Danielle's Inferno: To Hell and Back
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
I was not among the souls who boarded Flight 666 bound for HEL on Friday the 13th, but I did get to visit a personal hell of sorts. The 9 levels of hell, to be exact, depicted in Danielle's Inferno, the game adaptation of the short story by Olivia Rivard. Released last December by One More Story Games, Danielle's Inferno was adapted by William Hiles and Blair Leggett using the company's proprietary software, Story Stylus. Luckily, I already had some experience with existential journeys from visiting the Ten Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa, a Singaporean theme park about Chinese mythology.
|Pudding the hellcat|
The quirky vision of hell's circles portrayed in Danielle's Inferno is not as gruesome as the Ten Courts of Hell, which (students beware!) vividly prescribed eternal evisceration for exam cheaters and plagiarists. Rather, aided by no-nonsense spirit animal Pudding, the player descends into the 9 circles of hell of Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery, featuring demon waiters with Poors Light, the Lucifer-approved beer of Hell, and upwardly mobile demon workers ho-humming through BDSM whipping, gluttonous force-feeding, metamorphosing sinners into shit, your basic flaming pyres, and the like. The player must solve a puzzle and get through fart and elimination jokes to get to the next level.
It's a point-and-click adventure, but I would call Danielle's Inferno point-and-click adventure lite, because so much of it is text instead of AWSD action. It's the next step after a visual novel and seems geared to players who are taking the leap from linear to non-linear media. For instance, the limbo level gently guides the player through a hidden object clickfest to introduce the basics of what players need to do in further levels, but to the more savvy player, this is rather tiresome, especially when the interface with its inventory and Combine Items functionality clearly indicates that the platform has a lot more potential than a hidden object game. There is mostly branching narrative that goes to the same outcome no matter the choice, but new conversations open up based on player actions and the branching does lead to additional dialog. The key to Danielle's Inferno is exploration and that's really where the game shines.
So much of the enjoyment of Danielle's Inferno is from reading item descriptions. Click on rocks, signs, clouds, whirlpools, oil slicks, etc. The background is full of new surprises. The limited sound effects and music also add ambiance. I especially enjoyed the puzzle where I had to find Cerberus' doggy toys. I played detective as I badgered demon waiters for clues. In a later level, there is a logic puzzle.
While Danielle's Inferno does not showcase the interactive dialog or the combine items puzzles of a traditional adventure game, the Story Stylus platform has that potential and indeed, there are other games from One More Story Games that go in that direction. Danielle's Inferno is more simple in story structure and may have more text than necessary, but what it does, it does well. For players who enjoy visual novels or point-and-click adventures but want a short complete game to play in an afternoon's time, Danielle's Inferno fills that void.
I would also add that I don't think Danielle's Inferno is appropriate for children. Even though it's mostly text, there are sexual themes and violence. And Hitler. It's rated age 13+, but parents should play through first and decide.
For teachers who may be interested in using Story Stylus in classrooms to teach Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, check out One More Story Games' pilot program. Games in Ye Olde Classroom.
[Disclaimer: I received a download code for the game from the developer as a gift. I was not obligated to provide a review. The above is my unbiased opinion. I may have future affiliation with the developers since I am evaluating the platform for my own game development purposes and may be listed on the site as a storyteller.]