In-game dialogue (paraphrased):

Finch grapples with [bad guy] at the railing of the airship. He manages to get off a shot, just as they are both forced over the edge. Finch and [bad guy] tumble over the edge of the airship. You hear a splash just before fading into unconsciousness.


My outraged cry was heard by no one, and echoed uselessly against the white walls of my apartment. My eyes kept searching the game page for a back button, wanting desperately to change that last mouse click, and try to save my in-game hubby. Falling off the side of an airship was such an undignified way to go, and I was suddenly embarrassed that I’d completely missed every single Sherlock Holmes reference earlier in the game, else I might have avoided this disaster. I guess that’s what I get for being only 82% perceptive.


( I’d claim those “P”s stood for “Pragmatic” and “Perceptive”, but really I just mucked up entering my name, and wound up with 2 middle initials. )

 What was I playing, you ask?

That would be A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight. A “277,000 word epic interactive mystery novel”. Or, as I was starting to think of it in my head, the “WHERE IS THE BACK BUTTON?!” game. The player (me) would be presented with a scenario, given choices as to how to react to said scenario, and then the game would move the story forward based upon the player’s choice. Sounds simple enough, and follows the same basic premise as most cut scenes and dialogue interactions from other video games—or so you think.

Let me give you an example of this game’s diabolical design:


Most games would let you choose an option, see what happens, and if you didn’t like it, you could simply retry that section of the game in an effort to beat the bad guy. But *this* game, oooh no. *This* game makes you reap the consequences of your actions—no do-overs, no retries, unless you want to completely restart the game with a new character…Which is how I found myself, 3 chapters in, accidentally gay-married to my work-partner flat-mate.

I should probably explain that the game starts you out as a male character, and then helpfully provides opportunities for romancing “men, women, both, or neither!”, as you see fit. Granted, out of the 3+ options I’d had for romance so far, I actually like my flat-mate best out of all of them, and would have pursued him whether I been made a male or female character. So I suppose it wasn’t all that bad when my nervous mouse-tapping habit got the better of me, and decided to make my in-game life a bit more interesting by selecting “yes” to his wedding proposal.

But I still really should have seen the airship death coming.

Poor bloke.

The game author had laid everything out so nicely for me, I really had no excuse:

  • I was a doctor, a crack-shot marksman, and an army vet.
  • My work-partner and flat-mate, Finch, was *extremely perceptive*, to the point of knowing your vocation from the callouses on your fingertips.
  • The super-secret bad guy we were chasing was named “The Professor”.
  • At one point, the game offered me the chance to romance a sweet, practical, and brave girl who happened to be the daughter of an army captain.
  • We were fighting a boss-battle in a high-up locale.

I’m sure there were plenty of other, smaller, references that I’ve completely glossed over.

But what I really want to know is why this diabolical mental-torture-device-of-a-game decided to get my hopes up for having a truly wonderful, elicit, in-game romance, and then KILLED MY LOVER barely half a chapter later!

It burns my biscuits!

I mean, after saving his ass like 4 times in the game, (including one really daring rescue where I killed 4 men, tied up a 5th, and then dumped us both in the river before dragging his mostly unconscious ass to the hospital), I just really hope that Sherlock reference better hold true, and he better damn well come back from the dead, because I put in a lot of effort into accidentally romancing that dude!

Ranting aside, I’m having a brilliant time. Aside from wanting to reincarnate my elicit lover, I would wish for 2 things added to the game:

  • A chapter map, so you can go back and replay any chapter after you’ve beaten it the first time.
  • The ability to make multiple characters so that you can play through with whichever moral-standard you feel like using that day. (I mean really, there are just some days when you *need* to be chaotic evil!)

I suppose that I should probably mention that I’m the sort of person who never plays video games. (Unless you count the few times in a group setting where we took bets on how quickly I could die, or watched as I managed to massacre my own teammates.)(The record, fyi, for fastest death is under 6 seconds—I dropped and stepped on my own grenade, and not on purpose.) (Seriously, there are reasons I don’t play video games.) So the fact that I’m playing this game at all means that it has to be pretty good. And that’s likely not at all influenced by my spending most of my pocket change on books. No, that definitely has nothing at all to do with my interest in a literary-styled non-animated choices-only propelled game. Nothing at all.

Now that I’ve figured out the whole Sherlock thing, I guarantee the game will change completely until once again, someone I love dangles on the edge of a precipice, (or in the clawed hands of a giant mech), and too late I will realize that it’s been hinting at this outcome for the last 4 chapters, but I’m only 82% perceptive and only 35% quick, and OOPS, they’re dead!


But darnit, I’m so ready for this shit. Bring it!

I will see your challenge, “Choice by Gaslight”, and raise you one slightly-inept-yet-occasionally-lucky accidental-mouse-clicking white-girl-in-control round of play!

Stay tuned for Holly Plays a Video Game, Part 2: Will I Ever Fall In Love Again?!


You can find another review of “A Study in Steampunk” HERE

Game is available on STEAM for between $2.99 – $3.99

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