Review – Dark Beast, Dark Name

22 Apr

First, a general disclaimer that I’m putting on all my reviews this year: I tend to be very harsh with my criticism. It’s a personal failing, and one I try to temper, but with limited success. Don’t take my criticism as a sign that I hate you and your game. If possible, think of it as an attempt to help you make your game as amazing as possible.

Now, on to the actual review.

This is an intriguing little game where you draw and name a monster over time, hopefully ending up with a full name and visage to be confronted and destroyed.

My first comment is that pastebin was a poor choice, as it made the game hard to read. Similarly, some proof-reading would have gone a long way. I know that presentation is not the point of Game Chef, but in this case it actively interfered with understanding the game itself.

On the actual game itself, I think it’s an interesting idea. Progressively revealing a monster while progressively learning things about the characters is a good general structure, and the actual drawing and personal secrets give it some new twists.

I don’t think the actual rules support that very well, however. I suspect that the drawing and the name will look like a random mish-mash of things, especially if you get someone like me who is not great at drawing. Perhaps more importantly, there are literally zero mechanical choices to be made, regarding the drawing or anything else. You just follow the random monster generator’s rules, and hopefully it’s scary at the end?

The memories were weirdly specific, and not very evocative to me. To me, they’re in an unfortunate liminal state where they are too specific for me to do what I want with them, but not detailed enough for me to do what the designer wants me to do with them. They need either more detail or less specificity.

I’m also really unsure about the stakes. Since you can’t influence the draw at all, it seems weirdly punitive to have some random subset of the players reveal personal secrets. It also doesn’t follow very naturally from the rest of the game. We’re learning more and more about the characters… and then suddenly we reveal real-life secrets?

There are some interesting kernels of an idea here. I can see a later draft of this game being a fun diversion at a party or something. But it needs a lot of polishing to get there.

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