No Time To Squeal

Author: Mike Sousa & Robb Sherwin
Year: 2001
Development System: TADS
Cruelty Rating: Polite
Length of Play: 2 Hours

My Rating: 4

Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin as a pairing makes sense, as the former’s strength is coding and the latter’s strength is writing. So I was pretty stoked when I first played this. But instead of combining their strengths, it appears this was developed like a McCartney/Lennon song where they just jam two separate numbers together and hope it works.

The first half of the game is clearly all or mostly Sousa. It feels very similar to At Wit’s End, with fun slice of life situations set up in a Rashomon fashion; yet the stilted writing has a difficult time evoking pathos in situations that clearly demand it. There’s heartbreak and excitement and suspense but I didn’t really feel any of it. The second half of the game is clearly all or mostly Sherwin, as it’s trippy and confusing but well-written enough to keep you going. Ultimately, though, it felt like I was playing two completely different games and both left me unsatisfied. And while I do enjoy the occasional allegory, Sherwin is clearly better at writing tautegorical characters and dialogue.

It’s relatively short and if you like the authors it’s probably worth a play to see if it trips your trigger. But there’s a reason why of the games that finished in the Top 10 of the 2001 IF competition, No Time to Squeal has the lowest ratings (despite finishing fourth); it definitely grabs your attention, but the whole is much lower than the sum of its parts.

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