Sawbuck Gamer

No One Has To Die

Firing Squad

No One Has To Die immediately questions its own premise.

By Drew Toal • April 26, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

In Russian author Victor Pelevin’s 2005 book, The Helmet Of Horror, the Theseus-Minotaur myth is given a modern update in the form of a chat room-style conversation between a captive group of isolated, anonymous internet users. There are Ariadne, Monstradamus, and several other suggestive handles. These individuals try to get a grip on their strange circumstances, navigating the labyrinth of their possibly virtual reality, by talking to one another and comparing circumstances. But no one really knows what’s happening, or, if they do, they’re not saying.

I was reminded of the book while playing No One Has To Die, a game where five people (including you, the player) find themselves in an inexplicable situation, and you are forced to make choices about who lives and who dies based on what they say through chat bubbles. A fire is spreading throughout the building. Certain areas can be locked down and others flooded, but at least one person must be sacrificed in each stage. The game unfolds in different ways, depending on who lives and who dies. To get the full story, though, you have to play through all possible endings, saving each person in turn. After the first time through, the puzzles and level layout don’t change much. You’re essentially playing the same game over and again. But the story’s appeal proves inversely proportional to the game’s declining challenge. What started as a simple fire with a clear villain goes off in unpredictable directions, ones that even Theseus himself might have trouble navigating.

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28 Responses to “Firing Squad”

  1. SamPlays says:

    Aren’t we always playing the same game over and over again?

    • SamPlays says:

      I now realize the unintended irony of this statement based on Troy’s ending. Two more to go… oy!

  2. SamPlays says:

    “I saw a warning on this screen about a fire, so I logged in.”

    That’s the sensible thing to do during an emergency.

  3. SamPlays says:

    I saved Troy. Now I’m intrigued enough to play through the rest. Fuck.

  4. Brainstrain says:

    I found this a few days ago – it’s really lovely. But I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. Starcraft 2’s Project Blackstone teaser/short story hybrid got me just as excited.

  5. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    A book based around an online chat room? I can see something like that feeling very silly very quickly.

  6. Roswulf says:

     Quite clever, even if the dialogue was a bit stiff. Yay for Browser Sawbucks!

  7. DrFlimFlam says:

    Definitely looks like something fun to check out. I wish I had something else to say about it, but I’ll have to play it first.

    • SamPlays says:

      I just finished it. It’ll take about 30 minutes to get through all the timelines. The interface is a bit clunky but it’s fine once you figure out a few things:

      1) Click on the arrows to make a person move.
      2) You don’t need to replay the entire thing – you can click on a lower branch in the tree to revisit a latter decision point.

      Overall, it was enjoyable, slightly better than adequate. 

  8. EnderTZero says:

    It was interesting, but it feels unfinished.

    • SamPlays says:

      The dialogue definitely needs editing (copy and content). For the finished version, you can play The Walking Dead.

  9. EnderTZero says:

     Hmm, but The Walking Dead is not free on my browser. Plus it won’t tell me how that last jump goes during the good end. Or what happened to literally everyone else in this story.

  10. Merve says:

    For those of you wondering what a BioShock Infinite text adventure would look like, you now have your answer.

    • Roswulf says:

      Must…resist…the urge to decry the racial subtext of “No One Has To Die”

      I mean really, what do YOU think the cockatiels symbolize? OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      You are in the middle of a vast floating city modeled after early 20th-century Americana.

      A GUY approaches!

      :inventory
      You have:
      A GUN
      A GUN-LIKE VIGOR
      SCROFULA
      A SHAKY UNDERSTANDING OF QUANTUM MECHANICS
      REGRETS

      :talk to guy
      The GUY has no scripted dialogue.

      :wave at guy
      The GUY interprets your wave as an expression of support for socialism. He walks angrily toward you.

      :profess love of capitalism
      That’s just stupid. Have you tried shooting the GUY?

      :use regrets
      I don’t understand.

      :punch guy
      What part of GUN and GUN-LIKE VIGOR do you not understand?

      :ok fine, shoot guy
      You shoot the GUY. He falls down.

      :search guy
      The GUY has:
      10 DOLLARS
      A PICTURE OF HIS LOVING FAMILY
      30 PIECES OF COTTON CANDY

      :what the fuck
      I don’t understand.

      A GUY approaches!

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         :eat cotton candy
         (meaning 30 Pieces of Cotton Candy)

        You quickly wolf down all the cotton candy in your possession.  Some of your gun shot wounds have somehow healed themselves. 

        :No I just wanted one piece

        I don’t understand.

        :search for diabetes

        I do not understand the subject of that sentence.

        Back when I was a young lad happily playing Infocom games on my Commodore 128, I would frequently recontextualize real life in an IF frame.  I suppose if there’s a good way to tell that you’ve been immersed in a game, it’s when you start to see life on the game’s terms.

      • Simon Jones says:

         Twine is theoretically promising.

        Twine in practice has turned out like being stuck in a first year undergrad writing class where everyone has decided to write terrible first year undergrad short stories about something personal and has mistaken this for good. 

        So I am not going to listen to game criticism from someone invested in twine.

  11. caspiancomic says:

    I get the feeling the developer here has a great big crush on the Zero Escape games. I was getting shades of 999 all over the place here.

  12. Eco1970 says:

    Now this is how to write a ‘dont tell them anything’ review! I am intrigued by this. Will get.

  13. Eco1970 says:

    And now it’s just stopped at ‘Loading Sounds…’

    Is this another one of those games which won’t play on Internet Explorer?

  14. Didn’t Stormfront make this last year as “No, Juan Has To Die”?

  15. duwease says:

    Finally got around to playing this.. love it.  Reminds me of an amateur 9-9-9.