The Little Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:
So this ship has a lady captain on the rebound (death rebounds totally count!) and a female crewmember whose primary interest is drinking vast amounts of alcohol yet Ja’Rod still can’t get laid. He has no game whatsoever. Varick would be deeply, deeply ashamed. I’m ashamed too, so much so that my new name for this guy from here on out is Ja’Rodless.
The Little Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:
I personally feel that Wikipedia continues to be an example of the very best the Internet has to offer. While I didn’t enjoy the aspersions cast on the finest online encyclopedia known to man and robotkind alike, I did enjoy the rest of the game, especially the bouncy tunes!
I’m no mathematician, but space plus werewolf plus hot sauce plus Robb Sherwin equals fun squared, baby! Or an extremely disgusting porn flick.
Game Type: Hugo
Author Info: Robb Sherwin is the guy I originally started this website with back in 1999, one of the best IF writers of his generation, and surrogate father to all the demented denizens of Jolt Country.
Download Link: https://ifcomp.org/play/2045/download
Other Games By This Author: Chicks Dig Jerks, A Crimson Spring, Necrotic Drift, Cryptozookeeper, and many more!
I’ve been trying to put my finger on what makes this game feel a little different from all previous Robb Sherwin games. The best I can come up with is it’s a matter of luminosity. Enceladus doesn’t shy away from depicting evil, but it isn’t encompassed by darkness. In the past, I think Robb has often used his writing as a way of exorcising personal demons, and the result of that has been darkly funny games that are like nothing else in the world of IF. In this game, it feels like Robb is using his writing to accomplish a slightly different goal: sharing joy. The result is a light, funny game that is like nothing else in the world of IF. My guess is we haven’t seen the last of Dark Robb, but Enceladus should expose his work to a whole new audience who might not have been able to handle the darkness of some of his previous works. That’s a good thing!
For newcomers to Robb’s IF work, this game is a fun, accessible space adventure that will serve as a great introduction. You play the role of Ensign Ja’Rod Butler, crewmember aboard the starship Plagoo which is currently traveling in outer space near Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons. Everything is going well except for the fact that a werewolf has boarded the ship and is killing people. The werewolf is probably the most Sherwinian thing in this game, but the explanation is that the werewolf is the result of an elective genetic engineering procedure. In other words, he is a highly modified human being. That makes sense. I mean — let’s face it — that’s the sort of thing that’s definitely going to happen in the future. Some people will do the werewolf procedure in order to become better criminals like the one in the game, some people will do it because Teen Wolf is their favorite movie, and some people will do it because they’ve always felt like they were werewolves on the inside. The point is they will definitely be doing it so Enceladus is giving us a glance into our futures which is exactly what science fiction is supposed to do. The battle against the werewolf (who, it turns out, isn’t really the mastermind here) will ultimately continue on the surface of Enceladus, a frozen wasteland best known for hosting the only hot sauce bar this side of the galaxy.
For those of us who have played Robb Sherwin games before, we will inevitably come into this one armed with a certain set of expectations. These expectations might vary a bit depending on which game is your favorite, but, personally, I expect a Robb game to take place in a dystopian world or at least an environment where justice is in short supply, to feature numerous bursts of virtuoso writing, to be hilarious, and to be populated by a host of fascinating and weird characters. Enceladus is very funny, well-written, and features some interesting and quirky characters, but it also feels a little restrained compared to some of Robb’s other games in keeping with the lighter atmosphere. If we were talking about music, we’d say Robb’s latest release was a little tighter and less experimental than his previous work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, I found it refreshing. We want artists to keep trying new things, especially when the results are good as they are here. Plus, “a little restrained” in this case still leaves room for a character as over the top as the thong-wearing Finnian, a case of near death by hot sauce, and the aforementioned werewolf. I also wouldn’t say the world of Enceladus is dystopian. Even though the crew of the Plagoo face danger in the harsh reaches of outer space, most notably because people are trying to kill them, the game environment never feels entirely unpleasant or hostile. Admittedly, Grimes might disagree with that assessment for good reason. Even so, this still feels like a game world where the AIDS Archer may well have hung up his bow long ago, where having pets is still a perfectly legal activity, and where Varick still works 9 to 5 because he hasn’t been driven to raid the last resting places of the dead by sheer economic necessity.
