When you love writing, ideas and inspiration can strike at any time some good some bad, but at the moment these ideas strike they usually sound good to oneself. I’ve certainly had a few ideas for short stories or articles that I felt would be the next over of Time magazine- in my head that is. I have the tendency to type out massive amounts of mental diarrhea in order to get my story on paper. As with nearly everything I’ve ever written, if just hand that piece of work out on the first draft not wonly will I give myself a “what was I thinking here?” but other people usually come back with “I’m a little confused with this“. Else Heart.Break() feels like that kind of game, it sounded good in someone’s head, and it’s wide open no-hand-holding design aspires to give players a lot of freedom and exploration, but such freedom comes at a cost. The strange thing is else Heart.Break() from a development standpoint is well made, there are plenty of interesting ideas coming into play in this game. It’s the game’s pacing and the placement of these ideas that will ultimately put off your average core gamer.
From the start you meet Sebastian, who is celebrating his birthday with his folks at home. Soon he receives a call from an unknown person letting Sebastian know he has a job offer for him selling sodas. You are able to explore the home, turn the TV on or off (which can upset Seb’s Papa). The conversations you have as Sebastian require interaction in the form of selecting an answer from the various thought bubbles that pop up across the bottom of the screen. Not all of the thought bubbles seem to drastically affect what the outcome of the conversations however, but some lead to a “right answer” from characters who have something to offer. Some of the conversation designs in this game are confusing. I walked up to people and literally had the option of “Hi” or “Hello” and “My name is Seb.” and finally “Hello my name is Sebastian” do these four choices mean anything? Nearly everyone you meet in this game starts off with a lot of extremely polite introductions and greeting. This apparently is an important thing in Dorisburg the town Sebastian finds himself on after he accepts the “mysterious” soda selling job.
From the conversation with your employer, you are told to go to the Hotel Devotchka and meet another salesman who will show you the ropes. After the nice opening sequence, you disembark to the actual town. There are no directions. Minimaps and other locational HUD options found on a lot of games these days are blatantly missing. I talked to a few of the residents on the pier, they are unusually friendly with their “HI!” and “Hello my name is …” and “Are you new here?” these opening dialogs are a bit tedious and dull. The fact Sebastian has actual Technicolor eyes, and the constant swarm of black dots flying around him, should clue you in that’s something wierd is going on. He’s either really high and hasn’t showered in years OR everything is not what it seems.
I really wanted to get to that “everything is not what it seems” part. So I hurried over to the information/tourist kind of place across from the boat and five-finger discounted a map. The map offers a crude, hard to understand view of Dorisburg, still I was able to make out how to get to the hotel and sure enough it was just a few areas away. Before I actually made it to the hotel, I decided to just stroll around the town, it’s not a very large place, but there are many rooms and places to explore, but before I got to ahead of myself. I adjusted my orange snow beanie to the left, and pimp limped to Devotchka.
Once there I briefly spoke with the hotel manager, a mysterious lady who rudely wanted me to go away, until I finally reached my room. Now I spent several minutes here trying to figure out how to get into the room. I recalled the manager gave me a key it was massive. If I walked around with a meter long key in my pants, let’s just say I would be considerably more popular. Then I realized you had to actually click on the top left top open your bag, pick out the key, and unlock the door then go in. Are all these steps necessary for a door you have a key for? When you walk in you get the wha-wha-whaaaa type sounds oh noes! You’re bedroom is a bathroom! How quirky and strange! Let’s go complain I guess because there’s no where to sleep until morning in order to meet your coworker. So down I marched to the manager, who said someone will come fix the “door” for me. But wait! There’s no problem with the door, my room is a toilet, literally. No worries she says, someone will be fixing my door in no time. So I head upstairs and I see someone leaving my hotel room, and I talk to him briefly.
“My name is Seb.”
“Hello Seb. Are you new here?”
“Yes. I am.”
“You should visit The Cafe”
Now when I go Room #1 and use the key it opens to a bedroom. Oh my gawd! Something really is afoot! What could it be? I don’t know! How quirky! Strange! Let’s find out what it all means! Well you can’t since its not a conversation option with anyone. Yes, I think I stumbled across one of the main plot points. But instead of continuing on this zany quirky idea we have to go to bed. So that you can wake up midday the next day and the game can continue. That’s when you find out a mystery man was looking for Seb, could be that soda job. The game tracks money so this could be important? I don’t know. No can tell you what this mystery man looked like. What his name was. Where he left off too. Phone number? Nah. We need to meet 100 people and do a lot of Hello Hi’s. Felix, Pixie, Babooshka, Mamooshka, Flip, Pip, Lip, the town is full of people, there’s a mandatory drunk bum who talks to himself and asks for beer, and more useless NPCs. Some suggest you should go dance, others talk about the police and the computer ministry being these awful totalitarian things in this game. Great. You really won’t be engaging in any of this for a long long while. Which undermines some of the ideas I was actually looking forward to playing or understanding. Eventually you’ll come across some of the game’s hacker elements, which starts to open things up a bit, but not before I had lost considerable interest in else.
Once you pick up your modder you will be able to hack everything in the town. Seb’s technicolor eyes brighten up. It’s like he’s in the Matrix, but it’s like a happy Swedish Matrix where everyone dances all night to pretty good club music and no one cares that you have flies swarming around your stank pits. Hello. Hi. Hello I’m Seb. Untz. Untz. Untz. That’s great but wielding the modder to start delving into the games puzzles is pretty complicated. What you have to type and how to program these sections is pretty difficult. The direction you are given from the moment you land is null. If “confused” Then “Null”, else “Stomp_Users_Outstreched_Hands”; Keep talking to the towns folks for ideas, this can take hours and tons of trial and error, and mindless roaming around town. These long lulls are quite frustrating, and to be quite honest, Seb can take a long walk off a short pier, why do I want to play this doofy wierdo? What does it matter? Is anyone in danger? Am I really just inside Ikea’s point of sale software? I don’t know.
Graphically and musically else Heart.Break () is presented in a nice vibrant retro fashion. Townspeople prolongate the streets, on schedule they will go to and from their homes to their destinations. Buildings are colorful, and it’s easy to spin around and get multiple perspectives on any room, street, or scene. The game runs smoothly, no detectable glitches, bugs, or crashes. Some areas there’s music playing, and every sample I listened to was pretty good. So in that sense the game is well made. There’s just zero in terms of hand holding. No sense real sense of direction. It doesn’t help that nearly every conversation felt trite or extremely dull.
else Heart.Break () is an unusual RPG adventure, very easy to control and operate, very difficult to know what to do. It’s not a bad game, because bad games become detestable, like holding soured milk in your mouth, you just want to spit it out and forget about it. But it’s not necessarily and exciting and captivating game, where you can’t wait to uncover the next piece of the story, help a side NPC out, or get that massively new shiny armor you need. It’s not that kind of game. It’s heavily reminscent of graphical 80s adventure PC games, with the actual typing of “hacking” routines later in the game, which is a really nifty idea to add into the game. I liked the looming and mysterious Ministry entity and what it would represent later in the game. I enjoyed the “something is off about this town” feeling. However most of these elements are tied together with mile long dental floss in a sea of textual ‘Hellos’ and ‘Hi’s’. The hippie colors, and vibrant cityscape is inviting and easy to navigate, but interest is lost quickly with poor direction and uninteresting “missions” you are handed throughout. I know several players however who will delve right in, and enjoy the challenging nature of else Heart.Break(), and a majority of players who would not, leaving this game split down the middle as an average RPG game with much unrealized potential left on the table.