“Times are hard all over, but, for a street urchin like yourself, this is a meal fit for a king. It’s a good thing you grabbed this delicacy off the trash heap before any of the other street urchins found it! Granted, it’s not as good as a shiny red apple snatched from an unsuspecting fruitmonger’s cart or a cooling pie left unattended on a windowsill, but your stomach won’t feel the difference once it’s filled.”
“And who could have pulled off such a daring heist, raiding the trashcans outside John D. Rockefeller’s mansion for edible consumptibles? No one other than you, Lil’ Ragamuffin — — the roughest, toughest urchin to ever scuttle the backalleys and gutters of Garbagetown DC and the best apple snatcher east of the Allegheny Plateau! No wonder you’re considered Public Enemy Number Two by the Office of the Urchinfinder General. (Though, you think bitterly, you really should be Public Enemy Number ONE…)”
“Ringmaster? Carnival? Is you some kind of circus man?”
“Not just SOME kind of circus man!” says T.I. Urge. “The Carnival of Regrets is only the greatest traveling show on earth, with thrills to chill you and chills to thrill you! Sights that will amaze even the most jaded urchin, yes, even you, my dear girl! And best of all, the Carnival of Regrets is always recruiting new talent.”
With my golden ticket in hand, I emerge into the circus, musically accompanied by a drunken calliope playing Entry of the Gladiators (a little bit of google and youtube-searching revealed what that classic circus music actually is). Other bits of contemporary reference fill out game background: it is November 13th 1929 (unlucky for some… well, this is the time of the Great Depression) and Herbert Hoover is president.
Bitter Karella aka Mike Rosen won the alumni choice ribbon in the 2017 Spring Thing Festival of Interactive Fiction for this game, and with its sequel an entrant in the IF-COMP 2017, I thought it an apt time to play it. Rosen is actually a graphic novelist, and Guttersnipe is originally a webcomic: the only one on the Internet made in an authentic 1920s newspaper comic style: which means they use 100% orphan labor in printing, distribution, and clean up, apparently. Orphan custodians mop up spilled isopropanol, and orphan pinkertons break up strikes by orphan labourers.
With the circus music still playing in the background via youtube, how did the actual game measure up?
Well, presentation-wise it looks very neat. A handy map appears in the top-half of the screen as you progress, and you can left-click action words rather than using pure text entry. This is somewhat handy, considering the text entry is occasionally a tad inadequate.
Guttersnipe does a reasonable job of conjuring the atmosphere; there is plenty of circus fare to get your teeth into, from dodgems to popcorn to the homicidal communist vampire devilbeast… At times though some of the character or animal descriptions seem like they would have translated better to a point-and-click adventure; and it could do with driving through the action a little slower. As such, it feels a bit like you’re just ticking off a puzzle checklist. A positive thing about this game though, is that, despite the user-friendly interface, it does not hold your hand at all.
There are awkward moments too. GIVE TICKET – to who – TO MAN. You can’t. But you can GIVE TICKET TO MAN. A character is called ABRACADABRAGAIL, and you can’t TALK TO ABRA or TALK TO GAIL, to save my fingers, though at least you can TALK TO GIRL. Response time can be a bit slow at times (it’s hosted at textadventures.co.uk but I would suggest downloading), and the poster text dumps, despite being relevant enough are generic enough to jump past without really reading.
Ultimately, the puzzles feel a bit arbitrary, and not quite engaging enough to spur you on. But the very fact that we have an indie comic transplanted into a game is just great.