Fancy A Decent Adventure? Then Go For A: PISS

By John Walker on January 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

Edit: New hosting for the file! Get it here. Many thanks to the splendid Projector Games.

Do you want to be told a good story? That’s one of the purest pleasures of the adventure game – the embracing of the linear, pre-destined story that someone wants to tell you. While I often crave a divergent, dynamic and interactive game in which my choices have significance, there’s something wonderful about abandoning all of that, and being the agent that allows a story to be told.

So it was a couple of days ago that I cried out on Twitter asking for a new adventure to play. And via various responses, the creator of many superb games – Ben Chandler – linked me to his unavailable adventure, PISS. Created as part of a collection briefly available last Summer, those who missed it at the time haven’t been able to access it since. Fortunately, despite plans to sell it at a later date, Chandler has agreed to let us link to the Dropbox containing the whole game, which you can grab now.

And you should. Because the name betrays nothing of what’s in this game. (In fact, that matter is neatly addressed by the game, as a simile within a simile by a man who deals in similes.) This is the story of Moira, a mercenary with a severe drink problem, desperate to ensure she keeps forgetting whatever it is that she’s forgotten. Haunted by dreams, and having lost track of her murderous past, she’s aimless and depressed, on the hunt for coin to buy more booze.

As you might expect, this of course means you’re headed on a journey of some self-discovery. Heading to collect your money from your most recent client, you find he’s betrayed you by dying, and taking his money with him. So things start off with an attempt to reclaim the coins, and spiral off into something far more complex shortly after.

PISS is primarily formed of conversations, which gives the game a significant interactive fiction vibe. There are puzzles too, there’s an inventory, but for the most part you’re chatting with the game’s other characters, occasionally running favours for them, and opening up your understanding of the situation as you go along. And it’s compelling.

While there are a few too many threads opened up that aren’t ever closed, the journey Moira goes on is a strong idea. And more importantly, the people in the world feel instantly interesting and individual. Chandler’s prose is clean and punchy, and characters quickly convey personalities that reach below the surface. Everything is carefully detailed, objects in the world receiving extended descriptions rather than dismissive statements of the obvious.

Then the artwork. If you’ve played any of Chandler’s games before, or indeed enjoyed the character animation in Dave Gilbert’s Blackwell games, you’ll know just how skilled he is at pixel art. Hand painted backgrounds are all gorgeous, and the characters display skill beyond what you’d see in the format’s heyday of the mid-90s.

I think what’s most important here is that I instantly cared about Moira, despite her immediate characteristics venturing close to cliché. It overcomes that, and it’s hard not to feel affection for this broken drunk who’s lost all hope. That she’s smart is helpful, but she’s also sympathetic, which is something that’s far too often forgotten when writing game protagonists. Well, sympathetic to some – willing to ruin the lives of those who’ve crossed her.

There’s one other element that needs to be mentioned. Unusually for adventure games, it has a sex scene. The set up to this, and the reason for its happening, are all great. The moment itself is perhaps a little cloying and over-written. The message it conveys – the intensity of the internal struggle Moira faces with her decision to detach herself from her emotions – is successfully delivered. But there are a few groans of the wrong sort in the process.

This aside, PISS is a really strong game, and a story well worth being told. I find myself wanting a director’s cut, one that elaborates on some of the characters’ stories that just fall aside, and tightens up the slightly unpolished final scenes. But this is a fantastic adventure, and if you grab it now, it’s also completely free. That’s well worth doing.

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71 Comments »

  1. jedoran says:

    Heh… PISS. That’s a lot like the word ‘piss’.

    • emilyaustin8 says:

      I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do..http://fff.to/g9p

      • Poliphilo says:

        I’ve made 19 million dollars this year by finding a comically large wallet lying in the middle of the street. It took some doing getting it back to the flat and I got some weird looks when I deposited it at my bank, but it was so easy I’ve invested all my money in a business which tells people to wander the street at night to get lucky like I did. Obviously this means the end of the financial crisis, as well as definitively proving that capitalism is not a pyramid scheme!

  2. AmateurScience says:

    Well I’m glad this finally leaked onto the internet.

  3. Jarmo says:

    Thanks for the recommendation and thanks for the game, Mr. Chandler! How long does it (approximately) take to play the game to conclusion?

  4. Shadowcat says:

    I presume this is the big launch title for Valve’s console.

  5. popedoo says:

    Awesome – downloading now.

    Lol – Dropbox. This feels really ‘exclusive’ downloading this format!

    • LTK says:

      Especially when Dropbox starts shutting down public links that receive too much traffic. Such as now.

      • arrow says:

        Yep, I’m late too.
        Hoping for another download opportunity soon.

  6. Lambchops says:

    Like the sound of the concept, I’ll give it a download and do my best to remember to play it (I’ve played a couple of adventures recently and need a wee break before embarking on another one).

    • Llewyn says:

      Remembering to play all these games is a serious issue. I still need to remember to play… umm… actually, to remember the name of one of the IFs Porpentine posted about recently, something about typography and secret agents, written by Emily… somebody…

      Who am I and why am I here? Nurse!

      • wonderingmonster says:

        Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short? I remembered because it’s sitting there on my desktop, waiting.

