The HeBGB Horror! by Eric Mayer(1999)

The Little Evil, Evil Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: Hey Little Buddy! ANARCHY RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Little Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: This game claims to be propogating the ideals of senseless destruction, reckless nihilism, and violent revolution. However, it is actually a piece of mainstream worthless sellout MTV pseudo-punk crap, so even I can enjoy it. Green Day rocks! Aw man, especially those sensitive rage ballads. They're the bestest!

My Verdict: It's total PUNK ROCK!

The Review

Depending on who you ask, CBGB just stands for Country, Bluegrass, and Blues, or for the Country Blue Grass Bar. However, it doesn't make too much of a difference because CBGB is the name of a little club which is one of the most famous and the most legendary in all of New York City not because of the country and bluegrass performers who were its main attraction for a good part of its existence, but instead for the proto-punk/punk performers who found an unlikely haven there beginning in the early 1970s. A few of the best bands of the era were regulars there: Television, the Ramones, Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, etc. The club is still around today, a surviving, unrepentant relic of the early years of punk. New bands still play there, and old friends often make appearances...only trouble is that Agnostic Front are not exactly the Ramones. Heck, even the Ramones aren't exactly the Ramones anymore. Never you mind: CBGB's will always be remembered as one of the most exciting American musical Meccas this century. The real question is this: Why the heck am I talking about all this crap? Well, it's just that this game is an amusing take on the club and the scene set in modern times. Sorry for the history lesson...let's talk about the game!

As the game opens, you cannot help but be struck by the author's control of the English language. His words are sure to instill to the player an impression of the "choking miasma" and generally all around unhealthy atmosphere which makes New York City one of the ugliest, most unpleasant cities in all the world. And let's not forget those tall, cadaverous looking strangers, either. Well, gee, we are in for an evening of fun, ain't we? You betcha! You play a man by the name of Phil Howard, a musician who idolizes the bands which made the world famous HeBGB' famous. You're especially fond of this little combo called the Laughing Kats, who might or might not have some connection with actual CBGB's regulars the Laughing Dogs. You've come to New York City to breathe the same polluted air breathed by your heroes, to tread on the same hallowed ground their blood, sweat, and tears made holy, and probably for lots of other stupid poetic reasons. I mean, hey, Television and the Ramones are a couple of my favorite bands of all time, but let's not overdo it, alright? Not that this game does or anything, of course. As you can see(mebbe), the game's plot and atmosphere is excellent. But the real question is this: how the heck does the game PLAY?

Pretty well, I'd say. No, it isn't perfect by any means. For one thing, it's a bit difficult to figure out what one really needs to do at first - the fact that the player is limited to navigating through only five rooms until he completes several important actions conveys a feeling of claustrophobia which may put you off. It did put me off at first, for sure, for this was one of the first games I played in the comp since I was so pleased with the other ALAN entry(Mikko Vuorinen's King Arthur's Night Out). It took me till now to come back to it and seriously play it. As I alluded to a couple sentences ago, the game is written with ALAN, which doesn't currently have the strongest parser of all the various interactive fiction development systems/languages available, but I don't have any serious complaints to make about the parser, really. The real determiner in how good a parser is is how well the author of the game predicts what his/her players will do. Eric did pretty well in predicting what I would do, I think, though I did quite a bit worse in predicting what Eric wanted me to do. Indeed, the game is pretty darned hard for a thirty three point game - depending on how you see it, this is either the game's strength or its greatest weakness. The game's time/task oriented events are rather subtle, making it easy to miss important changes in your environment. In particular, I'm afraid the search for a certain monetary unit would confuse quite a few genuine newbies who noticed its eventual location when they first started the game, and found nothing for their search(then). That's not a serious complaint, though - even newbies have got to get used to a little subtlety every now and then. All in all, I'm very pleased with the game. The plot is novel and interesting, the puzzles are difficult, the gameplay is good enough, and the writing is in places superb. Not bad at all! You'll especially enjoy it if you know something of punk culture, but even if you don't there's no reason why you won't find the game a pleasant experience.

Simple Rating: 7/10

Complicated Rating: 33/50

Story: 7/10

Writing: 7/10

Playability: 6/10

Puzzle Quality: 6/10

Parser Responsiveness: 7/10

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