I hadn’t heard much about this game before it happened to show up on my Twitter timeline. When it did, I was instantly curious. Instead of being dark it promises a more human look at the concept of death and those that take care of our loved ones after they pass. It also featured a color palette and art style that appealed to me. It hit a lot of notes for games that I would be interested in playing. Story driven, good art, a touch of darkness, and it refers to itself as a simulation game. Great… almost.
This Impressions piece is going to be a touch different because I simply don’t have a lot to say about this game, and that is in large part due to its length. The subject of length and value with games is something that is debated frequently. Lately, I’ve seen it a lot in my social media. The problem is that it seems to be a divisive issue with gamers on one side demanding either smaller price points or longer games, and developers on the other saying that gamers are missing the point about game value.
I walked into A Mortician’s Tale expecting it to be short. Let me make this perfectly clear from the get-go. I do not mind short games in the least. There have been a few games that I would even consider gems that are fairly short but I still greatly enjoy. The Novelist, for instance, is one that instantly springs to mind.
A Mortician’s Tale is just not worth its price point. The game runs USD 14.99 for 30-45 minutes of runtime. If that 40 minutes (we’ll split the difference) had been amazing, I would happily declare that it’s worth every penny. The problem isn’t just that the game is short, the game is short and feels incredibly incomplete, and a lot of that could have been addressed by doubling the length of the game.
I loathe being so harsh. I think Laundry Bear Games did some great things with this game. I want to give them all the credit in the world for that, and I want to see more from them in the future. I cannot simply sweep under the rug the dissatisfied feeling I got from the game.
The game goes through three stages in the career of your main character. When she first gets hired at the facility, when it is taken over by a larger company, and then the end (which I will leave for you to discover). The issue is that because each stage is so extremely short, you never feel like you are getting the whole picture of what is happening. You do roughly three funerals at each stage then tie up and move forward. That isn’t enough. I didn’t feel like I got enough time to experience what the game has to offer. All development and conclusions seem rushed, and nothing feels fleshed out.
This is wrapped in such an excellent package. Again, the art and choice of colors is great. The balance of it being morbid (by its nature) while not being dark or depressing is struck wonderfully. There is some potentially solid character development happening, but it is also rushed.
Part of the reason it has taken me so long to get this piece out is how truly torn I am by what I want to say about it. I want to give it the credit it deserves; I don’t want to trash on indie developers, especially not ones that I feel have a great deal of potential. I want to see what else Laundry Bear Games has to offer. I also just wanted the game to have more meat.
So as far as A Mortician’s Tale is concerned, keep an eye out for it. If you happen to see it on sale, I would recommend it. If you buy it for the full price be warned. Again, it’s not just the length of the game but the general incomplete feeling that might make you feel like you overpaid.
To the broader issue of game length vs. game value, it’s a lot more difficult to “sum up” my thoughts. I do agree with developers that gamers need to be more open to different game lengths as far as the value of the experience. Short games can be amazing. Games can pack a lot into just a few hours if they want, and those games deserve to be played, praised, and paid well for. On the other hand, I think developers need to engage with gamers when they say, “the game is just too short.” I get that it seems like a crappy complaint. I get that it even might be. A game might be just 100% and hit every note perfectly, but if it’s under 3 hours, some people might still complain. Not everyone is doing that though. Some people are associating “length” with “how complete an experience is.” In other words, the dialogue needs to change.
Gamers, be more open to games of different lengths. Some short experiences will completely knock your socks off while some long experiences will still leave you feeling like something was missing.
Developers, understand that if a game doesn’t feel complete, it doesn’t feel complete. Length of gameplay is correlated with that. If something is not completely fleshed out in the time, the game takes to complete then maybe it was too short?
Either way, I am stuck here. Stuck wanting to support developers and support a game I thought could be something wonderful. I can’t convince myself to give a game that felt so incomplete and is $14.99, a hands-down recommendation though. I can’t say that I completely agree with developers on the issue at large.
I can say that I hope that gamers work towards remembering all the wonderful things games have brought to us, and thus their developers have brought to us. I hope we can have a dialogue instead of fighting. I hope we can reach a place where both sides understand how the other feels about length vs. value. There is a middle ground to be found, and I hope we do. I hope we do because I have a lot of love and respect for the people that make the games I love so very much, but I still am a consumer at the end of the day.
I also hope that I haven’t completely turned you off from A Mortician’s Tale because I didn’t want to do that either.