02 July, 2015

Game Chef Review 25: All Hail Bugtopia! by Hannah Shaffer

All Hail Bugtopia!

Ingredients: 5 [Dragonfly (3), Stillness (2)]
I like this game, but the ingredient usage lets it down. The Dragonflies are fairly well integrated into the game as the accusers and effective "police force" of the situation, but they could have been substituted for any other type of bug. I've given a better score here because the dragonflies are differentiated from other bugs, whereas other game designed might have simply substituted dragonflies as one of the many bug types available in the setting. Stillness is generally referred to in the context of taking a moment of quiet while the accused fill out their answer sheets. It's a definite part of the game, but only a small part.

Theme: 7 [6 +1 bonus for the author remarking on how the different audience has been addressed]
The audience in this game is the accusers. The whole game is set up in the form of an interview of two suspects in a insectile crime. It's a clever premise, and I haven't seen many games that handle crime drama or interrogation that well (or if I'm being honest, I haven't seen many games that even handle the wider realm of social conflict particularly well with a set of procedural mechanisms). So in my mind, this game pushes the boundaries in an interesting way, and really addresses the shortage of games in that genre.

Would I play this?: 7
I could easily run this at a convention. And it feels quick enough and polished enough that I'd consider running it at a convention that I have coming up in just under a fortnight. I'd even consider running this as a "judge" with the interrogators and accused in front of a wider audience.

Completeness: 8
Everything is definitely present to run a game, the procedures are all in place, the questions are there, the structure of the interview, there are even hints on how to expand the game to customise it for your own group of players. There are a few bits missing here and there, but I could generally intuit what's going on without need for further explanation. (I'm guessing that the bits in italics are read aloud to the group, even though the first bit that specifically says that it is read aloud isn't in italics.)

Innovation: 7 [6 +1 Bonus for presentation in an innovative way] 

Output Quality: 7 [Language 3 Layout 2 Imagery 2] 
The writing in this game is clear and informative, so full marks are awarded there. The layout is good, but like many designers there seems to be a bit of a fear of white space present. New sections start ear the bottom of a page, when a simple page break would have started a new section on a new page and made things cleaner. If I were to polish this game to a standard I'd be happy publishing, I'd format pages to look like a police file (maybe even produce a hard copy as loose sheets in a string-tied brown cardboard folder, such as the case files you often see in cop dramas). The cover image is a bit busy, but I can see what was aimed for, and the other images in the text are pretty sparse, but when combined with the overall visual of the interview this does a better job of portraying the world than a lot of the games I've read so far. It doesn't get the bonus point, because the game just feels like it's missing a bit of polish throughout.

Overall: 67% Credit [15+14+7+16+7+8]
There is another game called Law & Order & The Otherworld, after reading through both games, I'd be more inclined to call this one "Law & Order: SBU (Special Bugs Unit). All in all it's a fun little game, and I can really see it playing out like many of the police procedurals where interrogations/interviews take place as a major element of driving the plot and solving the crime. To bulk it out a bit, you might add in cut scenes between the interview rounds. Those cut scenes might involve dragonfly detectives heading out to gain new evidence and clues in the case which the bugs are writing out their cards for the next round...but the game as it stands is clever and to the point. It's at a level I'd expect to see from a typical one-shot run at a convention. If this game had found a way to incorporate the ingredients more holistically, and seen a bit more polish in layout, I really think it would have reached the distinction level.
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