what you will find here.

Just that the game, at least at first, attempts to replace some of the physical manipulation with human interaction. On the first glance at least. Only the human characters are, and that is the next cliché, handled exactly like non-autonomous mechanical objects. They react to certain triggers, even in a repeatable way. This is where Sunday Afternoon attempts to break the fourth wall and explain this in a meta sort of way by declaring all that is happening in the game as a tale told decades later. Not quite successful, but at least a nice attempt.

Gameplay-wise, the construction does not quite work, because the steps necessary for escape have simply been put into the wrong order. The very first one involves simply exhausting all possible conversation options (after, another horrible cliché, noticing 'a glint' on a mantelpiece) which is just extremely tiring and therefore discouraging. The following two puzzles make more sense, even if they, too, are not overly imaginative.

On another level, the game attempts to tell another story aside from the trivial 'escape' theme on an implicit level. It seems to try to make some sort of statement about the innocence and naivety of youth and the older generation reminiscing about past deeds and now being similarly trapped due to the consequences of past actions. There is even a heavy-handed parallel drawn to the protagonist's later life which takes him to the trenches of the first world war. Putting these pieces together as the player by interpreting the fragments of information which the protagonist picks up is probably what the author wanted this game to be about primarily. Though the pieces never really come together in the way of an interesting insight or statement.

So that's that. An enumeration of pieces, both in plot and gameplay, which never comes together as a really coherent whole. The initial scene is plainly discouraging and although it does get better after that, it is also over very quickly. Simple and short in this respect at least means that the game overestimates itself and becomes seriously boring.

Review by proc (2012-10-14)

In this escape game set in the Victorian times of the year 1892, the player, as a young child and only equipped with a sermon script, is trapped in an easy chair. His parents are in Oxford and Aunt Emma will mind that he will not run away (while also studying the bible) in the first part of the game. The only incentive to escape the easy chair is the player himself: Natural curiosity simply wants to know what's going on in the rest of the house and also outside. I did not feel any stimulus within the story, apart from Uncle Stephen in the next room being described as boring and the fact that Aunt Emma “won't let you do anything fun”. Chances are I simply want to go outside to play.

After some tinkering which is conducted on conversation level for the lack of alternatives, escape succeeds at last, but only to end up in the armchair again after a short outing into the house or a fast-forward flash into the trenches of the First World War. There is a lot to talk about, because the living room is crammed full of objects. Emma is open to being poked about the fancywork on the fireplace, the picture hanging on the wall, dad and the numberous items standing on the mantlepiece. Little by little, she reveals more or less interesting pieces of information about the family which then can be used again to ask further questions. Going through all of this three times is admittedly exhausting and afterwards, there are more puzzles waiting in the house in order to finally get outside.

The game is supposed to be an escape game which is not set in a physical prison, but in a labyrinth of conversation. I have to ask many things, interpret the responses and only after asking the right questions in the right order, I can proceed. This is an interesting way to structure a game, although it does not work in this case for two reasons: The branching text labyrinth is much too large and it is lacking a certain drama which would motivate playing on after solving the first puzzle. Even the developing silhouette of family history does not seem overly thrilling. After finally escaping, I'm caught and placed into my chair again only two turns later. That is demotivating. Also, all too regularly, the text will mislead the player. For example, the mysterious bible quote from the first chronicle, chapter 6, verses 1-15 only lists the descendants of Levi; there is no usable contents.

The game is excellently implemented and it does manage to produce the important initial spark, but it is lost all too quickly in the conversation heavy course of the game.

Translated by Mr Creosote

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