PEGBRJE: A Mortician’s Tale and Lenna’s Inception
A Mortician’s Tale is a point and click narrative by Laundry Bear Games where you play out a, well, mortician’s tale. I’d briefly heard of this experience when it first came out as the art caught my eye instantly, yet I knew nothing of the actual game going in. My only understanding of it was the self-proclaimed ‘death positive’ narrative, which meant little to me at the time. I’d never viewed death as anything other than an inevitability of life, so I was unsure of this ideological standpoint. Credit to where it is due, A Mortician’s Tale helped me understand what exactly they meant.
A Mortician’s Tale does quite a lot with the little that it has by first explaining the funeral process of embalming as Charlie, the mortician, prepares the deceased. The actions Charlie takes are more of a vehicle in explaining the process as she cleans, sutures and embalms the person before attending the funeral in the next room. From there, she can interact with the grieving members before returning to her next appointment. I had been familiar with the process of embalming, especially of the dangers of formaldehyde, but it surprised me by teaching me about cremation and funeral practices that I had previously believed otherwise.
I’d also like to point out that the sound design is unnervingly good, especially during the preparation of the deceased. The added emphasis on each action I take from suturing to removing liquid by having the background music as soft as possible was chilling. I’m uncertain if this was the intended effect, as it made me question the actions I was taking and their legitimacy due to how uncomfortable I was feeling. Whatever the case, it was impressive at the least.
These aspects lead me into what the gameplay is attempting to convey: the death-positive narrative. Charlie reads the newsletters for morticians about death-centric laws and customs regarding the deceased, while also conversing with her friend in England who works as a museum curator specializing in death as well. Charlie talks with the funeral director and learns of her struggles, while also bringing up the contrast of this funeral culture’s reliance on dangerous techniques and chemicals and the ‘calmness’ it can attempt to imbue in the grieving family members. It lambastes those that misgender the deceased, or refuse to follow the wills of the deceased, which I would go into more detail… but…
I cannot say much more without spoiling plot points in the game, as it’s unfortunately short — I finished within 30 minutes. However, within those 30 minutes I learned more about the process and environment of morticians than I had in my life. I strongly encourage a play-through of A Morticians Tale to anyone wanting to view death in a light not commonly seen by today’s standards. It didn’t change my opinion on death, but it did give a new perspective.
On a completely different note, Lenna’s Inception.
Lenna’s Inception is a 2D action rpg parody made by Bytten Studios, featuring some former Starbound developers. I’d never heard of this game before the bundle, with my only previous knowledge being of the developers when they were still a part of Chucklefish. You play as Lenna, a teacher of some kind, when suddenly everything glitches and the world turns into the Legend of Zelda gone wrong. Even to the untrained eye, there are dozens of similarities to the beloved franchise before the game really starts. As a leading expert at being untrained at Zelda games, I was able to follow along with the unabashed parodying of the franchise.
You must understand, I have never finished a single Legend of Zelda game in my life. I own Ocarina of Time, yet I’m told that I’m sitting about halfway through the game. Many of the parody elements may be lost on me, I’ve resigned myself to the fact. Yet with how large LoZ’s impact has been on video games, specifically action rpgs, many of these parodied elements resonated with me enough that I could at least appreciate them. It also doesn’t hurt that the writing in this game is really well executed, keeping it punchy and exciting while also having enough nods to the original content it takes from. Lenna’s Inception flaunts its Legend of Zelda roots so openly, yet keeps itself fresh and fun in themes and execution. The phone is especially a nice touch.
There is one aspect I’d like to draw attention to, and that is the procedural generation. The worldbuilding is superb, but the world that is being built is randomly crafted, which means that each area will have less ‘direction’. I can understand the appeal of a Legend of Zelda with infinite replayability as the dungeons are different every time, but the caveat being that there are going to be places that are a little awkward to navigate at times. I’m still unsure of if this is inherently a bad thing or not; more an observation on the conflicting forces in game design if you will. Action rpgs thrive on their gameplay, but also the environments that the gameplay takes place in-level design is crucial to keep players engaged when moving from area to area, and procedurally generated maps makes this more difficult to execute cleanly.
Lenna’s Inception also allows for couch co-op adventures, which I wish more games had, but that’s just a side note for another time.
If you are looking for a parody of Link’s adventures where he doesn’t actually get to have adventures, give this game a shot. It’s witty, punchy and overtly blunt in its satire— you even get a chicken as a companion. If you are more like me, a fan of action rpgs but haven’t played LoZ but know all of the memes because the internet is flooded with them, Lenna’s Inception will give you a solid adventure where everything is going wrong.
Links below to both games’ itch.io pages.
A Mortician's Tale
A Mortician's Tale is a story-driven death positive video game where you play as a mortician tasked with running a…