IF Comp ’12 – Scott Hammack’s Murphy’s Law!

October 9, 2012

Matt Weiner tells me to play this one, and I have not gotten this far in life by failing to do everything Matt Weiner tells me to do.  I got here on a bus.

[spoilers begin here]

Thing are looking up! After decades of scrimping and saving, you’ve finally pulled yourself out of debt. The only thing left standing between you and financial independence is one last mortgage payment. What could possibly go wrong?

1)  The game is called Murphy’s Law.
2)  The scope of this task is an entire IF game, so you know it won’t come easy.
3)  You just asked what could possibly go wrong.
4)  My life is a sad farce.  Clearly.

>write check
You tear a check from your checkbook.
You don’t have anything to write with.
There is a pen right goddamn there.  If you insist, I will pick it up.  I would not make me pick it up, if I were writing this game, but I recognize Scott Hammack’s right as an author to make me pick up the pen that is clearly visible right goddamn there, which I will do in a manner reminiscent of this scene from Wet Hot American Summer.

>take pen
Are you happy now, Beth?

>put check in envelope
You put the check to the bank into the envelope addressed to the bank.
This process is going surprisingly smoothly.  If this turns out to be a game where you write a check and mail it off to the bank with no trouble whatsoever I will laugh my entire shit off.

Your papercut is bleeding slightly. Might want to do something about that.
Where do I keep the bandaids?  Do I have a bathroom?

On the end table are a photograph, a bottle of sleeping pills, and a drinking glass (empty).
Those last two strike me as ominous.

>put stamp on envelope
You press the stamp against the envelope, but it doesn’t stick.
Because I forgot to lick it, because I am awesome.

I am afraid to look around very much in case my life is super depressing.  I think that describes many people’s waking states actually.

The neighbors’ son Jamison is playing in the street.
Oh dear God.  Is this a game about how I let a kid die because I am focused on making my mortgage payment?
You call out to Jamison advising him to get out of the street. He squints at you for a moment through the bright sunlight, then flips you off and returns to playing with his trucks.
Okay, so it’s a game about how I let a tiny asshole die because I am focused on making my mortgage payment.
The car swerves to avoid hitting you and plows through your mailbox, destroying it utterly, then turns a corner and disappears from view, tires screeching.

The sink is full of dirty plates that you’ve been too lazy even to put in the dishwasher.
Hang on a second, I just have to go handwash all of my plates so I can feel superior to the PC.  (Don’t tell him I own exactly five plates, two big ones and three small ones, not counting the six that are purely decorative.  The first couple weeks I lived in this apartment, I ate all of my meals off of half a Styrofoam clamshell takeout box while two decorative plates hung cheerfully and functionlessly on the wall.  I have brain problems, clearly, but they’re my brain problems, and I love them.)  Ha.  Done.  Let the smugness commence.

>turn on dishwasher
You switch the dishwasher on. You feel a sense of mild self-satisfaction for having completed that chore.
[Your score has just gone up by one point.]
You’re welcome, PC.  Wait.  This game isn’t just a trick to get people to do all your chores for you, is it?

>x beer
This bottle of cheap domestic swill represents the last of your beer supply until the next time you go shopping. You’ve been saving it as a sort of reward for yourself after you get that check mailed off.
My life is sad.

>x briefcase
An expensive-looking leather briefcase, full of neatly organized invoices, quarterly reports, sales projections; that sort of thing.

>x stake
This stubby, splintered stake is all that remains of your mailbox.
I will use it to kill a vampire later.
>take stake
You pull the stake out of the ground. This should come in handy if you encounter any vampires.
I like you, game.  Let’s stick together.

In one swift movement, you turn the glass over and deftly bring it down over the cockroach, trapping it in a glass prison. The cockroach threat has been neutralized — albeit at the cost of never being able to drink out of that glass again.
Oh, who are you fooling, the PC stopped drinking out of glasses years ago.  That one was in the bathroom and probably had weird toothpaste/shaving cream/soap cruft all over it.  No big loss.

The garage is essentially just a big box for keeping your car in.
That’s deep.

What do you want to unlock your station wagon with?
Goddammit, people, I am going to start docking points every time I am asked this question and the answer is “The only key or set of keys in my inventory, which oddly enough happens to unlock the thing I am trying to unlock.”  Do you know how often that turns out to be the answer?  Do you?  Do you really?

