ParserComp: Mean Streets

meanstreetContinuing reviews of ParserComp games, we come to Mean Streets (Bad Dog Studios).

Plot: A self-consciously daft Death Wish kind of thing. The antihero, Dirk Justice, is a newly ex-detective, up against the corrupt justice system and evil gangsters of Grittyville. Divested of his badge and weapons, he goes on a one-man rampage to clean up the streets armed with whatever he can lay his hands on. Dirk wanders around the cartoonish run-down metropolis, encounters two-dimensional bad guys, administers beatings until information arises, then administers more beatings until justice is done. Plausibility is not a high priority here.

‘Ex-cop accumulates weapons arsenal and goes on anti-crime rampage’ is… an especially ugly trope right now, goofy presentation or no; even a cartoony Dirk Justice looks, at best, like a murderous fool. I don’t think it’s actually trying to advocate any coherent political argument so much as recycling material from recycled material from things that were: there are some scraps of social commentary, some of which allude hazily to contemporary issues, but they seem more an attempt to evoke an overblown grittiness than anything.

Anyway. There is a plot, and it exists for its own sake rather than to justify mechanics, so that’s a 2.

Writing: Again, this is aiming for trashy and largely achieves it.

Derelict bank – dark room
You’re in a dark room, the tiled floor noisy under your feet. A shrine made of human limbs frames the wall to the north. Obscene pictograms have been painted on the walls with human blood and faeces. South leads back.

A killer is here.

While the writing is hackneyed and graceless, it does do the basic job of delivering its information clearly, and it doesn’t have a conspicuous problem with spelling, punctuation and grammar. 2.

Puzzles: The most conspicuous mode of interaction is a simple combat system. It’s… really bad. You can wield different weapons, lots of which are available, but there’s no clear sign of whether one is any better than another. Fights are lengthy, undramatic, minimally-described slugfests with no tactical element; they last so long that the principals start healing in the middle of them. The only way to check how close you are to death is to examine yourself, which wastes a turn of combat.

There are some other puzzles of the find-thing unlock-thing level. Advancing the plot requires you to talk to a lot of NPCs about specific topics; while the topics in question are mostly reasonable, and each plot-point gives you decent pointers to the next, the NPCs are so unresponsive in other respects, and require such specific words for the topics, that it was kind of a struggle to get anywhere without the walkthrough. 2.

Theme: No apparent use. 1.

Technical: This is an extremely bare-bones piece, with little in the way of polish or player-friendly additions. There is an inventory limit, which creates a lot of bootless busywork; there are lots of keys that have to be referred to specifically when unlocking things. There are lots of extremely flat NPCs who have to be asked about very specific topics. All that said, I played through the thing (relying rather on the walkthrough) without hitting any play-obstructing bugs, so it gets a 2.

Overall: I’ve played shoddier games than this (boy howdy), but this is not great. It doesn’t quite reach the nonsensical ridiculousness of a Slasher Swamp or a Detective, so it’s not even quite worth recommending as a piece to giggle at; that said, it’s just about playable, and is evidently intended in good faith, so that’s a 2.

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2 Responses to ParserComp: Mean Streets

  1. Truthfully awful. Looked a bit promising from the prologue, but quickly derailed into something akin to Scott Adams+Charles Bronson.

    At least I had opened the carboard box and found xyzzy to replenish my health during battles… there’s just so many non-sensical stuff from this man essentially of the law – like breaking into houses for no given reason than that you have no clue what to do next and there’s stupid keys lying around…

  2. Pingback: ParserComp Summary | These Heterogenous Tasks

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