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Stars - 30

Rating by Antrax posted on Jan 29, 2015 | edit | delete

Ridiculously constrictive

The Hangman is a decent game. It’s well-written, it’s technically adequate and the puzzles, while easy, aren’t insulting. However, it’s marred by its narrow scope which leads to a terrible interface.

The graphics were glitchy on my computer, but it’s probably something I could fix by tweaking the settings. Even so, it’s clear the game is pretty. Voice acting is also well done.

The story is well written, though some sections really test your ability to suspend disbelief. The puzzles are okay, for most part very straightforward and having multiple paths to completing your objectives adds a very nice touch.

The basic interface design is a good variation of point and click. It’s a bit awkward selecting the inventory item first and the object to use it on second, but it’s just a matter of habit.
There are subtle problems with the interface, though. For one, there’s an inconsistency about skipping dialogue. Sometime it works (and characters fast-forward through their animation) and sometimes clicking does nothing. For the most part you can’t skip ahead, which can be quite exhausting if you accidentally ask someone something a second time. The worst of it was when I had to listen to some taped evidence and scour the evidence for detail, with the evidence running for 30-45 seconds or so each time. That was immensely frustrating, and also unnecessary as I found out later, since you could just ask someone the relevant detail.
There are too many logical interactions that don’t work, throwing you off the track. Probably due to its episodic nature, very little thought was given to things off the main path, which can be immensely confusing. Everyone mentions the bum and I’ll join the bandwagon: he asks for something to eat. You try to use a clearly edible item on him. Erica says “I don’t need to do this now”, consistently. So naturally you expect there’s some interrogation technique you need to implement here, like showing him the food or whatever - except not, she says that because on ANOTHER puzzle-path, at some point the bum would want the food she’s carrying now.
Variations of this exist throughout the game. The developers tried to be clever by forcing you to only pick up items when you know you’ll need them, but combined with the multiple paths and Erica’s somewhat dull wit at times, this turns into an exercise in frustration that could rival a text parser adventure. You constantly have to try and get into the developer’s mind, especially on the more ridiculous obstacles such as obtaining fairly commonplace items.

That also adds backtracking which breaks immersion and suspense. During an emotional moment, you find yourself zipping back and forth on ridiculous fetch quests. The tension of breaking into a superior’s office is lost the third time you walk in because you need yet another thing from there.

The cognitive powers are underused to the point it feels almost like QTE. There’s a plot prompt to suggest you can use a power, then you use it, then continue playing without powers since nothing can be cognitioned except very small bits. Contrast with The Devil’s Playhouse to get a feeling of how you’d expect such powers to work - and that game was also episodic.

To summarize, the plot is good enough to excuse all the ridiculous moments and puzzles are so easy you’ll get past them even despite the contrivances, which lands this in 3 star category. It could have been much more.

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Time Played: 5-10 hours

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