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colpet 01-21-2006 05:35 AM

AG Community playthrough - 5 Days a Stranger
Is anyone else interested in playing this game? Here's the game site for download:

From Snarky's post further down the page:

Community Playthrough - 5 Days a Stranger

  1. Download and install the game.
  2. Start the game and watch the intro.
  3. Play up until the first breakpoint, save and quit.
  4. Post! (If you mention things beyond the current breakpoint, use spoiler tags.)
The current breakpoint is the end of Day 5.

Kurufinwe 01-21-2006 06:48 AM

I've never played it, and I'm definitely interested (though I probably won't be able to get to it for a couple of days).

Who will be taking care of the organisation of the thread (or have you played it? I had in mind that you hadn't, but maybe I'm just confused)?

colpet 01-21-2006 07:01 AM

I haven't played it either, so I'm hoping that someone who has will want to moderate the gameplay.

RLacey 01-21-2006 07:51 AM

Each day is fairlyt short, so that might prove the best way to split the game up. :)

stepurhan 01-21-2006 10:21 AM


Originally Posted by RLacey
Each day is fairlyt short, so that might prove the best way to split the game up. :)

Definitely, you get a black screen with "DAY X" in the middle of it when you reach a new chapter so that's the best place to split it. When do you want to start? Might be best to give it a day or so to give people a chance to spot the thread and get set up.

colpet 01-21-2006 10:24 AM

My best gaming time is on the weekends, so I'll give it a go today. Lets say we'll start with 1 day per week and see what happens. That'll give others a chance to join in mid week.

After a brisk nap 01-21-2006 10:34 AM

Five weeks to complete 5DAS?!
colpet, I don't think you realize how short this game is.

If we spend three days on each game-day, that allows us to finish the game in 15 days, or roughly two weeks. That's much more reasonable, and even if you can only play once a week you won't be that far behind.

colpet 01-21-2006 10:47 AM


colpet, I don't think you realize how short this game is.
Well, I did say I hadn't played it before, and really know nothing about it ;) .
Ok, 3 days per section sounds good.

AFGNCAAP 01-21-2006 02:23 PM

Note that one day - I think, Day 4 - is painfully short, to the point I'm not sure if it even has a playable part.

Trumgottist 01-21-2006 03:52 PM

AFGNCAAP: Yes, but since anybody who hasn't yet played the game won't read your spoiler, that'll just have to be a surprise to them!

After a brisk nap 01-22-2006 11:47 AM

OK, in order to get this thing started, I'll do the honors:

Community Playthrough - 5 Days a Stranger

  1. Download and install the game.
  2. Start the game and watch the intro.
  3. Play up until the first breakpoint, save and quit.
  4. Post! (If you mention things beyond the current breakpoint, use spoiler tags.)
The first breakpoint is the start of Day 2.
Save and quit as soon as the cutscene is over and you regain control.

Our schedule is three days per segment, so we will continue with Day 2 on Wednesday, January 25.

Oh, by the way: 5DAS has a couple of situations where you can die, so save whenever your spidersense is tingling.

Legolas813 01-22-2006 11:58 AM

Sounds good. Downloading the game now.

Kurufinwe 01-22-2006 12:28 PM

Thanks for taking control of the thread, Snarky. :) I'll go and download the game.

After a brisk nap 01-22-2006 12:50 PM

Day 1

OK, I played Day 1. Some general comments on the game first.

5DAS has been released in many different versions. Later editions improved the interface, added sound effects and music, and other little Easter Eggs. The version off Yahtzee's website is the most up-to-date. I'm playing the SE, with a "director's commentary". To get it, donate $5 or more to Yahtzee. If you like the game, it's well worth it.

The graphics are quite simple, but to my mind adequate. The characters and the animation is really pretty good, in an early-LucasArts kind of way. The backgrounds, however, are relatively boring. All the rooms are based on the same basic template, and it shows. No variation in perspective or composition. It makes the graphics seem more primitive than they really are, more AGI than VGA. Some animation in the driving screen would have made a big difference. However, the title screen is suitably dramatic.

The interface is annoying, even in its present, improved version. AGS comes with a standard interface that is less clumsy than this, so I don't understand the design thinking that went into it. Of course, you have to experiment in order to improve, but in my opinion it should have been abandoned during development.

OK, so playing the game...

The best thing about the intro is that it's so short. I really respect a setup that doesn't waste time, but just gets down to the business of actually playing the game. Some games (both commercial and home-made) are made in the belief that the longer the cut-scene at the start, the better. Yahtzee here shows that he's an effective storyteller, laying out the bare necessities of the backstory in a short voiceover.

I like that we only see Trilby in shadows and silhouette at this point. Along with his mask, this means we've already started to get to know him by the time we see his face. (By the way, his face mask in reminiscent of Rorschack in Watchmen. In the commentary, Yahtzee mentions that he was inspired by League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, another comic by Alan Moore, so I don't think this was a coincidence.) Once we do get to see him, though... what's up with that hair cut?!

The atmospheric sound effects are one of the great elements of this game. They are extremely creepy. I think that dramatically speaking, it would have worked better if they appeared later in the game (and I think they do get more pronounced), but the creaky footsteps already in the first room definitely help set the horror tone. Players accustomed to modern commercial games may feel a bit put off by the lack of spoken voices. I find that you get used to it quickly, but then I play a lot of old games and home-made games.

