healyg: (Angry Dorito)
[personal profile] healyg
Hello, all and sundry! For the next couple weeks I'm going to be reviewing a game from this year's IF Comp every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Up next, it's Norbez's The Speaker.

The Speaker is a short, subtly branching culture-clash story about a guy named Riveria who works for an alien advice columnist/blogger after the latter gets paralyzed. Over the course of the game Riveria has more and more doubts about the alien's advice. Should he just parrot the alien's advice? Should he even take the job at all?

I wasn't really feeling this one, and I think it all comes down to a crucial lack of detail. The setting isn't filled out very well, and both the problems people send to and the advice given from the alien are very sketchy, making the protagonist's outbursts over them seem a little out of place. Probably the worst example of this is the question that kicks off the main plot. Although I can see how the alien's response lacked prudence, I didn't think there were enough details given of the situation to say it was 100% the wrong thing to say, either. Sometimes an environment really is that crappy and you just gotta escape, man. (Of course, read as written, there's no way to know for sure if this was the case. I would love it if the story was about an advice columnist who sends people crappy advice because he doesn't think things through, but I don't think this was it.) And while the game seems like it's trying to push the alien's worldview as if it were unbelievably, well, alien, it's well within the range of normal human opinion (if a little fringey at times), so I'm not sure what the author's trying to say here. It's a shame, since advice columnists are a rich, juicy subject with plenty to satirize, but the game fumbles the execution, making for a weak satire and social commentary.

Conclusion: The Speaker is an interesting failure, at least, but it bungles its main points.
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