Play Nice

by Alice Thornburgh and Emily Breeze (Quest (?)/web-based CYOA; IFDB; play here)

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(Cover art: a green planet in space; game title in orange text in foreground)

You have the unenviable role of Ambassador to Emerpus, a highly intelligent race with complex social rules. If you can make it through the entire dinner, you should be fine. If not, then you better wave goodbye to your job and, possibly, entire career.

Play Nice is, simply put, a test of whether you know how to play by the rules, a la Tea Ceremony. The rules are given, and though they look complex, I found that not all came into play in the game itself – a bit of an unfired Chekhov’s gun. The NPC’s responses to various social faux pas also did not quite resonate with what had been laid out in the rules.

The game presents three choices at each turn to test your memory of the in-game rules, and at each decision-making node, there is only one correct answer; selecting the wrong answer leads to instadeath. Replaying it, therefore, is like re-taking a school quiz where you already know the answers. While such linearity was not unexpected for this game, I still would have appreciated some subtlety, where you could build up or break down relations between you and any of the NPCs separately.

Still, the writing is conversational and light-hearted; the observations of the aliens feel like that which a child would make. The game would have benefited from taking itself a bit less seriously, though.

Play Nice is a bit of a mixed bag, unfortunately. On the one hand, it does have a less than serious space-age feel to it; on the other, the story structure is punishingly linear, where it could have done with a sense of playfulness.

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