Day 1 is slow. Some might find it dull... and, well, it would be hard to argue with them. There is very little to do, but you have to walk around the whole house and property. Also, the rooms are so sparse that it's difficult to imagine how there can be five days' worth of gameplay in this house. I think this serves a couple of purposes:
  1. The player gets to explore most of the setting where 5DAS takes place, and can move around with confidence for the rest of the game.
  2. Starting out with mundane gameplay creates a slow build-up in the horror stakes.
I'm not sure it pays off, though. Especially when finding all the different inhabitants of the house is so unreasonably difficult. It took me about half an hour to play through Day 1 (with the commentary on, but admittedly rushing through the conversations), but I remember the first time I played it I must have walked around the house a dozen times before I located that miserable little kid.

This brings me to a pet peeve: disappearing characters. Given the layout of the house, the way characters suddenly are nowhere to be found (AJ after he runs away, Philip after you talk to him in the room with the fireplace) stretches my suspension of disbelief. There's no way they would be able to evade me as I walk through all the rooms! It makes puzzles about finding people seem unfair. A Virtual Theatre-like system to keep track of each character's whereabouts at all times would be greatly appreciated here.

I don't find any of the other characters at all appealing so far. Trilby is the only one who is remotely likeable.

What about the story? The "people stuck inside a haunted house" concept has been done a thousand times, but I prefer to think of it as "classic" rather than cliché. Yahtzee includes tributes to a number of well-known instances, like the "Day X" intertitles inspired by The Shining (and still remarkably effective here). I think in the end 5DAS is a competent telling of this well-worn story, but we can discuss that when the game is over.

The cut-scene just before the first breakpoint uses a hoary old horror-film device: the scary scene that turns out to be a nightmare, but I was not expecting it when I first played, and it startled me quite a bit. The high point of the first playable segment. Fortunately, there'll be more scares in the rest of the game.

Things to do in Day 1:
  • Pick up and read the newspaper
  • Turn on the television
  • Read the article you get from Philip
  • Look at the doors

Legolas813 01-22-2006 01:58 PM

I'm playing Day 1 right now. Just walking around over and over again trying to locate all the characters.

After a brisk nap 01-22-2006 02:18 PM

There's a walkthrough here.

After you're told to locate the others, you need to find two people you haven't met yet, then return to the lounge (the room with the sofa and painting).

The first person should be pretty simple to find. Just make sure you explore every corner of every screen.

You can only find the second person after you've found the first one (this is a pretty big design flaw, by the way. An obvious opportunity for parallelism has been turned into an awkward, arbitrary restriction). So you might have to go over every screen again, and try things that didn't work before another time.

The second person, Jim, is up in the tree outside in the back yard. Push the tree, and then talk to it.

colpet 01-22-2006 02:23 PM

Thanks for organising this, Snarky.
My first impression was that I really liked the music. It was not what I expected (I thought it would be more like BASS ) The music has a haunting quality, and is very atmospheric. I also like the background whispers, creaks, and footsteps. The graphics are crude, but as long as things are identifiable, I can live with that.Thank goodness for the descriptions of the items.
I was hung up at one point
I had 'pushed' the tree, but didn't realise that someone else (Jim) had spoken. It didn't occur to me to 'speak' to the tree.

Once that part was over, it triggered the meeting. I'm hooked on the story.
One other thing
Did anyone else think that the 5 holes are graves? I suppose they are te result of Phil's digging for treasure, but they look like graves to me.

Legolas813 01-22-2006 02:23 PM

Yeah I ended up finding the people before I saw your post Snarky. It wasn't that hard. I do agree, though, you should have been able to find them in any order.

Comments about Day 1: The story seems to be pretty interesting. The opening scene was great along with the music. And that nightmare scene caught me off guard!

I love the fact that the character comments on anything and everything. The dialogue is also well done.

My only complaint would be that the interface could have been better. The look, interact, etc. buttons are kind of small and close together. Also, it took me a little while to figure out how to go down the stairs. You have to click outside the bottom of the view (in the black portion).

Kurufinwe 01-22-2006 02:33 PM

For the moment, I rather like it. The characterisation seems interesting, and the mood works well. The interface is terrible, though (I keep trying to right-click to go to the next icon --- really, if you're going to use the basic Sierra look/do/talk system, why not use the Sierra interface that everyone is used to?). And I agree that the characters just disappearing and reappearing feels odd --- though I guess it might have been more a way of easing scripting than a real design choice?

I'm looking forward to playing more. :)

Oh, BTW, where are the puzzles? :P
No, seriously, the only one was the random 'let's randomly click on the tree again' one, and this one had better been forgotten.

After a brisk nap 01-22-2006 03:12 PM

One thing I really like about this game is that it is very characteristically English. Trilby's grappling umbrella is a "grolly", the Beeb is on the telly, and the recently deceased DeFoe heir went to Warwick Uni. (I have a mate who went to Warwick.)

Too many adventure games are either generic, could-have-been-made-anywhere affairs, or desperately want to be American (*cough*Runaway*cough*). This is one of the benefits I see with home-made adventures, I think they (sometimes) retain much more quirkiness and personality.

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