Book ‘Em: Make It Good Is IF About An Alcoholic Detective

Undo undo undo undo.

“Word is: if you don’t crack this one, you’re out of a job.”

I’ve previously established that Where’s An Egg? is the best game about being a detective, but Make It Good is probably the best text adventure about being an alcholic detective. It was released in 2009 but I only discovered it this past week. It’s free and you can play it right now in your browser.

Detective stories are about information; what does the gumshoe know, what is he not saying, and who around him is lying or telling the truth. For that reason among others, they’re hard stories to turn into videogames, which rely on predicting player knowledge in order to control difficulty and progress. They’re also stories where the key verbs aren’t RUN and SHOOT, but TALK TO, EXAMINE, think.

In both respects, a text adventure is almost the perfect platform. A text adventure can tell you explicitly what you should know with every description, and they’re all about looking under, over and inside objects in search of some new detail. Make It Good goes further with two helpful narrative elements: one, that you’re an alcoholic, which casts your struggles with the text parser as the fumbling actions of a jittery drunk; and two, that the character you’re controlling knows more about his life than you do, which as Emily Short points out in this article, brings out “the alienation and cynicism of genre noir.”

When I first began playing, I figured it would be a game about exploring the environment, with a little character interaction thrown in. The latter proves far more important as the game goes along. There are unusual commands unique to the game – ACCUSE, for one, which you can employ at any time – but also the few other people you encounter are unusually complex. I haven’t completed it – I might be nowhere near – but it’s reached a point where I’ve stopped thinking of it as a puzzle a designer has created for me, and started to think of it as something much more natural and unpredictable. Like a story.

Alright, look, it’s free. It runs in your browser. You could be playing it already.

Are there more games about detectives that I should be playing?

18 Comments

  1. ghor says:

    This game is an immersive sim in text adventure form.

  2. karthink says:

    More *text* games about being a detective? Hmm. Have you tried Lost Pig, Graham? It’s mostly exploration, and it’s pretty good.

    EDIT: Ah, Make It Good is by Jon Ingold. He also wrote Insight, which is about solving a murder mystery on Mars, and All Roads, which is a delightfully complex nonlinear IF narrative, probably the best of its kind. Both worth a look, the latter especially so.

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      Graham Smith says:

      I have played Lost Pig and enjoyed it, thanks. I’m not looking only for text detective games, though. Any sort of crime solving will do.

      • all that swing means nothing says:

        You are going to want to look at PataNoir and Death off the Cuff for more quirky detective IFs.

  3. bosseye says:

    Man, this is hilarious. Takes me back to typing in high brow stuff on this dragon adventure on my primary schools only BBC computer game, EAT POO and other such pre-pubescent wit.

    I could get into this one though. Without any spoilers, I’ve given it 5 minutes and was examining the corpse when another policeman walked in and was a bit rude to me so I thought I would ‘PUNCH POLICEMAN’. There was a scuffle, some shouting and we dusted ourselves down, he was still a bit disrespectful so I went for him again, ‘PUNCH POLICEMAN’, another scuffle, I got the crap kicked out of me and game over. Before that I succumbed to the lure of the demon drink and didn’t make it out of the car, game over.

    My imagination is doing a brilliant job of filling in the gaps and some of the responses to your attempted actions are great.

  4. bosseye says:

    ‘PUNCH ANGELA’

    God, I’m dying here, this is brilliant. After battering one of the key witnesses for no reason, I’m off the force, sitting in my car looking at my broken whisky on the ground where I tried ‘THROW WHISKEY AT DOG’ earlier. Somehow I might be able to carry on with this adventure. Maybe there’s an APOLOGISE TO ANGELA command.

    Edit.

    ‘PUNCH DOG’

    Genius.

    • mft-dev says:

      My detective is carrying around a dead petunia in his pocket, somehow managed to get prints on the murder weapon while wearing gloves and have vandalized the crime scene – with the murder weapon. I never thought to punch anybody though, hold on…

      > stab maid

      • Haplo says:

        This is the first thing I did in this game:

        Front Porch
        A tasteful little porch; white painted wood strapped onto red-brick building. The front door is north, and through a small diamond of frosted glass you can make out nothing of the wood-panelled hallway inside. Your neck is sweating; sunlight hides behind the trees to the south. A hanging basket with a couple of petunias in is attached just to the left of the door.

        >pour whiskey on petunia
        The bottle’s not open. You’d like to say that’s a mistake you never make; but that’d be another lie to add to the rap sheet.

        >open whiskey
        Shaky fingers unscrew the cap. Oh, yeah.

        >pour whiskey on petunia
        You pour the fine, fine whiskey over the petunias. It’s hard. But you damn well do it anyway.

        >knock on door
        You knock a smart rap on the door. After a short wait the door opens, Angela’s face appears, then the rest of her. She looks just like she should considering, no time to do her face. “Yes? What do you want?” she says uncertainly. “Can I help you?”

        >take petunia
        You uproot a petunia. It’s a scraggy old thing.

        “Well, if you don’t mind, I’m very busy. And she slams the door shut.

        >knock on door
        You knock a smart rap on the door.

        After a short wait the door opens, Angela’s face appears, then the rest of her. She looks just like she should considering, no time to do her face. “You again! What do you want?”

        >eat petunia
        You swallow the whole damn plant. Bitter.

  5. joningold says:

    Nice! Thanks for the write-up.

    If anyone who plays is interested in what I’m doing 5 years later you could take a look at http://www.inklestudios.com. Still text.

    • Drayk says:

      I’ve heard about Sorcery! some time ago. Gonna try that now that I’ve a google tablet !

      Make it good seems really interesting… Just broke the wiskey bottle in an attempt to quit drinking… I shouldn’t try this game at work…

    • The Random One says:

      > PUNCH DEVELOPER

  6. Velthaertirden says:

    If you like detective adventures, then check out Deja Vu.

  7. theobjectlesson says:

    Registered just to tell you to check out Dangerous Curves. It’s got a whole city to explore, and your character must eat and sleep, sort of like a text-based version of Deadly Premonition set in the 40s.

  8. gayreth says:

    *SUPER DUPER DUPER DUPER DUPER SPOILERS*

    The point of the game is not to solve the crime, per say – it’s to realize that you are about to take the fall for it, and then manipulate the scene and the character relations in order to prevent that. There’s no actual way to “solve” the crime cleanly.

    Alternatively, you can just choke out the maid and then booze yourself into a stupor so you can be free of the burden of consciousness when they come to take you away.

    More video games need the ol’ “physically-assault-the-cleaning-staff-then-drink-to-oblivion” option. ‘Tis a classic.

  9. Haplo says:

    Just finished it.

    A++, would lose 12 hours over again.

  10. BooleanBob says:

    Photopia

  11. KirbyEvan says:

    Insight, although already recommended, is also by Jon and is one of my favorite IF’s.