Lottie's got a problem. The night of her big audition at Bridger Conservatory, the culmination of seventeen years' hard work and cutthroat tactics, her voice gives out on her. But rather than comfort herself the good old fashioned way with a bucket of ice cream and a three-way phone call to her Best Friends Forever, Lottie has another plan. She's not ready to give up, you see. And in this darkly funny piece of interactive fiction from Sarah Morayati, it's not whether you win or lose... because losing isn't an option. Broken Legs is a catty, clever little adventure whose writing elevates it above its technical difficulties.
If you've never played a piece of interactive fiction before, Broken Legs might be slightly overwhelming because there's very little handholding. Useful commands include "examine", "ask/talk to (person's name) about", "inventory", and, perhaps most importantly, "call mom". Typing "save" will let you save your game, something you may want to do often. As Lottie will proudly inform you, she only thinks in compass directions now, so you'll need to "go north" rather than "up". This is actually a little frustrating, since there doesn't appear to be any way to make Lottie repeat the available exits in a room after she enters, and trying out every available direction is tedious.
You're not looking to find a way to fix Lottie's voice or convince the judges to give her a second chance. You'll need to think outside the box to find ways of ruining the other auditions, or turning the others against each other. Yes, it's mean, and you probably wouldn't want Lottie babysitting for you or acting as any sort of role model. But Lottie's teenage cattiness is so over-the-top exaggerated (at least, one would hope) that it's impossible to take her as anything other than satire, and the scant profanity that pops up now and again means this one isn't for the kiddies anyway.
Analysis: There's a good chance you knew someone like Lottie when you were growing up. And if you can't think of anyone who fits the bill, there's an even better chance that it's because there's a little Lottie in you. She's not a bad person, exactly; just more than a little self-absorbed. Still, I doubt she'd be half so reluctantly likable if not for the writing of Sarah Morayati, whose snappy dialogue and snarky prose skewers the teenage stereotype. You're probably going to enjoy Broken Legs the most if you were ever once a teenage girl. (Or if you've ever played one in a Lindsay Lohan movie.) I remember that time, and I miss it, because then? I knew everything. And so did everyone I hung out with.
There are times when I almost felt like Broken Legs would have been a better novel than a game. The writing might be top notch, but the puzzle design is, unfortunately, not. A lot of it is based upon knowing who to talk to (and what to say to them) at the right time, and you can quite easily miss your chance . You'll probably come to rely heavily on calling Lottie's mom for hints (and sometimes flat-out directions), but should you have to? Part of the fun of interactive fiction is figuring out what to do with the situations presented, and unfortunately quite a few of the puzzles in Broken Legs are unintuitive.
But is Broken Legs worth a look? If you find the bratty antics of a selfish teenage girl offensive, you may want to give it a miss. But for those of us who are fans of mean humour, or can just take it in the satirical spirit, you'll probably enjoy it for the exceptional writing. Players looking for high action and adventure will be disappointed, but Broken Legs is a clever story with a protagonist you just may love to hate.
Download Broken Legs (Mac/Windows/Linux, 1MB, free)
If you like Broken Legs, take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG!