The Indie Lounge is a special short-form column on Two Credits intended to seek out and highlight interesting indie titles without requiring a full-on review to be put together. There are simply far too many games being released these days to provide full coverage to every title, and the hope is that the creation of The Indie Lounge will allow us to cover a large segment of games that we otherwise would not be able to.
HE BEAT HER. is a puzzle/adventure game that was developed for the Ludum Dare Compo 39 (theme: running out of power). Specifically, it’s an adventure game with text input for decisions and actions that you make. You are defending a man who has been accused of assaulting his girlfriend, and only have five minutes left with which to do it. Essentially what that means is that you need to figure out what your last course of action is going to be in the man’s defense. For the most part you’re not going to get the endings that you want to see due to making incorrect decisions, but the game is intended to be played through numerous times in order to piece together what you know and what the case is actually all about.
The presentation of the game is amazing, but is let down slightly by the shaky narrative. Some of the dialogue is awkwardly phrased, as though it was hurriedly translated. There’s also often obtusity in places where nuance would have been more appropriate; rather than telling us outright that somebody is mentally ill or has “evil” motives, why not make available the evidence supporting that conclusion and leave the discovery and judgement of that to the player? A little subtlety would have gone a long way in making the backstory of the case a lot more interesting.
The gameplay basically boils down to trying to figure out a single decision or action that you can use to win the case for your client. Failure is commonplace and often unavoidable, but the point is to keep failing and rewinding until you have enough information to make a convincing case to protect your client. It’s definitely an interesting way of handling things, but the unfair feeling created by this will definitely be divisive.
The graphical style and aesthetic support the narrative very well. The character designs and drawings have an absolutely gorgeous “painted world” appearance to them that far exceeds almost anything I’ve ever seen before in a Ludum Dare game.
While I appreciated experiencing the story elements and piecing together the facts of the case to really figure out what had happened, I absolutely did not enjoy the text-input control method of the game. I’ve never had much luck getting those things working, mainly because I seem to be cursed with entering inputs that are slightly different than what the developer expected and thus become stuck in place not knowing what to do. I would greatly prefer if some other dialogue system was in place such as a list of choices or something to that effect.
My only other major qualm with the game is that it feels like it’s a little too small for its own good. I wish there were some way the story could be touched-up and built into a full-on game. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative that’s already in place is interesting. However, the “choices” you are presented with in this game end up being little more than the illusion of choice. The vast majority of final stands that you choose to make are going to end in failure, and you’ll have to rewind to the point in time when you’re presented with the same choice again. While the notion of learning about a case and then rewinding with your additional knowledge to influence the decisions you make during the case is pretty interesting, it leaves open major plot loopholes that are difficult to explain away. If the game is just pretending that you only have enough time to make one choice I don’t see why it’s presented in the manner that it is rather than in something more obviously linear, like in a visual novel format.
Aside from my complaint with regards to the text input system and the frequent and highly annoying bug I kept encountering, I had a good experience with HE BEAT HER. I wouldn’t recommend it to some people due to the mature subject matter, but if you’re the kind of person that tends to enjoy linear games with “grown-up” or mature stories and don’t mind dealing with the clunkiness of the text input choice system this game could definitely be worth a look. Again, please do be careful as there are a few (rather minor, but still) pieces of mature content in the game that not everybody may be interested in or want to see.
If you would like to give the game a look, it’s available via Itch.io as a Pay what you want download.