IFReviewed by Dan Shiovitz on 2005-05-09 10:06
I am going to spoil more of this game than I usually like to spoil of a game, but I don't feel bad, because the spoiler is: although it starts off looking like it's going to be a boring educational game filled with tedious historical-political fact nuggets, Bolivia By Night actually turns out to be an excellent semi-fantastic ('fantastic' in terms of genre, not quality, although it is pretty good) romp studded with interesting historical-political tidbits of information. And since it's set in Bolivia, and is semi-fantastic, I guess that would make it magical realism. Which would explain the talking Che Guevara t-shirt. Not to mention the ninjas.
Anyway, the deal here is that Bolivia By Night is one of those games where the PC stumbles onto a problem, has their consciousness raised, and is eventually willing and able to solve the problem (or at least a small part of it).
In this particular game there's a nice parallel track where the political issues have supernatural implications, and fixing the latter is intertwined with fixing the former. This kind of thing can be done well or badly, and I'm pleased to say that Bolivia By Night won me over pretty thoroughly by the end, with humorous writing and an engaging plot balancing out the after-school-special nature of the whole thing.
The only real gripe I have is that the pacing could be tightened up substantially.
The first two chapters have long stretches where the player is doing something not all that exciting that really should have been condensed, and then later on there are a few places where there could be more direction as to what to do to move the plot along. This latter is mitigated by the game having hints, but I didn't realize that until almost the end of the game, and, anyway, that's not really the optimal way to handle it.
So, yeah, I liked Bolivia By Night quite a bit. It manages to both amuse and educate, and at some points it successfully does both at once.
2nd place on the 2005 Spring Thing.