Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

IFComp 2012: Body Bargain

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 7, 2012

Body Bargain by Amanda Lange is an entry in the 2012 ifcomp about transhumanism.

(This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

You wake up cold and naked, with an IV stuck in your arms.

But this is all as it should be. The PC has gone to a black market doctor for a replacement body, and the surgery appears to have been a success. There’s just one difficulty: she couldn’t afford the surgery, so she’ll be working off her debt, assisting the doctor, Doctor Overclock. Body Bargain is a work of horror, and in the process of assisting the doctor, you will probably do and see some horrible things. But the ends justify the means, right?

Body Bargain is fairly straightforward. One thing that struck me was that the game was clearly designed to be played more than once. Since you’re just starting out as an assistant to Doctor Overclock when the game opens, he doesn’t expect you to know what you’re doing, so you’re given explicit instructions about what to do. If you follow his instructions, you’ll complete the game, though you might not much like the ending. During the course of the game, though you learn some things that you can investigate on further playthroughs. I think this worked quite well. I am sometimes bothered a little by using knowledge that the player character shouldn’t have yet in order to change the course of games, but I also kind of like it; it makes me think “what could have happened, if only the PC had known?”

This is the first game I’ve played from this year’s competition that I really enjoyed. The setting is interesting, the puzzles are fairly logical, and the horror theme works. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from a few problems.

First, the game is a little underimplemented. For example, the PC can pick up her old clothes in the beginning, and it’s mentioned that they include jeans, a shirt, socks, a bra, and panties. However, none of these individual items exist, even as synonyms for the whole pile of clothes. For another, there’s a stool in the initial room, which has a nice description, but:

>sit on stool
That’s not something you can sit down on.

The lack of depth of implementation isn’t really a problem–it doesn’t hamper solving the puzzles, except in one case, which I’ll describe shortly. I kind of feel like I’m unfairly in a beta-testing mindset when I complain about this, but I do enjoy games that are very thoroughly implemented. I wanted to sit on the swiveling stool and spin around, enjoying my new body. I wanted to be able to flip every switch and smell every table, or whatever. Well, it wasn’t to be.

There was, as I mentioned, one time when the lack of synonyms caused me difficulty. Near the end of the game, the PC’s sister is strapped to an operating table, and it may transpire that you wish to free her. I tried all sorts of things to accomplish this. I tried to release straps and just get straps. I tried to cut straps with various things. No luck. It turns out I needed to untie savannah. You mean she’s tied down with the straps? Not what I expected, and I didn’t figure it out without using a walkthrough.

As unfortunate as the underimplementation was, I was more annoyed by some bugs I encountered. Particularly, upon incapacitating the doctor, the game helpfully informs me (every turn, and sometimes twice a turn) that “–> The scene change machinery is stuck.”. Spectacular. There were a few other, more minor bugs, too, including one that wouldn’t let me get the scrubs at the beginning, so I couldn’t even leave the starting room on one attempt.

Despite the game’s problems, I did enjoy it, and I think that it has the potential to be really great if it gets a post-comp release cleaning it up a bit. Body Bargain gets a 6/10 from me, the highest score so far. I’d like to rate it higher, but the bugs are severe enough that I can’t justify it. I’d be happy to play it again, if it’s updated, though!

Play time: 78 minutes for six playthroughs.

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