Lost Sheep: Found!

As you might guess from my last rss-buffer entry, I’m not particularly church-going.    Aside from involuntarily dropping the f-bomb in polite company like some kind of syphilis-maddened avante-garde poet, I have the odd luck of going to church (any church) when the normal pastor is out sick and they have temporarily replaced him or her with Embarrassingly Crazy Preacher From Dimension Y.

The last time this happened, I was visiting a friend’s church nearby, and sure enough the normal guy (who was supposed to be giving a sermon on the importance of cultivating unconditional love and tolerance) was out sick.  His replacement for the day spent a solid hour giving a very heartfelt, impassioned speech that every single “negative” mental state humans have (anger, anxiety, lust, depression, what-have-you) is literally a demon trying to invade our souls*.  By the end of it, half of the congregation was face-palming, and the other half were desperately fashioning tin-foil hats.

So these days I generally just stay at home and try to be as good a person as possible to other people.

All that aside, I like bible stories.  And I’m always interested to see how people repackage and retell their favorites.   So up next we have The Lost Sheep, a z-code game by Ben Pennington, based on a very gentle parable.  Let’s take a gentle look.

Part One: The Playthrough

Involuntarily humming “where oh where has my little dog gone?”, which is one of those songs I had totally forgotten existed after the age of four or so.  If nothing else, this game reconnected me with a tiny piece of my childhood.

> search bushes
As you walk forward, the bush rustles loudly. You pull away the leaves, and there it is: your lost sheep!
Well… that was sure easy.

The sheep, shocked at its discovery, leaps high into the air and vaults the hedge to the southeast.
Oh, there we go.  Note to self: Breed sheep without legs.  Possibly wheels.  Sheep cannot jump if they have wheels.

I think I’ve played this game before, except I was an orc and the sheep was a pig, and there was a gnome trying to explain magnetism to me.  Great, now I’m wondering if the gnome in Lost Pig was some kind of complicated Christian metaphor.  Back to the game at hand, brain!

Huh, the sheep is now jumping from bush to bush.  If we consider the parable as being about guiding a lost soul back to God, then these bushes probably represent some kind of sin.  Juniper berries make gin, and soldiers during WWI used to smoke hawthorn, and rosemary… what the hell does rosemary do?  You can cook with it, I think?  So… the sheep’s jumping between the sordid vices of alcoholism, drug use, and Mediterranean cuisine.  Deep.  This episode of “totally overthinking hedgerow plants in a Bible game” has been brought to you by Skittles (taste the rainbow).

The juniper bush stops burning and returns exactly to the state it was before. You think you hear a chuckle from above, but you can’t be sure.
George Burns?  That you?

Ooo, a herd of buffalo.  This game has some amusing commands, let’s try something:

> shuffle buffalo
That’s not a verb I recognise.

The sheep walks purposefully into the small hut.
Ah-HA!  This sheep’s been cheating on me with another shepherd!  What a twist ending!

And I won already.  Crazy!  Gonna go back through, as is my custom, and try some of the AMUSING stuff.

> sheep, eat grass
There is no grass left. Your sheep cannot live without grass.
*** You have killed your herd. ***
ahahahaha, awesome failure message.

And I think that’s it for now.

Part Two: The Rundown

You could basically sum this up as a “cute little game”.  It reminded me of Sunday school, funny enough, when we were old enough to learn the stories, but not really what those stories *meant*.  Noah’s Ark focusing on the animal bit, etc.  Reminds me of a kinder, simpler time in my life.

I liked the amusing stuff packed into the game, too.  The gentle humor was nice and got a chuckle in a couple of places, and although the writing didn’t really stand up and dance, it mostly got the job done.

Technically the game was well-implemented; I didn’t come across any missing descriptions or weird bugs.  The puzzle quality was mixed; the central “set fire to bushes” puzzle seemed like too much of an intuitive leap for my tastes.

The game completely sidestepped the “why” of the story, which I’m not sure is a positive or negative.  The author certainly wasn’t trying to ram any theology down anyone’s throat or preach about anything (something my agnostic/athiest colleagues will likely appreciate).

Even so, I kind of find myself sad about that, despite being fairly agnostic myself.  The gist of the parable (Jesus shaming a bunch of men who were ragging on him for hanging out with sinners, and not spending more time with shit-don’t-stink gents like themselves) is interesting and raises a lot of questions worth exploring in some context or other.  I would’ve liked to have seen a little of that, even if it was just some jerk following me around occasionally yelling “That sheep ain’t worth it!” or something.  I know some people would’ve argh’d at that if it was badly done, and it wasn’t what the author was going for, but I would have enjoyed seeing some discussion-by-doing of the point.

In the meantime, cute little game.  A touch bland in my humble opinion, but cute nonetheless.

*Look, what the preacher said may actually be true, I don’t know.  All I know is, my hyper-active imagination would very quickly build an entire mythos out of this kind of thing if I let it.  You’d find me two months later, dressed in a shaman’s costume, imploring the cell phone elementals to grant me reception in that notorious dead zone between Half Moon Bay and San Mateo.


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