IFComp 2010: Gris et Jaune

“Gris et Jaune” by Steve van Gaal

She wanted answers. He wanted a cure. You just wanted to live.

Comp game #2! I’m glad the blurb is in English, I was worried that I’d be unable to review this one. It also includes this very nifty “handbill” that gives nothing away. Spoilers begin now.

I gave this one about 100 minutes. 60 minutes in, I hit the hints menu with gusto. Another 40 minutes, and I gave up and turned to the walkthrough… and discovered that I only made it halfway through the game. Wow! Tough stuff. It took me a while to put my finger on the premise of the game. I thought I was a vampire for about one minute, a golem for the next fifteen, and finally worked out I was a zombie once the game opened up.

Big points for a good premise and setting. I am a zombie wandering a Louisiana-like deep south cajun town, trying to get my life back. I’m apparently something of an innocent bystander who’s been caught up in a feud between Mad Doctor Gris and Witch Doctor Mama John. I have to break free from their influence and find my soul. The writing is good, the setting captured my imagination, and the ingredients are all in place for a good story.

Unfortunately, I got most of this from reading the hints. I found the game itself confusing. I spent most of my time wandering around talking to characters, and I still feel like I got almost no explanation of what’s going on. It didn’t help that I had trouble keeping character names straight, and that I sometimes couldn’t tell who was speaking. And some elements felt like red herrings; I wasn’t sure if I was doing things in the right order, or skipping steps. So Gris is a crazy addict… what does that do for me? So I can drug-trip and see a tree-man behind me in the mirror. Is that some kind of hint? It sure doesn’t seem like one.

I got as far as freeing myself from Mama John’s mind control, and discovered that I needed some of her writing. I found a note from her, but the game wouldn’t let me take it, so that was no good. The hints explained that I needed a book… a book that was in my possession at the beginning of the game, but was taken away by Gris. I scoured his house, high and low for it. The last mention of it was in the lab, but it just vanished from there. Finally I gave up and went to the walkthrough. Apparently I was supposed to march up to Mama John, fight her, and take the book from her home. How did she get the book, how was I supposed to know she had it, and why did I die last time I tried to fight her? Too frustrating for me.

I also encountered just a couple of technical issues. I saw some repeated narrative text the first time I entered the foyer location, and actually got some “Programming Error” messages in my first conversation with Mambo Felis. These weren’t game-breaking, but they did shake my faith in the rest of the game, especially in light of the disappearing book.

That was my experience with “Gris et Jaune.” It does seem like a very good game, but I the enjoyment I derived from the clever setting was diminished by somewhat obtuse puzzles and plot. Also, maybe I’m just really bad at IF (a real possibility) but it was discouraging that I couldn’t solve the game even after exhausting all of the in-game hints. I wanted a little bit more guidance. If this wasn’t a comp game and I expected to spend a few days on it, I suppose I would have been more patient with the puzzles, but I would still have been confused about what was going on.

Verdict: B+

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