PEGBRJE: One-Eyed Lee and the Dinner Party and Vienna Automobile Society
One of length, one of not.
One-Eyed Lee and the Dinner Party is a point and click narrative adventure made by DarkChibiShadow, a comic artist and visual novelist out of the USA. Players follow the story of Beracus, a simple fellow attempting to save his village from the condition that his traveling companion Lee has. Lee is unperturbed by this issue, but sticks with Beracus for reasons only known to him as they attempt to investigate this supposedly abandoned location. Instead of finding spirits, however, they find a bunker deep within the ground inhabited by a curiously dead family.
One-Eyed Lee is a hybrid of two worlds, bringing the puzzling interactive world to the realm of a visual novel. Much of the game is spent wandering around the enclosed area, clicking on objects and learning of their properties and possibly picking them up. Players can interact with the family members to uncover information that can assist in their search, but must also make decisions during key moments as to how the situation plays out. Usually this is due to a certain individual’s approach — more on Lee later — and how Beracus decides to handle the fallout. There is some variation to this formula, as there are some choices that are repeatable due to them usually being mandatory to solve before acquiring the next piece of the puzzle. Others, however, will drastically alter how everyone else interacts with our duo — even not asking a question is a decision here, for not asking certain questions may lead to different ways of solving an issue. In VN fashion players can see if a decision can be repeated or if new information can be gleamed by attempting to ‘skip’ the dialogue, for it cannot be if the player has never seen the interaction yet.
Where One-Eyed Lee shines is in its VN aspects, specifically the character interactions between Beracus and Lee, along with their conversations with the skeletal family. While Beracus is more mild-mannered and timid opting to worry about another’s problems, Lee is the extreme opposite. Lee is abrasive and loose, unable to understand Beracus’ concerns nor care about how he may be perceived. When players are prompted with dialogue questions, both protagonists have the ability to talk; and it is abundantly clear whenever a ‘Lee’ question arrises, for it rarely ever ‘beats around the bush’. This puts him at odds with Beracus constantly, which is actually some of the most honestly arguing I’ve seen in a visual novel. Beracus stutters over words constantly when angry, Lee will dismiss arguments rather than deal with them, and then the conversation will end abruptly with either side either apologizing or moving on to more pressing matters. It’s oddly satisfying, as while there may be some malice it dissipates quickly to return to the normal banter between the two.
The skeletal family are no slouches either, thanks to their brilliant backstory of being straight up cultists. The father Isaac is a standard rich father type, one enamored by the dogma given to him and feels no shame in putting his two children through bizarre hardships to ensure that they will be ‘prepared’. The wife Henriett is also devoted, but longs for the parties of the past that she cannot attend due to, well, being in a bunker. The kids Serena and Pricilla both followed their parents down, with one wishing she brought more books and the other wanting more puzzles to solve. Finally is the butler, known as such, who accompanies them all. What I find so fascinating about this family is the presentation that we as players witness. The game is able to jostle between the morbid reality that the family doesn’t recognize and the lightheartedness thanks to the absurdity, all while telling an earnest tale of a family somehow cursed with immortality without knowing. The puzzles that the players uncover are not just weirdly specific puzzle mechanics, but involve an actual mastermind who set this family up. The solutions utilize more than just keys and secret messages, but also family interactions and even blackmail and sabotage.
Which brings be to who does the dirty work in the title, Lee. I’ll get this out of the way, I cannot stand Lee at all. I rarely was able to side with him during any of his arguments with Beracus, nor did I enjoy many of his interactions with the family members. But here’s the thing; that’s what made him a fantastic character. Lee and Beracus don’t just represent a ‘buddy detective’ archetype, but also completely different rationales of thinking. Lee has no qualms with completely ripping someone to pieces verbally for anything, yet will stop whenever Beracus asks him to. He views his current circumstance as something to be accepted, not something to be cured, and his carefree attitude is not just something because of a spirit but is who he is as a person. His inability to ‘empathize’ and being ‘supremely self centred’ enrages me to no end, yet he argues against many situations that he deems immoral amongst the skeletal family (besides the cultist part). Much of these conversations of self understanding are spoilers, however, so I’ll leave it there. I find him hard to love, but I can completely understand anyone who would.
These casual conversations dealing with numerous social issues, mixed in with clever puzzle usage and a fantastic art style makes One-Eyed Lee and the Dinner Party a welcome surprise I wasn’t expecting. I actually adored the hybrid style of point and click with VN and honestly wish more would utilize the approach to expand the enjoyment of PaC. I couldn’t figure out the ‘true’ ending, but judging by its description I’m glad it exists. If you’re looking for a narrative that only takes a few hours, but contains multiple endings and possibly more chapters in the future, try this out and see if you can escape the end of day’s bunker.
Vienna Automobile Society is a competitive racing simulation made by Royal Polygon, an indie that is currently on hiatus. In it, players pick a racer and enter a track of classic motorsports times against their friends and hope they can win before crashing out.
Players are put into a top-down perspective, as they are not driving the car in a traditional sense; instead, they are controlling the angles in which the car takes upcoming turns and the gear shifts. Upon beginning the race, players are met with the car’s projected path and a coloured line along the turn with a circle. This circle indicates where the car will take the turn and the projected angle it will come out of the turn, which can be altered less and less the closer one gets to the turn. The less players ‘fiddle’ with this angle the better, for each adjustment causes the car to lose a small amount of speed. Players can also gear shift, which are indicated by the circles with timers on them; doing so increases speed, but being in a gear that is too fast will cause crashes or stoppages at certain turns. These turns can be determined by the number of lines on the track before each turn.
Much of the beginning of the game is spent figuring out the controls, which have a much steeper learning curve than one might expect. In all honesty, this is more of a strategy game as crashing into players is also a hazard to worry about, but since there is no full control of the car it’s all based on how players anticipate others to move and take corners. Gearing down at proper times is crucial to taking those corners at the optimal angle, or else crashing is inevitable. This doesn’t even bring in the external factors such as rain, which can reduce easy of gear shifting and cause a visual mess on screen.
Once players get the hang of it, it’s off to the races with the dozen different tracks to try out and experience. It has a simplistic feel to keep focus on the driving, while also being just a clean aesthetic. I don’t have much to talk about unfortunately as much of the variation is learning how to play the game — after that it’s completely dependent on the competitiveness of those playing with you. If you’ve got a few friends that want to strategize driving strategies in a classic racing style, then this might be for you.
One-Eyed Lee and the Dinner Party
Beracus and Lee finally have a lead to more information for a potential cure for Beracus' suffering village. Upon…