Lilli was delighted. She raked the leaves. She drowned the bees. She lathered the tree and collected the key. The narrator praised her with smiles after every good decision and grew tired of apologizing for the ones that failed to be.
“The idea was good,” he reassured his audience, but her arms were just too short.
“The idea was good,” he applauded, but it probably wasn’t smart to set Lilli’s inventory on fire.
The words proved frequent and haunting.
Lilli led a wonderful life at the convent she called home, surrounded by friends whom she enjoyed very much. Lilli adored them. They were special to her. Friends like Birgit who embroidered the best of them all – overshadowing Lilli in both needlework and being loved – and the lunch lady who liked to break things with her hands. There was the leader of the school, Mother Superior, a jack-of-tirades master-of-nun who never meant all those mean things she said, as well as Edna, the heroine of game one who sat comfortably in the sequel as Lilli’s best pal.
With so many friends, Lilli’s days were just packed – they all needed so much! But it was okay, because she enjoyed the thrill of being helpful. Helping people was who she was! Helpful little Lilli. She clicked her way across the landscapes with as much grace as the task required and did so quite happily for the span of her stunted journey. Click, click, click! Click, click, click! The sounds of fresh dialogue and nudge-wink asides awaited her around every corner, and made the items jangling within her pockets the keys to some very talkative locks. She clicked, she spoke to, she used! So many options, there were, that the audience began to wonder when the narrator would reward it with a correct answer.
“The idea was good,” he chided.
“The idea was good,” he patronized.
His interjections bit like a kitten’s needled maw.
Lilli felt slighted. Oh, how dearly she wished to please the narrator and his grievous efforts to keep up with her fumbling. She paid close attention to the textual clues doled out regularly and artfully, but found herself exhausting her inventory all the same. The item roulette was as prevalent as the audio loops.
Lilli was oblivious. She languished in her loyalties. Too eager, she was, to make her friends purr, that she simply scratched too hard in spots too soft. She never meant to lock that boy inside of the furnace and blow it to scrap with explosives. She never intended to feed those termites a human body. She never wanted to demonize her balloon animals. The audience watched, aghast in the ironies of Lilli’s innocence, and applauded as she navigated this twisted tale with clean, sardonic candor. So fun, this was! Helpful deeds gone astray! Helping hands strangling throats. Helpful little Lilli and her accidental awfulness.
But then the story meandered. No one bothered to reimburse the whim-sickle premise, and Lilli was beat over the head with pandered endgame plot twists as the filched loan sharks crawled from the woodwork. The adventure came to a close so quickly, leaving relationships, events, and Lilli’s fascinating condition feeling inconsequential, in a space that promised so much more. Harvey’s New Eyes was the adventure game equivalent of the boy who cried wolf; so peacocked were its jokes and punchlines, that the sympathetic ending it asked for went completely unheard. The audience saw the potential. The game was a butt-cheek short of staying on the tire swing. Lilli was simply too muffled beneath the jokester skins of a game that blundered with its split personality, unsure of what it really wanted to be.
Lilli put up with it. She traversed her colorful (if artistically haphazard) world and tried her hand at the poorly explained puzzles, generally escaping victorious with an uncomfortable sense that she still had no comprehension for the adventure game logic required for these sorts of things. The game’s design as a whole seemed deprived of any caretaking, and felt more irksome than outright broken. Everything from navigating the inventory menu to dealing with silly narrative restrictions on what Lilli could and couldn’t interact with at any given time made for a rough gameplay experience in a genre that really doesn’t ask for much.
“The idea was good,” the narrator screamed, but he needed to make this harder than it probably could have been.
“The idea was good,” the audience howled, but their cries were too little too late.
“The idea was good,” I said, but the game was just okay.