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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Indie Adventure Game Review - Conspirocracy

Whenever I think of paperwork and bureaucracy (before recalling Papers, Please), I always think of Brazil (1985), a movie by Terry Gilliam.

That's why playing the first hour of Conspirocracy made me think of Brazil and of how boring and stressful bureaucracy can become even when just fictional.

Brazil, though, is set in a sort of dystopian "retro-future" (and Gilliam himself stated that "it is neither future nor past, and yet a bit of each."), while Conspirocracy is contemporary. Then why does this comparison still stand, to me? Mainly it's because of what I think I see in the developers' mindset.

Sounds like a sensible piece of diplomatic thinking...

Little Red Dog Games delivers a satirical, fascinating point-and-click adventure loosely inspired by Douglas Adams' Bureaucracy (1987). Adams was an author who worked closely with Monty Python, so also with Gilliam. That closes the loop.

The world described in Conspirocracy is a world driven by bureaucracy itself, where everything seems to have specific regulations and even if no one can really find the source of it all, everybody seems to blindly stick to it.

On an ordinary day, the Canadian schoolteacher David Poulson receives an eviction notice. How can this possibly be since he has a reasonable amount of money in his bank account? Simple - his account his frozen! Why is that so? Simple - the government has declared him a non-person!

No, he's not declared dead. He's actually declared non-existent!

So, on a quest to take back his identity (and all of his belongings), David Poulson will face in few days everything we have faced on a daily basis for the last few years: the growth of raging protests, an outburst of conspiracy theories, cultural flattening, urban decay and lots of bureaucratic gibberish which only adds to what is a really fine adventure game.

And as you go further, you become more and more acquainted with a sort of leading thread that ties together all you see and experience in the game. Why has classic literature has been replaced with contemporary bestsellers such as 50 Shades of Gray? Why is such an incompetent man a bank director? Why is a robot-secretary telling me to wait 4 weeks to talk to a doctor who is maybe doing absolutely nothing? Why are the buses always so badly maintained, crowded and stinky? Last but not least, why did the government delete me from existence?

What does all this lead to? Stress, of course. Stress plays an important role in the game. Facing all sorts of issues, the player has a graphic feedback (a bar on the top of the screen) that tells how much stress is our hero enduring and, if the indicator turns red and reaches the maximum, he will suffer a heart attack and die – death being, it seems, a feature that is making a small comeback in adventure games nowadays.

I think our guy's heading for cardiac arrest here.  Hope they haven't run out of what he's about to order...

What's peculiar in Conspirocracy is how it draws on ordinary everyday things. Ex-wife phone calls, GPS localisations, posts on what we may call Twitter and online searches on what we may call Google made through a familiar looking tablet (which serves also as an inventory). 

Ironic, satirical and challenging, Conspirocracy is an adventure game full of features: nice and balanced voice acting, an incredibly solid world, some great unexpected mini-games, well placed references and also tough not-so-intuitive puzzles – though these may sometimes draw you out from immersion.

There are a few walk-behind graphical bugs, but nothing game-breaking.

There's actually no reason not to play this game which, moreover, is currently on sale at 1,65€ (instead of 6,99€) on 

Review for www.IndieGameNews.Com by Chris Sacchi.

CaptainD says - I voiced a very minor character in this game, only two lines.  Can anyone guess which one?

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