…oh, fuck, this is the part where I have to go into my house, get the batteries out of the remote, and put them in the garage door opener, isn’t it.  Sigh.  Fortunately, as the former owner of a Nintendo Game Boy, I am pretty much an expert in the cannibalization of battery-dependent devices.  (“I already told you, my pacemaker doesn’t take AAs!”  “Shut up and open your heart, Gramps.” *)

It would be nice if USE OPENER and/or OPEN GARAGE worked along with PUSH BUTTON.

>turn keys
You turn the key, but the car only makes some pathetic whining noises before falling silent.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I’m pulling the trunk release as well as the hood release, ’cause I want to know what’s in my trunk.  Maybe it’s the body of the person whose sad life this actually is and whose sad house I am robbing.  Oh, or my presumed divorced wife!

Huh, okay, who is going to give me a jump?  Do I have friends?  Do I own a telephone?  Oh, wait, maybe this is one of those solo jump start kits for sad friendless people who don’t own a telephone and wouldn’t know who to call if they did.

Hey.  Internet.  You are my witness.  If I have to jump start this car by connecting the red wire to the positive terminal of the battery and like that, instead of just “JUMP CAR” or whatever, I get to eat an entire cake for dinner tonight, regardless of the fact that that is always a terrible idea.

>x battery
A big rectangular object with two terminals jutting out of it like nipples: a positive and a negative.
>x jump
The kit consists of a small box with a red cable and black cable branching off it, each with an alligator clamp on the end, and a small diagram illustrating how to use it.

>clamp red cable to positive
You clamp the red cable onto the positive terminal.
>clamp black cable to negative
You clamp the black cable onto the negative terminal.

The interior of your car is pretty standard: steering wheel, dashboard, ignition. There’s a hood release lever under the dashboard and a trunk release lever near the floor.
Um.  Where is my gear shift and my pedals?  I feel like I am going to need them, especially since DRIVE is not a recognized verb.  Oh, fuck, I left my trunk and hood open.  Better close them, in case that turns out to be a thing.  (I did disconnect the jump start kit though.)

You back the car out through the driveway and into the street, and make your way to the bank.
Wait wait wait wait wait, that was a lot of implicit actions for a game with no implicit actions.

I’m locking my station wagon, in case someone tries to steal my steering wheel.
>lock wagon
What do you want to lock your station wagon with?
…how did I not see that coming?
Your station wagon isn’t open.
What?  You know what?  Never mind.

(Hey, you know what’s awesome about living alone?  When you take a shower, you get to use all the towels in the house.  I’m wearing three!)

So, here is a question:  why am I at the bank?  I thought I needed to go to the post office, to mail my envelope.  If I get up to the teller and she informs me that I need the bill I didn’t grab from the house, I will be Most Cross.

>x teller
She has a beehive hairdo and half-rim glasses and is dressed in a flattering black dress sort of thing.
Also, she never speaks.  (Get it?  Teller?)  I hope she will be girlfriends with us!

As the customer in front of you leaves and you prepare to approach the counter, five men carrying shotguns and wearing stockings over their heads, one carrying a duffel bag, suddenly burst into the lobby.
I hope they’re vampires.  I’m prepared for vampires.

The men point their guns at you and open fire. As your flesh is pierced and bones shattered, your last thought is that you’re glad Caroline wasn’t here to see you embarrass yourself like this.
    *** You have died in a hail of gunfire. ***
Yeah, whenever I get my shit shot off by armed bandits and shuffle off this mortal coil, I always think “Gee, how humiliating.”

>talk to robbers
The bank robbers don’t seem very interested in your attempts at small talk.
You know, I’m not sure what I thought my character was going to say, but it wasn’t “So how ’bout this humidity?”

After a brief silence, the teller returns to her post, while the customers behind you begin to reformulate the queue. “Next,” she says. You admire her professionalism.
Oh.  Well, all right, then.

I have no idea what I’m actually supposed to be doing here at the bank.  Checking the hints.  What, no hints, just a walkthrough?  PUT ENVELOPE ON COUNTER?  Huh, all right.

As you start to move, the ringleader whirls around to face you. “Someone wants to be a hero, huh?” he sneers. “Boys! Waste him!”
Oh, oops, I had reloaded to right after I saved.  I’m no hero, buddy, I’m just doing my banking.  By which I mean doing my postal business at the bank.