      • Lambchops says:

        Yup, it’s Counterfeit Monkey and you should definitely remember to play it as it’s utterly excellent.

        Actually by remembering about remembering to play games I’ve just remembered that I keep meaning to play The Journey Down.

    • Lacessit says:

      *snigger* you said ‘wee’.

  7. Lumberjack_Man says:

    …and Dropbox have suspended the account due to unprecedented traffic. Anyone who grabbed it in time want to repost somewhere? Would that be OK with Mr Chandler?

  8. xmido says:

    Mirror?

  9. Chizu says:

    Oh dropbox, I hate you.
    Too much traffic, can’t download.
    guess I’ll have to pass for now.

    • The Random One says:

      Your haiku has too many syllables. I fixed it for you:

      Dropbox, I hate you
      Too much traffic, can’t download
      Oh, winter’s sorrow.

  10. The Lord of Leisure says:

    I’m happy to host the files for people if you want? Let me know.

    • savagenick says:

      Could you knock up a torrent file chap? Much easier to spread the “word” without kicking your bandwidth.

      • The Lord of Leisure says:

        I’m afraid I don’t have them to hand, if anyone does have them, that would be grand. According to my provider where I already have a site online, I didn’t have to worry about bandwidth, and besides if it helps spread the game about for folks to enjoy, I’m happy to just have it as a normal download for a bit.

      • Llewyn says:

        Nobody should be knocking up a torrent file for this, or even re-hosting it, without the express permission of its creator.

        • The Lord of Leisure says:

          No worries sir, must admit, was hoping that Ben would respond to this thread so then it would be easy to ask about this and confirms all is well. What’s the best way to reach him as from his site, didn’t really see any contact information.

        • savagenick says:

          Calm fella, we know the rules – if the creator is prepared to publicly share the dropbox link to the file I’m sure he’s ok with re-hosting. Need to check with him first of course.

          • Llewyn says:

            Quite possibly. But it does say in the article that he has plans for a paid release later, so there’s a chance he won’t want free downloads available outside his control, and especially torrents which are then outside anyone’s control.

          • The Lord of Leisure says:

            Llewyn, you’ve got a good point there, wasn’t even thinking of that considering he had put it on Dropbox.

            The only thing I could do is remove it from the host afterwards if requested, but once other people have it out there, I suppose the genie would be out of the bottle regardless as they could do what they like with the files. I’ve emailed John to see if he has contact info for Ben to ask permission, otherwise I’ll just have to leave it there.

          • djbriandamage says:

            FYI there’s a new mirror to download the game at the top of this article. Here’s the link again for those of you whose mouse wheels have spiny barbs:

            http://projectorgames.net/PISS.zip

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Thanks, looking forward to trying this when I get home.

  11. JB says:

    Thanks to RPS and Projector Games for helping us get hold of Ben’s PISS. And mostly, thank you for making your PISS freely available, Mr Chandler.

    I look forward to trying it.

    • blackguard says:

      This made me laugh more than should be legally allowed.

    • Snidesworth says:

      I’ve just finished his PISS myself and, I have to say, it’s quite remarkable. I highly recommend it to anyone even slightly curious about PISS and, as JB said, thanks for sharing your PISS with us Mr Chandler.

  12. Dervish says:

    Conversations = interactive fiction vibe? I don’t get that at all. I can probably count the number of IF games with good or otherwise notable conversations on one hand. Well, maybe both hands, but that definitely seems more like a graphic adventure game/WRPG thing.

  13. stele says:

    Anyone know of a fix for the really wonky mouse movement? I’m having a hard time clicking on things.

  14. Kasab says:

    I love the Planescape vibe. Also, any game named Piss deserves to be GOTY forever. Why don’t we name more of our games like that? Like, a text adventure called Embuggerance about a man with a sheep sodomy habit.

  15. qptain Nemo says:

    Hello, the composer here. Really glad to to see the game covered here, and with such praise. If anyone liked the music and wishes to grab the soundtrack either for free or for the price of supporting an independent developer with whatever you feel they deserve head here. :)

  16. caddyB says:

    I hope they make more of this. I’m enchanted. Will be buying more of his stuff as well, to show support.

  17. kalirion says:

    PISS really is an amazing piece of work (nope, not falling to temptation). Ben said himself previously that Planescape: Torment was one of his inspirations when developing this game, and it shows.

    Regarding the Blackwell games, I thought he only did the sprites for the most recent installment, Deception?

  18. Skabooga says:

    Oooh, what an unexpected gift. I’ll save myself from reading anything more about it and download it right now, and hopefully get a chance to play through it over the weekend. Thanks for the heads up, John, and thanks for your generosity, Mr. Chandler.

  19. johnki says:

    The link seems to be working again for anyone that wasn’t able to grab it before.

  20. Jarmo says:

    Thank you for a rather wonderful game, Mr. Chandler! It brought me a lot of enjoyment and also affected my emotions in desirable ways. Your efforts in creating it are much appreciated.

  21. BrokenButterfly says:

    I just got back from Limbo, this game is pretty damn fun. Puzzles are of course a joke and give item A to person B all the way through, but I love the story and dialogue.

    • BrokenButterfly says:

      Well, looks like I was five minutes from finishing the game.

      Here’s hoping for a sequel or another adventure in the game world.