Youdunnit

Well I'm back from my magical mystical world tour - tanned, hungover and not entirely sure of where I've been. Sure I can look at my album of embarassing pictures to fill in the alcohol-induced holes in my memory, but after playing this week's game I'm not sure I could tackle this. Relying on pictures, I'd have to piece together a timeline from static flashbacks. Like Memento but with more coconuts and rum. If this week's game has taught me anything, it's that I'm not very good at this.

Youdunnit is a murder-mystery game where you are the murderer. The game is set on some kind of steampunk spaceship where the captain has been murdered. You play while an investigator goes over the evidence. You take control during flashbacks, recreating the scenes where the various pieces of evidence were left by the murderer. You go gradually further back in time with each flashback until the flashback is set just seconds after the murder.

The struggle for you as the player to not break causality. This means that as the investigator goes back through the story, everything has to make sense. If you replay a flashback and you don't have an alibi at the end of the flashback, or the murder weapon is found in someone's room who has an alibi, the investigator will get suspicious. That ends badly for you. So you need to recreate a nice, neat little package for the investigator—one that not only makes sense but also frames one of the other crew members. If not, you end up floating outside the airlock.

The writing itself is a pretty fun mix of the absurd with a steampunk Victorian style. The game was written and coded in 48 hours as part of a Global Game Jam, so it's fairly rough around the edges. It's also insanely hard. It will take several playthroughs to get the hang of the mechanics. How long will it take to win? I'll let you know when I get there.

Why You Should Check This Out: Youdunnit is a challenging, unique puzzle game where you're piecing together the evidence of a murder after the crime has been committed, in reverse order during flashbacks and playing as the murderer trying to frame another crew member. This game is mind-bending in all the good ways and has just enough of a sense of humor about itself to keep it fun througout. If you want to give your brain a good workout, this is a game worth checking out.

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Comments

I think I'm starting to understand Chris Hecker's GDC10 rant, Please Finish Your Game. This game-jam culture is great and all, but it'd be nice to see these ideas explored more fully.

Not that I've even tried Youdunnit, but that was my first reaction after reading the article.

There's probably some value in "crowd-sourcing" unfinished design concepts by whipping up a compelling prototype, tossing it out for the world to chew on, and trusting that if there was value in it, either someone else will pick up the ball and run with it to completion or that they'll compel you to do so. Certainly Desktop Dungeons has sort of ended up in the latter situation.

But I agree, it can be wearying for indie game fans to feel like we're being used as unpaid alpha testers by game developers who just want to workshop ideas. (I also have not had a chance to try this yet, though I will do so later tonight.)

scribble wrote:

I think I'm starting to understand Chris Hecker's GDC10 rant, Please Finish Your Game. This game-jam culture is great and all, but it'd be nice to see these ideas explored more fully.

Not that I've even tried Youdunnit, but that was my first reaction after reading the article.

I dunno. Hecker makes a good point about depth, but I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes putting aside your ambition and instead creating something that you can handle in a short amount of time can do wonders for avoiding burnout. I have spent a very long time working on (or, more accurately, not working on) an overly ambitious game idea, which I just recently shelved in favor of building a smaller game. I have to say, doing something that I think that I can reasonably finish with just a couple of weeks of spare-time coding feels like being able to breathe again after being suffocated - even though it remains to be seen at this point if I can actually finish the damn thing.

I've played the game 3 times, beat it on the third time. Definitely a bit rough, but I like the concepts.

Despite how tough it is to sometimes determine what actions require actions earlier in the game, it is a little too easy to avoid them. Maybe a higher difficulty level with less hiding spots and more consequences for being in/entering a room with people in it. It would be a lot more interesting if the last (or second last) level was a series of complex manueverings to set up all your previous alibis/framings in the right order.

edit: maybe a requirement to talk to each person in each hour, so that the difficulty of keeping a mental checklist / avoiding people to talk to them increases? A variety of Clue-like references to keep in mind, so you have to remember to catch certain people in certain rooms, with certain timing or items? It feels like they had the beginning of that in mind, but maybe just didn't have time to fully implement it.

Yeah, even though it's a complex game it has a really simple solution that robs the game of its purpose.

Spoiler:

If you avoid everyone you don't have any lies you need to cover up. Right before the last scene the detective will say the names of everyone who has an alibi. All you need to do is put the murder weapon in the possession of someone who doesn't have an alibi.

The problem with the game is that instead of using the information you learn through interactions to cover up the crime, you need to instead avoid learning any information so that your mistakes never happen. Also another problem is you need to play it several times to even understand what the hell is going on.

Actually, it's a layer deeper than that Latrine.

Spoiler:

You can lock yourself into a corner if you fail to leave the same person consistently without an alibi (alone in a room) for each iteration. I believe the detective only lists the people without an alibi from the most recent iteration.

Spoiler:

Well, I was able to blunder through and win the game without knowing that mechanic. Which I think is another fault of the game that I didn't understand that.

And here I was hoping this would be a video game version of Kill Doctor Lucky. Ah well. This sounds neat too.

Poor Mr Moe Nacle, he went down for my crimes on my second attempt. I did find the

Spoiler:

avoiding everyone

approach the easiest way to do it.

Sounds like an interesting idea, I'll have to give it a try.