Your entire young life has been building up to this. You were born to it, your maternal line. You, Lalu, are the Usher, charged with guiding the queen's soul to the afterlife, a task of great splendor and nobility.
But that doesn't change how you feel now. All you can think is that you've been raised to die. If only there were some way out...
The Usher is a game of interactive fiction, so in this case the only visual representation you'll find is in your brain. The game uses a text parser for you to input your commands by typing them; "take item", "move north", "inventory", and so forth. The game provides you with a description of your actions and your surroundings, and you'll need to get creative in order to change Lalu's fate. If you find yourself stuck, try typing "hint" without the quotations to get a nudge in the right direction.
Analysis: While the Usher features some of the strongest writing in a competition bursting with great writers, the tone is not quite consistent. The writing would have me really feeling the doomed melancholy of Lalu's inevitable death, and then it would throw me a line about making the passage to the afterlife as "smooth as a laxative". I'd be snickering at a king named Stanley talking about his days in "King Camp", and then the game would hit me with an evocative description of starlight dancing. These frequent sudden swerves in tone and style can hurt immersion. In order for Lalu's danger to feel real, there has to be a sense that it is also serious. It would have been different if it were true gallows humor, which depends on treating serious subjects with irreverence, and thus depends on those subjects being fundamentally serious.
The plot also takes a sudden shift at the very end. In fact, despite the game telling me "You have escaped! Congratulations!", my first reaction was that I had somehow reached a bad end. I immediately pulled out the walkthrough and discovered that the game has only one ending, and that was it. Without spoiling, though the end is an escape, the method by which Lalu escapes seemed unconnected with any of the puzzles the player has to solve. As Lalu, you will work hard to escape only to be rewarded with a deus ex machina. In fact, once you get to that point, it turns out there is nothing you can do to stop the deus ex machina. I restarted, solved all the puzzles again, and instead of doing the action that triggers the end, just typed "z" (wait) several times, and the game forced me to escape.
To some extent it only itches because the writing is excellent. The parser, too, is top-notch, especially considering that this is the first game by both designers. I can think of only one instance where it didn't accept the first verb I tried, and when I rephrased it, it accepted it immediately. The game even accepted several typos I made. The hint system is also well designed, with repeated uses of the hint command gradually revealing more about what to do next, then a warning that the next use of the hint command will be the solution, then the solution. The puzzles are neither brain-meltingly difficult nor insultingly obvious.
Despite some bumpiness, the Usher obviously charmed audiences enough to place 8th in our first ever interactive fiction competition, Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7. IF fans shouldn't miss it.