Friday, February 13, 2015
Circus Reviews: no-one has to die
This game has one of the most ironic titles I've seen in quite a while.
The game starts right in the middle of the action: you are a delivery man who happened to notice a fire breaking out in an office building while on the job. You wander into the security room and manage to log into the chat system, and from here you meet four employees: Troy, Steve, Christina, and Lionel. Because you're the only one with access to the security system, you are the one who must engineer the escape of the employees trapped in the burning building. The gravity of the situation is made clear to you very quickly when the computer calculates that because of the fire, at least one casualty is unavoidable.
Your goal in each level is to contain the fire. You can do so by locking doors (try to ignore the logic of that) but you can only have one door locked at a time, and once you lock a door it is locked for that level. You can also have a character standing by a water switch turn the water on, but water will spread like fire, and the employees will die just the same if they get caught by it. Once you've successfully contained the fire for one move, you go to the next level.
In between levels, you chat with the surviving employees, and a mysterious story unfolds. There's the question of who started the fire, of course...But there's also a pair of dead security guards in the room with you. And some of the employees bring up the very strange business practices of their corporation. And, of course, there's the big question: Who do you save each level, if it's impossible to save everyone? How do you, a complete stranger to four people in danger, know who to save?
In real life, this would be an absolutely horrible situation. In the game, it's still horrible, but the player is oddly detached from it. The way the puzzles are presented, it makes it feel like the characters really are just pictures on a screen. And that adds a certain chilling effect. You're causing all these deaths, but at the same time you're deliberately removed from them. This is heightened by the fact that you're all using some sort of chat device to communicate with each other...while the building you're in is burning up.
The puzzles themselves are a bit tricky, but each puzzle only has two solutions, one for each of the two characters you're choosing between, so once you figure it out it's not too bad. It shouldn't take you very long at all to complete the game...at which point you're told that you haven't solved the mystery yet. In order to get to the truth of what's really going on, you have to explore all the possible solutions to the overarching puzzle of how to save the employees. The chart at the beginning of the game shows the branching options you've taken and lets you load from a previous level so that you can make different choices and end up on different paths. Each employee has crucial information to share about all the unanswered questions...but since they're generally unwilling to share, you'll have to get them alone. By killing off their coworkers.
All in all, you're left with a short but intriguing mystery to solve, one that forces you to make difficult choices to get the answers you need. The eventual picture that you put together is a very interesting one, to say the least. It takes clear inspiration from another couple of video games, but saying what those are would probably spoil what the mystery is for all the games involved, so I'll just leave it at this: It's complex but fascinating!
Definitely give this game a try in your spare time. It's a short and sweet bit of freeware that will make you think, and maybe even break your heart a little.
no-one has to die is available to play in browser at Kongregate.com and GameJolt.com.
Final verdict: A gripping mystery with interesting characters and multiple plot twists that keep things moving nicely.
no-one has to die is developed by Stuart Madafiglio. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.