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Back to Life...Unfortunately Reviews
Author: David Whyld
Date: 2004

Reviewed by Cobra1

I, along with many players, have hated the concept of dying suddenly in any IF. However, this time we are given a unique twist. You are not only to die ON PURPOSE, but as many ways as possible! Reminded me a bit of an old C-64 IF game (sequel to Infidel...but I can't remember the name), but how did THIS game play out? 

Rest In Not-Quite-Peace. 

The game starts off well. You are a dead king who has been resurrected seven years later because your people need you to rules them. What of your heir? He's got bowel trouble and just can't seem to help out. Well, you're not going to sit around and live while you're...well, alive! Thus begins the odd quest of killing yourself until the job is done right...permanently. 

Am I dead yet? 

Quite often seems not enough. That High Chancelor seems insistent on keeping you alive(gee, imagine that) and goes to great length to have others killed at your expense...and my gut. I've got severe pains from the laughter as I read the ways he goes to blame people for your deaths. The author was merciless in the killing of these peasants and hired help, but you'll burst as well. The ways of killing yourself, however, are quite varied both in methods and terms of difficulty. A few you'll get right off the bat, but others shroud themselves in mystery. You'l find that the result is mosly charming entertainment, however... 

SAVE-ing yourself 

The one major catch in this game is several things need to be done in a specific order. If you complete a specific death early on, you are prevented from doing another death because that area is now barricaded. If you walk out of the room where you get the ring, you cannot re-establish communication (you'll see what I mean). Also, a few notices of your destruction go unnoticed...like the fact the cracks in the ceiling remain after another specific death. Lastly, where would I be without my handy dandy mention of guess-the-verb? "check"- and "mark"-"box #" don't work. Only "tick box '#'" works...frankly, I've never "ticked a box" before...maybe someone inside the box, but not the- That's ranting and I'll quit 
that. Another came from trying to examine the crown jewels. Typing "x crown" provided me nothing except that I saw "nothing specific about them"; You need to "x jewels" to get the desired results. 

If not those, perhaps another puzzle : a bomb. I tried assembling this piece by piece, as I assumed I should. I typed "put fuse in barrel"...Can't put anything in. "put gunpowder into barrel?"...Same answer. "insert fuse into barrel"...No dice. Breaking down, I checked the website..."make bomb" was all that was required. Perhaps that was my own fault, but I thought it should be slightly more complicated than that...It's still less complicated then the "final" puzzle (trust me on this). 

Of course he doesn't look good...he was dead! 

Despite the GTW hits and slight awkwardness, the game retains its humour and is still fun to play...a tad short IMO, but still one nice game game. Recommended. 

7/10 (Dead-straight fun) 

Reviewed by DIY Games (December 2004)

You died a long time ago, after many years of wise rule over your lands. Unfortunately, you didn’t manage to produce any real successor, if you don’t count that wimp with severe bowel problems whenever it’s time to decide anything. So the good people of your land have resurrected you, which doesn’t make you too happy. You see, being dead is quite nice, and being alive again is not what you had in mind when you died. So begins your glorious quest to commit suicide in a way that would prevent your further resurrection. The title is very well written, and the story, puzzles and humour are all very original. If this game was included in the IF Competition, it would’ve been a serious title contender.

Reviewed by Greg Boettcher

This game has an interesting premise: you, the king, have recently died, but your subjects have resurrected you. The kingdom is in danger, and they're convinced that only you can help. The problem is, you were just getting to enjoy being dead. Now that you're alive, what do you plan to do now? It'd be nice to help your kingdom a little bit, but heck, you already helped them when you were alive the first time, right? No, your main goal is to die. 

Is this an original premise? It seemed so to me. When I asked a knowledgeable friend about this, she told me that there have been at least two or three other games whose goal is to die, but she said that it would be a spoiler to say what they were. I'm going to take this to mean that this game is fairly original. Even if there have been games with a roughly similar goal, they obviously handled it in a different way, since in this game it is not a spoiler to tell you that death is the object of the game. 

