IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-19 08:20
And here I thought Desert Heat had a paucity of choices! OK, here's something I never wondered about: What if you took Life On Beal Street
and gave it a really snazzy interface, one that eliminated all that tedious typing "1" to continue and instead replaced it with an attractive "click here to continue"? What would you have? I never wondered about it, but now I have the answer: You'd still have Life On Beal Street. Little Billy follows this inglorious model -- it's not interactive fiction at all. There's a "click here to continue" prompt (or, at times, a differently worded but functionally identical prompt) that basically just lets you turn the pages in a linear story. Even the two opportunities you get to make a decision don't influence the narrative in the slightest -- one is a dead-end road that shunts back into the main story, and the other makes cosmetic, inconsequential changes that dissolve after a couple of paragraphs.
But maybe if the story and writing were really great, the lack of interactivity wouldn't stick out so much? Maybe, but we'll never know. The author warns us at the very beginning. "The author of this game has no writing talent whatsoever", he says, and oh-so-cleverly punches up the "click here to continue" prompt with an "at your own risk!" Heed this warning. The plot is utterly standard, and the writing doesn't do much to sell it. What's more, the final sentence throws everything into total confusion, in a bad way. This sentence is supposed to be a grim epilogue, I think, but it appears to use the wrong name, which turns it into more of a hilarious head-scratcher. If it wasn't using the wrong name, it's just a head-scratcher without being hilarious, so I'm rooting for the former case.
The interface is fairly snazzy, though it's clearly adapted from another game. There's a picture of an ancient-looking water jug at the start of the game that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens in the story. Each character, amusingly enough, has a hit-point counter, even though there isn't a shred of combat or anything approaching combat in Little Billy. Well, actually there is, but it happens offstage -- Billy must have gotten the drop on his combatants, because he's obviously just a 1st level Schoolkid (chaotic good, of course) with a mere 10 hit points. His dad, on the other hand, has a whopping 54 hit points, which must make him a 6th or 7th level Cleric. He apparently got all his combat experience beating Little Billy to within a hit point of his life. Oh well, enough silliness. Making up stuff like that was the most fun I had with the game, but I can have that kind of fun without any comp game at all.