Game Chef Review 41: EXUVIAE by Sean Smith


Ingredients: 8 [Dream (3), Abandon (2), Dragonfly (2), Stillness (1)]
So many ingredients in this one, each playing a role and contributing to something special and different. The game has a distinct surreal and dreamy horror to it. The name references both the abandoned shells of insects, and manifestations of trouble within the narrative. There are complex connections in this that are quite different to what we've seen elsewhere. I even get the stillness vibe for elements of the game.

Theme: 6
There is a shortage of good noir games, maybe not a shortage of noir or horror in general, but "good" games in this niche are few and far between. I get the felling that this game could be one of those few if it were polished up a bit more.

Would I Play This?: 8
I love some of the lines used in this, and they really make me want to play... The required components including "enough cigarettes and whiskey to last you four hours", the fact that an action is something that takes you as long to do as smoking a cigarette", it all feels very noir... And that's the theme of the game, so it fits. I've been itching to play a good noir game for a while, and this feels like it would work really well for something "True Detective" style that I've been contemplating.

Completeness: 8
This game is a bit of a monster. It's one of the more comprehensive entries and it feels like it could be even bigger. I'd love to see an illustrated version of this, filled with atmospheric noir imagery, running to 32 pages and printed on crappy newsprint. But the game doesn't need this, it stands on it's own. One of the few things that I think are missing would be some play examples and maybe some sample characters. Otherwise, it's all there.

Innovation: 8
So many intricate pieces to this game, so many new ideas to me, even if some of them feel familiar. I love the wording and the way the pieces of the game are constructed to unfold a mystery. That's something else I've been looking for in a game, a good mystery simulator. I don't know if this one does the job, but I'd sure as hell like to give it a try.

Output Quality: 7 [Language (3), Layout (2), Imagery (1), +1 Bonus for professional presentation]
The language draws you in, it's gritty, full of smoky flavour. The layout is pedestrian, but very functional, I'd love to see something more in keeping with the theme of the game (perhaps looking like an old newspaper), but as it stands the layout does it's job. The bonus for imagery comes from the use of colour, a rare commodity across the entries. The bonus point is simply for how everything in the game seems to fit so well together.

Overall: 75% Distinction [24+12+7+16+8+7]
This is the kind of game I come to Game Chef for. It may not be perfect, it may need some playtesting to ensure everything runs smoothly, but I'd be willing to do some of that playtesting (or provide some illustrations) to get it to the next level.


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