Technically it's not hard to kill yourself in this game. The problem is, when you're dead, you're not exactly in a position to keep your subjects from resurrecting you. To complete the game, you have to die, shall we say, in a more permanent way. That is far from easy, and even if you succeed, it is possible that you will still not get the best ending, depending on how you deal with a few non-suicide-related things. This makes for a challenging experience, with a lot of potential for replayability. 

There are some funny moments here, as in most of David Whyld's games. I found it amusing that the game's "score" consists of how many times you've killed yourself. From the very first move, your "successful suicide attempts" are given in the game's status bar. 

The writing is generally good, and the puzzles are well designed. I admit I resorted to a walkthrough, but that's because I was under time pressure because of this review collection. The crucial puzzles were logical enough that I probably could have solved them without the walkthrough. (The game also has hints, but these are not as helpful as the walkthrough; they are basically just static suggestions based on what room you're in.) 

The main problem has to do with a few guess-the-syntax puzzles. There are at least three cases where unusual syntax is required. I'm not sure if veteran ADRIFT are likely to be able to guess the syntax here, but I wasn't. This, and a few other little things, added up to the general impression that the author wasn't trying as hard as he could to improve the game's interactive aspect. This is the characteristic weakness I've seen in all the David Whyld games I've looked at so far. His games are well written, but sparsely implemented; he's not aiming for perfection in the interactive realm. 

Overall, I found this game entertaining, yet flawed. I can't give it my highest praise, but I recommend it to anybody who's interested in it after reading this review. 

Reviewed by KFAdrift

One of the few games this year where the premise interested me enough to play it. As I have a liking for the antiquities of Ancient Egypt, the setting was a real hook. 

One or two loose ends, which may have been tied up since I played it, made for a bit of guess the verb. Think I would have the apples removed after the suicide attempt with them, rather than just them being used again. 

As others have said the fun is in working out what way to try and kill yourself next. It may have a limited life span, but will provide some real amusement in the meantime. 

Reviewed by Laurence Moore

This is a highly amusing and fairly original game. The premise is that you have been resurrected by your people to save them and administer their affairs. However, you were quite content being dead and intend to stay dead. 

So begins the quest for treasure? Right? Wrong! 

Toss away your bunch of keys and oil lanterns and [MINOR SPOILER] throw yourself off the balcony because the only way you will win this game is by killing yourself numerous times and ensuring you stay dead. 

The map is quite small - although it seems bigger - and this is due to the often lengthy and well detailed (and well written) locations packed with static objects that can be examined further and interacted with, as well. The humour is at the right slant and there is a perverse fun in trying to kill yourself over and over again. In fact, I can't think of a piece of IF where the quest is death (yours). 

So, is it any good? 

Yes, it's good, very good, in fact. And, to be truth, a bit too good to just have been released during another dry spell for Adrift games. This is the kind of game that might have fared well in a competition (possibly the IF one) due to its quality and original plot. A few rough bits here and there but no game is perfect and nothing detracts for the enjoyment factor. 


Reviewed by Lumin (1)

An entertaining game with an original premise. There are a few small annoyances that will hopefully be cleaned up in subsequent versions, but for the most part ’Back to Life’ is a funny and well-written game with a lot of attention to detail. I haven’t played many of DavidW’s other games, so I don’t know how this ranks with his previous efforts, but I had a great time figuring out the various methods of committing suicide (it’s not as morbid as it sounds :P) and only wish I could have taken a certain NPC with me...

Reviewed by Lumin (2)

DavidW's newest game, 'Back to Life…Unfortunately' puts you in the reluctant royal robes of a recently un-deceased king, and it's the player's job to get him deceased again, permanently this time. It's an original premise, one I don't recall seeing in an IF game before, and it's delivered in a consistently funny manner that keeps the tone light enough that it never sinks into the realm of the morbid (which would have been all too easy, given the subject matter), while at the same time not having the restraint not to go completely into the over-the-top humor I've never been too fond of. 

With only four rooms, it m ay seem small on the surface, but David has managed to pack in so many creative ways to off yourself that it actually feels more substantial than a lot of games three times its size. Paying close attention to details in room and object descriptions is a necessity; players who are accustomed to skimming text are going to miss out on a lot, and may find it impossible to get the full score. I'm the kind of person who likes to scrutinize every noun, and I still missed a couple of important things in the starting room on my first play through. 

