Quick Look – Gamedec (#JustOnePercent 88/100)

Developer: Anshar Studios
Release Date: September 16, 2021
MSRP: $29.99

I struggled with whether or not to include Gamedec as part of my project games, but not because I didn’t want to play it. Rather, I knew this was a game that I really wanted to be able to focus on – I was jazzed enough about this one that I backed it on Kickstarter in 2020.

I am a big fan of the concept of combat-free RPGs in general, and although I’m often not very good at them, I love the narratives that tend to be built around playing as a detective. Your character in Gamedec make his (or her) living navigating virtual worlds. The introductory mission is a missing persons case, of sorts. A teenager is trapped in a virtual world, and you need to figure out how to get him out.

It took me a little more than an hour to completely screw up my first case. The tutorial is great for the workings of the actual game, but doesn’t give you all that much in the way of hints about the world. You need to learn through trial and error, and I have no doubt I made a lot of errors. Sure, it’s possible that the opening missions could be a “destined for failure” story device, but I really believe I could have made better choices. I plan to go back and start over and make better choices.

Character creation is very basic. Name and pronouns don’t seem to have any effect on gameplay, but origin and values do have an effect. I saw a handful of times where having selected the “Low City” origin gave me specific dialogue options; I have to assume that choosing the opposite “High City” origin would have a similar impact. Your values selection determines your starting value in the game’s four stats, called aspects, which are used to purchase profession perks.

Your profession perks will have a pretty hefty impact on the conversations you’ll have throughout the game, and conversely, the conversational tacks you take will dictate the professions available to you as you play through the game. Aspects tend to build up rather quickly as you interact with people both in the real world and the virtual one. Although it may be tempting to try to save up your aspect points for certain perks, it also feels like having perks is pretty vital to being able to truly dig into the case your working on. It’s an interesting system that I’m looking forward to exploring more deeply as I proceed through the story.

Gamedec gives you a lot of leeway in how you approach your job, and that leeway includes the ability to make incorrect deductions if you don’t (or can’t) get people to tell you the truth about the things you want to know. But while you can be wrong, the game seems to prevent you from being wrong in anything but very specific ways – the things you know unlock certain pre-determined deductions for you to choose from. It’s sort of a simplistic system, but it prevents you from just barreling through the story or just falling into major plot points. Some folks will probably find it annoying, but I appreciate the idea to maintain narrative integrity.

How Long to Beat indicates that playing through Gamedec will take most players less than a dozen hours. While I’m unlikely to play the game in its entirety more than once, I’m already feeling the tug to restart to see if I can do a better job of getting at the truth of what’s going on in my first case, and hopefully have a more successful result. While this text-heavy cyberpunk RPG won’t be for everyone, it’s pretty much exactly what I had been hoping it would be so far.

SteamDB estimates that Gamedec has sold between 19,400 and 53,500 copies on Steam. Overall, reviews are pretty positive, with the majority of negative reviews citing an exposition heavy latter half and a confusing ending. It is ranked 1818 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Backed It! Beasts of Maravilla Island

I am forever looking for the next deeply chill game to add to my library for days when I just want to relax and not think too hard. I’m also kind of a sucker for games where taking pictures is the main way of interacting with the world, despite the fact that my IRL cameras mostly collect dust these days. So when I stumbled across Beasts of Maravilla Island on Kickstarter, I didn’t even hesitate.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a meager $5 pledge gets a digital copy for either PC or Switch, and that the game is anticipated to release before the end of the year. Sure, Kickstarter is always kind of a risk, but I’ve pledged quite a bit more for projects that I was less excited about.

There is a demo of Beasts of Maravilla Island currently available over on Itch.io, so even though I’d already backed the project, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s a little glitchy at the moment, but it’s also adorable and delightful, and it just made me more excited for the full game.

There’s some light puzzle-solving, but mostly, you are expected to wander around and take photos of all the creatures of Maravilla Island. You have your grandfather’s journal, full of his observations and drawings of the local wildlife, and you have a photo album to fill (as well as a checklist to help you fill it).

Ideally, the developers would like to release Beasts of Maravilla Island for free, but they haven’t made a final determination of the release price – it may end up being more than the $5 you’d get it for by supporting the campaign. They have already reached their Kickstarter goal, but they’re just over a week in, so there’s plenty of time to back this one if you’re so inclined. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!