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I Just Want to Go Upstairs

Try as you might, you’re not getting up there until the game says so.

The Heirs of Techcatl is an adventure-style RPG that was made on Creation’s home forum, Oniromancie. It was translated to English for the benefit of…people who speak English. It’s not a perfect translation and the game does have a few issues, but it’s short, sweet, and well worth a look.

I’ll begin by mentioning that the game uses completely custom graphics. The music and sounds are not, but all the visual resources were created specifically for it. The art is generally very good. Some maps have custom chipsets while others are formed around a panoramic drawing (and a few are a little of both). The character sets and event objects look to have a bit more detail than the environments they’re placed in, but in a way, this works to the game’s advantage. Objects and characters stand out from their surroundings, making them easier to spot. There are some things on the maps you can examine that are part of the map itself (ie not a distinct object), but there are only a few of these, and they can still be found without difficulty. The music, while not custom-made, fits the setting of the game perfectly and establishes the mood of each location well. The sound choices are also appropriate and used where needed.

The game itself plays like usual RM fare, even with 8-directional movement implemented. It is not, however, a typical RPG. It doesn’t have battles and focuses more on story, puzzle solving, and exploration. It does generally well in these regards, but there are a handful of issues with each.

The most prominent to me is the story. It’s fairly linear and easy to follow, and never gets too complex. The trouble is not so much with the content of the story, but how it is handled. The game is very short, so the story covers its plot points somewhat rapidly. Everything you need to know is eventually covered, but some things feel rushed or like they were explained away. In this sense, the game could have done better with a bit more exposition. A slower pace could help to build up a greater sense of mystery surrounding its events. Don’t get me wrong, though; I did enjoy it, however hurried some parts seemed. I liked that some of the key transition points were covered by stylistic art and a text explanation, where actually showing the events in-game would have proven messy.

The game’s puzzle solving centers around picking up key items, playing a few minigames, and succeeding as best you can to gain success points. If you perform each of the actions required of you in the correct fashion, you’ll unlock a special ending when the game is over. Doing everything just right is hard, though. In some cases, your success depends on how much you paid attention to objects you examined earlier (and facts surrounding those objects). It also depends on sidequests you complete, some of which only present themselves if you set up the circumstances for them. Finally, what few minigames there are can be a bit tricky, especially the gears puzzle to fix the plane.

Wait, what?

Oh God, what?!


It doesn't help that it's hard to tell initially what direction these gears are turning (they move on their own). It’s not entirely obvious from the description, but you’re supposed to line up the other cogs so that they have red spokes in the same positions as those of the first. So…yeah, maybe even how I just put it doesn’t clarify it. Anyway…

For the game’s length, none of these problems are that big of a deal. You can blaze the whole thing in ten minutes if you skip the text, so trying again is no trouble at all. However, the game has an array of technical difficulties that make things complicated. There are a number of bugs, some of which are more glaring than others. Some objects you find are worth success points where others are not (but seem like they should be). Many NPCs will have nothing to say to you when you talk to them, though this is mostly the case later in the game. Earlier on, most NPCs actually have several lines of dialogue to share, so you can talk to them two or three times for more information. Anyway, there are also some switches out of place, it seems, as one of the story events can be repeated if you backtrack to it. This particular event is also worth success points, so you can sort of grind this event to gain more success than you need. This is also the only way I got the secret ending, because I swear I could not find the other success events that lead to full completion legitimately.

Though it has bugs and some parts are quite tricky, none of it is game-breaking, and it can be easily completed by pretty much anyone. The game’s custom assets are a wonderful selling point, the story is intriguing in spite of being a little rushed, and there’s enough balance of game and plot points to keep you going right to the end. The shortcomings mentioned above are minor and don’t detract too much from the game itself. However, without them, I think this would’ve been a 4.



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the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
Very well written. :]

without zombies and monsters
but hey, hard puzzles = hard battles for this type of game I suppose
An avid lover of Heartache 101
Wow, well done. Great review! Not only is it fair, it's describes really well the shortcomings of the game.

I'm glad (relieved) there weren't too many comments about the actual translation as this was my part of the whole project so to speak.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I actually LOLed when reading the screenshot captions for the gear puzzle.
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