I’ve posted well over a hundred reviews on this site, in addition to playing a large number of interactive fiction games on my own time, so it’s refreshing to encounter a creative game with an experimental structure that I’ve never seen before. “Flight of the CodeMonkeys” takes places in a Jupyter notebook, with the player tweaking and running code to interact with the story.
Gameplay: As a programmer responsible for making small bugfixes and running tests in the code for machines maintaining the sci-fi setting, the protagonist gradually uncovers more details of the setting and gains the ability to change them. The first few tasks are trivial changes and validation tests; after that, the plot and code changes become more complicated. No actual coding is involved (and there are in-game reasons for that); gameplay is a decision of what changes to make, rather than a coding puzzle of implementing them. 5/10.
Mechanics: The fundamental concept is brilliant: The player edits a Jupyter notebook just as the protagonist does in-game, and the plot of the game progresses as the protagonist changes the code running the world. The code itself is a plausible representation of the sort of odd, obfuscated code that such a system would involve. In addition to the code itself and instructions from the system on how to modify or verify it, there are conversations with similar developers that move the plot along. 7/10.
Presentation: More feedback on the ramifications, or even the nature, of the changes made throughout the game would create a strong. As it stands, both the player and the narrator feel remote from them. The setting is well-conceived, though, and the game gives a satisfying explanation for why and how the coding system which the narrator is involved functions. The Jupyter system itself is a bit clunky for this sort of interaction (and I’ve used it for the usual sort of technical projects), but it’s the price to pay for such a novel medium. 6/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You’d like to play a game with a clever and original interface.
2 thoughts on “Flight of the CodeMonkeys, by Mark C Marino”
As an author in this year’s competition, I’m not commenting on public reviews. But I wanted to point out that you wrote “but” instead of “by” in the title of the post, which you might want to fix. 🙂
Oops, that’s embarrassing. Thanks!