The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M is likely to be the last comp game that I review, because I can’t figure out how to get Ted Paladin and the Case of the Abandoned House to run right, and the comp itself is coming to a close very soon.
I admit I had a small ulterior motive in reviewing comp games, other than to bring in some new and additional traffic to the blog. As I’m taking a high-end game art class through CG Society right now, I figured I wouldn’t have the mental energy to devote to thinking about and writing about larger commercial game releases, and the bite-size comp games fit well in to my schedule in that regard. So, hopefully when the week is out, I’ll have some lovely new art to display, and then I can look at the big games I’ve let pass me by recently like Batman: Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and so on, in anticipation of Skyward Sword later this month. If you want to see my thoughts on any of that stuff, it may be here, or it may be on Tap-Repeatedly, where I intend to post some more Zelda-related writing and some other indie game writing rather soon.
Overall, this IF Comp ran the gamut for me: there were some strong games, and some not so much. If The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M will indeed be the last game I play, it’s a pretty good note to go out on: competently written, well-paced, and with a very interesting theme. It wasn’t exactly perfect – some puzzles were a little too fiddly for me to get right away, needing some walkthrough help – but it’s a game that will stick with me. After I had completed two hours and wasn’t quite done, I wanted to return to it.
Here there be spoilers, then. If you don’t click through yet, let me just say, thanks for stopping by and checking out my reviews.
In some ways, this is a game about things that have been done before: it’s about being in the afterlife, which I’ve seen, and it has a fairly familiar three-puzzle structure at its core. But what’s interesting about the theme is that you play as, essentially, Dr. Kevorkian in the afterlife, and your task is to relive fictionalized versions of the assisted suicides that made you infamous. After that, the player is tasked to choose his own method of judgement: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory, with three different endings.
The actual setting of the game, with the afterlife as some sort of hotel, isn’t all that unusual, though there are some cool touches like a door that leads to different locations depending on what key you use to unlock it. When I talk about fiddly puzzles, I’m not referring to that, so much as a puzzle where you have to fix the hotel bar taps for the angel and devil. I’m a little embarrassed to say I spent way too much time trying to figure that one out on my own before hitting the walkthrough. This is a strange little bit with a lot of moving parts that I’m sure could’ve been simplified, though, I guess I understand that the point of it is to force you to go in to the crashed bus and retrieve the items that are there. By comparison, I didn’t find the death device as difficult to operate and figured it out pretty quickly, but maybe it was because I better understood how the game was handling such things at that time.
Overall, I’d give this one a recommend, provided you can deal with the theme and are okay with a game where “kill self” is a valid command necessary for completion. (Though I guess the game also accepts “commit suicide” and the slightly less dramatic “press button,” which is what I used.)
One other weird note: I guess the author is pseudonymous, but I’m also wagering he is a Portal fan. At least, presuming the music that’s playing outside the bar is in fact Exile Vilify, which is anachronistic but sort of appropriate? Look, I’d recognize that song anywhere: it’s my ring tone.