Review: The Fifth Sunday

In my post about first impressions of games based on the IF listing and their cover art and blurbs, I criticized a few of the entries for lack of detail, but have since become aware that some of these entries are ports of games developed by Chinese authors. As far as I know, this is the first time these games have made their appearance in IFcomp, and I want to welcome them and thank them for making the effort. Still, I hope that in future IFcomps they submit some sort of blurb for the listing page, because that would improve their chances in the competition and also increase the chances that their games will get played and judged.

The first of these games that I played was “The Fifth Sunday”, which does not have religious significance as I had speculated, but relates to a month with five weeks. On that last week in this particular April, the main character is invited to a week-long party, which turns into a setting for serial murders. Finding the murderer is the goal of the game, but I won’t say in this review who the murderer is, so it’s safe to keep reading.

The game is implemented in javascript and played in a browser. Structurally, each page consists of multiple paragraphs revealed one at a time by key presses, and each page of text ends in a binary choice. Selecting one of the options by clicking branches the story and loads the next scene. This is a little more linear than most games I have played, but is similar to Choice Script in effect. The gradual reveal of paragraphs gives some sense of timing, but is a hindrance to rapid replay.

This piece is largely about mood, both in the visual style of the writing and in the browser environment, which includes background wallpaper, incidental music, and sound effects.

For the most part, the translation works. I never was at a loss about what was going on or how I thought the author wanted me to perceive a scene, but some of the word choice was off here and there. In particular, the words “subconsciously” and “unconsciously” are used strangely, and I have to put that down to a bad translation program or dictionary.

As the story evolves, more and more clues are revealed, helping the player winnow down the list of suspects. As early as the first choice, you have a chance to make an accusation and see if you are correct. This seems to short-circuit the story, since there is not enough information at that point, and in indicating why you are wrong, the explanation references events that the player will not have seen yet. The player is then directed to carefully re-explore the story.

Implicit in this is that the story has a fixed structure. The killer does not change each time the game is run, which on one hand limits replay, but on the other allows the player to learn from past iterations of the game. I think most people will need to play a few times to see the game and its characters from all possible angles.

Evaluation:

Story: 6. A murder mystery starts somewhat in media res, but taking all my playthroughs into account, there is an adequate body of evidence to come to a conclusion. A good deal of thought has gone into the exposition of evidence at each stage of the game. As a bonus, there is some explanation at the end of the killer’s mindset and motivation.

Voice: 6. I appreciated the main character’s sense of horror about what he had witnessed and anxiety both in terms of what he should do and about the possibility that he himself would be fingered as the murderer.

Play: 5. There isn’t much for the player to do but to click repeatedly and make infrequent choices. However, all of the choices do have consequences.

Polish: 8. The story has been thoroughly spell-checked. There are some errors with regard to spacing after punctuation. The music and sound effects have been smoothly edited together.

Technical: 7. I am not familiar with the system, but this seemed competently implemented.

JNSQ: 0.

Preliminary Score: 6.4

 

 

 

 

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