>put envelope on counter
You wait for a moment when the bank robbers aren’t looking and surreptitiously take the envelope out of your pocket and put it on the teller’s counter. Now you just have to hope she survives the robbery so she can process your payment.
Um.  The robbers are gone now.  Game?

>give envelope to teller
You hand the envelope to the teller, explaining that it contains your final mortgage payment and that you would normally send it in by mail, but that your mailbox was destroyed. She tells you not to worry and that it happens all the time.
Oh good.  All right, filthy house paid off, heading home for a celebratory mediocre beer!  Well, first things first…

>flirt with teller
That’s not a verb I recognise.

Oh ha ha I left my car running the entire time I was in the bank.  Oops.  Well, hopefully the battery’s charged by now.

Maybe things are finally starting to look up for ol’ Murphy Slaw.
…my name is Murphy Slaw.  Why.  Why would you do that.

You know, I can get behind the ending of this game.  I am going to undo and see what happens if I just run over Jamison, though.  Because, seriously, fuck that kid.

With a sickening “thud,” your car plows into and over Jamison. Everything after that is kind of a blur of court proceedings and apologies to grieving parents. In the end, you manage to stay out of prison, but you can’t close your eyes without seeing Jamison’s face, and any money you make goes to his parents for the rest of your life.
    *** You killed Jamison. ***
All right, fine, if you’re going to put it that way.  Sheesh.

>drink beer
You sit down on what you think used to be your dishwasher and use a jagged edge to pop the cap off the bottle. A cockroach shuffles past and vanishes into the rubble. As you begin to hear the sirens of approaching fire trucks, you take your first sip of watery American lager. You smile to yourself, looking forward to this chance to start fresh. You take the pen out of your pocket and add “new house” to your shopping list.
Okay, that sort of justifies me having to take that pen.  I had insurance on my filthy house, right?  Please tell me I had insurance on my filthy house.

That game was all right, even if the lack of implicit actions drove me batshit.  I did like the ending.  Oh, man, I totally forgot to look at the PC’s PC.  I was told there would be pornography.

*  This is a joke.  Both of my grandfathers were dead before I got to them.  I swear.



  1. So, remember when I said the part of Murphy’s Law that made me think of you was not the part that you might expect from the blog entry about how you wanted to play games set in people’s dirty apartments? That’s because the part that made me think of you was the part about “What do you want to unlock your station wagon with?” I was all like, “Man, Jenni just wants to play a game set in someone’s dirty apartment, and she’s going to be so psyched, and then that one response will CRUSH HER DREAMS.”

    (Which reminds me of how one time I was in the park with my son, and two of the older girls who are always there were chasing two of the older boys who are always there, and one of them was shouting “I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill you!” while the other was shouting “You crushed Baby’s dreams!” Since then the son has occasionally asked me “Why did that girl say ‘You crushed Baby’s dreams’? and I’ve had to say “I don’t know,” because I don’t, which kills me, because I really WANT to know, but going up to an eight-year-old girl and asking her “That one time, why did you say ‘You crushed Baby’s dreams’?” would be pretty creepy. Even if you’re walking around with an adorable little kid, which gives you like +5 on your save versus creepiness.

    I’m glad you posted your review before I got around to posting mine, because if I had told that story in the middle of my review it would’ve been a pretty huge digression.)

    Also, impressed that you got that extra point for doing the dishes! I completely did not get that point. Though in the end all it means is that the fragments of dishes scattered in the wreck of your house were clean, so maybe I win.

    Also also, pretty sure that the bank will not let you have a mortgage without insuring your filthy house. Why do my fingers keep typing “hose” when I want to type “house”? Stop that, fingers.

    • “You crushed Baby’s dreams!” is fantastic. I went to the park recently and there were these kids playing volleyball with, I assume, their mom. “Use your anger!” one of them said. It is great when kids say stuff sometimes.

      Maybe it will be okay to ask that girl when she’s eighteen. You did manage to plant a tracking device on her, right?

      • Just running through scenarios in my head, I kinda think asking her when she’s eighteen would not be less creepy.

      • Eighteen and a half?

  2. I have to admit that despite several brokennesses (yes, especially with the lacking of assumed objects, etc.), this was one of my favourite games in the comp. I’m not even entirely sure why.

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