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Sting of the Wasp

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2004, Jason Devlin

A fun entry in the 10th Interactive Fiction Competition, Sting of the Wasp (SotW) is a fun game with an interesting premise not usually seen in computer games: you have been caught in a compromising situation, and you need to do some ‘crisis management’ before your husband finds it. This SPAG review by Jessica Knoch says it all:

“[SotW] is the only “Interactive Damage Control” that I’ve played. It certainly seemed like an unusual premise: you’ve been caught in a compromising position, and someone took a picture. You’ve got to find out who and destroy the evidence before anyone has a chance to tell your husband.

The game begins with a warning about the strong language and sexual references. I am almost universally in favor of these types of warnings, and I much appreciate being told about things like that ahead of time. The warning also says “Despite the first scene, this is not a pornographic game.” That originally gave me a good deal of pause, but I decided to try it out anyway. It turns out to be mostly true: the game is not pornographic, but the first scene *is* — or at least it’s rated R. But none of that part is interactive, so those who are uncomfortable with such things can close their eyes until that first room description rolls around.

The player character, Julia, is not the nicest person in the world — we know from the first scene that she’s having an affair — but her personality is very distinct, and it is shown very well throughout the game. The setting is the country club that the PC and her husband belong to. There are suspects everywhere — apparently none of these people particularly care for the PC. Everyone is competing for status, snidely putting the PC down and trying to make each other look bad. Interaction with the NPCs is pretty thorough — they even react (usually by making catty comments) to weird things you do as the PC, like search the bushes, or try to walk east when there is no exit that way. It’s too bad the game doesn’t recognize “talk to “, because that seems very intuitive and makes sense, especially given the special note in the help menu — “talk to about ” *is* implemented.

The hint menu has an attitude, which I like. The first hint I saw was an excellent one, which really gave me an idea of what I needed to do without making me feel like I had been told what to do. Unfortunately, not all of the hints were quite that helpful. For instance, a simple “Have you talked to Rodrigo” (names have been changed) doesn’t do me much good if I don’t remember who Rodrigo is, or know where he can be found. A different hint might tell me he’s on the polo field (places have been changed), but if the only reference to the polo field I can find is a location titled “Outside Stable (next to the Polo Field)” with no mention of how to get there, then I’m still kind of lost. Especially since the game is pretty consistent about listing the exits in all the other rooms.

I had a few troubles finding the syntax required for certain actions, but eventually (with the help of the hints) I made my way through the puzzles. And oh, what fun puzzles they were! If I have a choice between knowing what needs to be done but struggling with the syntax, and wandering around trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, I’ll take the former every day of the week. Still, I ran into trouble again when I needed to use the phone and the hints said “See ‘Xavier won’t let me use the phone!’”, but I couldn’t find any such hint. I thought I was in an unwinnable state, having missed my opportunity to use the phone, but it turned out I was wrong. The game was pretty forgiving, right up until the endgame, and I had plenty of warning that it wasn’t going to be forgiving.

But what about the story? you ask. It wasn’t just all running around solving puzzles, giving x to y and unlock doors, was it? Well, maybe, but it didn’t feel like that because of the characters. You see, in order to get what she wants, Julia (the PC) has to find out some secrets of the other people at the country club and exploit them. The parts that I started guessing ahead of time (like the two people I suspected were “an item”) were very satisfying to confirm! Then I suspected that someone else was after someone else — the whole thing was a cross between a soap opera, a detective story, and some type of show where you’re the criminal and you have to cover your tracks. I can’t think of what that would be. Anyways, I liked it.”

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