Enceladus does a nice job depicting the chain of command and job specialization on a well-run starship. As Ja’Rod, you are not the head honcho. Like everyone else on the ship, you have a job to do; in your case, you use your special X-ray glasses to scan nearby locations for DANGER. Like everyone else, you answer to the captain. Not doing your job and not following orders can get you and the rest of the crew killed. At the same time, you are given the creative freedom needed to problem solve and can speak freely without fear of retribution. This is an efficient outfit that clearly works well together. Linus Torvalds and Jeff Bezos could probably learn a lot about leadership from the unnamed but badass and utterly competent captain in this game. As a general rule, I like being in charge whether in an adventure game or in real life, but Enceladus does a great job of making you feel like your role is important even when you’re not the one giving the orders. All space games tend to remind me of Red Dwarf to a degree, and mentally I did classify Ja’Rod as Dave Lister in an alternative universe. Like Ja’Rod, Lister isn’t an insubordinate man by nature, and he would likely have served a capable commander with perfect rectitude. Ja’Rod probably wouldn’t have amounted to much if he had to work under Rimmer either, but placed in a positive work environment such as aboard the Plagoo he has everything he needs to shine.
Robb Sherwin remains a big believer in the potential of multimedia to enhance interactive fiction. In this game, there are just a couple of graphics that you see when you start the game and visit the about section, but there’s music throughout the game. In the past, I haven’t always been a big believer in the use of music in text adventures. I kind of like having text adventures be a silent, almost meditative experience, and it can be difficult to find music that truly complements a game. I even felt that way playing Cryptozookeeper at times because it felt like the music was doing its own thing, largely independent of the action in the game, and sometimes it actually distracted me from the job at hand. In Enceladus, however, the music perfectly complements the game and each song seems to match the scene it is featured in very well. Rather than serving as a distraction, it actually reinforces the mood set by the text. Robb has proven with this game that music truly can add something to the text adventure playing experience just as it does in other types of games. The loud red background color also seems to fit the game very well. Most importantly, it reminds me of AGT so it gets some bonus points based on that alone.
I served as a beta tester towards the tail end of this game’s development, and I’m very pleased with how everything turned out all in all. Some bugs needed to be squashed and typos eliminated along the way, but it’s a downright smooth and almost flawless playing experience now as long as you type all the same things I do. If you run into the text, “I aren’t in anything at the moment,” in the mine, I’m very sorry and have no idea why I only noticed that after the comp version had already been released. Finding a way to get Alexandra safe and sound and inside the airlock proved to be one of the most serious game development challenges. It’s much less confusing now than it used to be, but it’s still a little odd that Alexandra is listed as being present Before the Airlock and also said to be inside the airlock at the same time. Oh well, nobody likes a pedant. Apart from those small quibbles, the game works great now and I’m very happy to have played a very small role in getting it into its present form.
For better or for worse, Enceladus is a comp game through and through. It’s short and easy enough for just about anyone to finish. In practice, this means that the game ends very soon after it reaches its crescendo. You play through the best part, and then it’s just…over. I definitely found myself wishing there was more adventure to be had and that I could spend some more time with my crewmates, but at the same time I know authors can struggle to find the perfect length for a comp game so it’s perfectly understandable why Robb would want to keep it short. Even though Enceladus is about as straightforward as interactive fiction can be, there are probably a few people who still will have a hard time finishing it. I imagine any hardcore Twine fans who crossed over to play this game likely needed to ice their fingers after every few typed commands so that two hour comp game time limit really can be reached more easily than one might imagine. When I give out my numeric ratings, I’m mentally comparing a game to all the interactive fiction I’ve ever played even though that’s probably not fair. This can make it difficult for a short game to get a great score from me, but I really had to think a while about what rating I should give this game. You could consider Enceladus to be about as good as short and simple IF can be. It really is among the best of its kind, and I’m not sure a better game was entered into Comp ’19 — if one does exist, I definitely haven’t played it yet. At the same time, I still prefer my IF to be lengthier and a little more challenging. Be that as it may, the annual IF competition is all about celebrating short form IF, and Enceladus is fantastic short form IF so I’m expecting it to do very well.
Lastly, the fact that I have now reviewed two games in a row that both featured Enceladus has to be about the weirdest thing to have happened in the history of this site. Yeah, it’s even weirder than having all three of the original Trotting Krips review Pass the Banana. I had absolutely no idea Robb was working on an Enceladus-themed game until I’d already started writing my review of Saturn’s Child. What this all means I have no idea, but I think I can state with more authority than anyone else that Enceladus is the best Enceladus-themed text adventure there is. Admittedly, Saturn’s Child did feature an awesome space birth scene (though in my opinion it would have been better if the baby had been named after Jim Bexley Speed), but Enceladus is pretty much superior in all other respects. So, if you can just play one Enceladus game, make it this one!
Simple Rating: 7/10
Complicated Rating: 34/50
Playability: 8/10 (Whoever beta tested this game did a fantastic job!)
Puzzle Quality: 4/10 (It’s not that the puzzles are bad per se; it’s just it’s pretty much always bleeding obvious what you should do next so it’s not very challenging.)
Parser Responsiveness: 7/10
Special Ratings For This Game:
Looks Like AGT: 8/10 (Color is good!)