There are about a dozen puzzles in all, and except for one that I'll get to later, none of them are overly difficult as long as you follow the advice in the paragraph above. A nice touch that adds to the replay value is that you can actually beat the game after only solving a couple if you so desire, but of course the typical (read: obsessive) IF player will have to keep playing until they get the highest score possible. 

And that brings me to my first real complaint. One of the puzzles, the one involving the king's son that's required for the optimal ending, is decidedly unfair. Unless I'm just missing out on some hints that were given elsewhere, there's no way in a million years I would have thought to try the action that's required. Not only is it inadequately clued, (actually, not clued at all, as far as I can tell), but the result doesn't make much sense, either. 

So even though it's a very good game, it's not without a few flaws. For instance, in one room I kept running across a bunch of weird ambiguity errors that got annoying fast. 'x pentagram' would result 'Which pentagram? The pentagram or the pentagram?' (this was doubly strange as there was only one pentagram there in the first place). In the same room there was a collection of potions that were similarly frustrating. Part of this might be Adrift's fault, but it doesn't seem like it would be too difficult to notice this and work around it during testing, or at the very least, if it's a known problem it could have been avoided by having objects with different names (red potion, green vial, purple flask, etc.) that served the same purpose. 

In another place, the text in a room description changes to mention a previous event, whether or not the event actually played out that way. It's not really a big deal and doesn't effect gameplay, but it does make some of the text directly contradict itself. The same thing happens in one of the endings, where you're told you didn't accomplish something, and then a couple of paragraphs later you're congratulated for accomplishing it. 

Still, nitpicks aside, 'Back to Life' is a thoroughly entertaining game that's well worth the time it takes to play. The descriptions, as well as the writing itself is excellent, and obviously a lot of time was spent proofreading, as I only spotted a couple of tiny errors. Definitely recommended. 


Reviewed by Nickydude

A well written adventure with an unusual plot:- to kill yourself... and stay dead!

Although there are only a few rooms, there’s plenty to do and plenty of things to kill yourself with (if you can work out how ;). The adventure is well written in a comical manner and should have you letting out a few chuckles, there’s next to no guess-the-verb and everything can be examined. 

The puzzles are logical, but there are a few parts that will have you scratching your head, one involving a ceiling and one summoning guards (this one I had no idea about and only found out by reading the walkthrough and must say that I would have never finished it without the walkthrough). 

But still a great game, go on, give it a go, you probably do a lot better than I did :)

Reviewed by Charon

Now Play Dead and Roll Over... 

For this game review I decided to focus on a game written with a slightly less prominent system, which surprisingly took a bit of effort to find one that hadn't been in any type of previous competition. I eventually settled on 'Back to Life... Unfortunately' written with Adrift. My computer promptly decided to honor my choice by repeatedly kicking the bucket whenever I tried to run Adrift, although I had been previously playing such games with no problems only a few short weeks earlier. (I wish my computer had taken other action on behalf of 'Unfortunately...' perhaps by spitting out some of those fabulous crown jewels found within the game.) 

And so I was cast in the same role as the antagonist Chancellor Verenor as I kept dragging something back to life again and again that would rather have remained dead. Unlike the good chancellor, however, I emerged triumphant and so we come to the review of 'Back to Life... Unfortunately'... 

The premise, perhaps the best part of the game, revolves around life and death. Or rather how to end your un-life and get back to your peaceful death. You take the role of a nameless (beyond 'Your Highness') long dead king who was dragged kicking and screaming back to life to once again rule over his troubled people. And again. And again. And again. For you see, the people are troubled by highland barbarians, they are troubled by pygmy attacks and pirates, they are troubled by the assassin who first offed you those many years ago, and perhaps most of all they are troubled by Chancellor Verenor who keeps executing random people for treason every time he brings you back from a successful suicide attempt. 

The king, alas, is not overly concerned with such things. (At least in the best ending there is some closure given regarding the troubles of the kingdom that were the cause of your recent resurrection(s)-- by literally knocking some sense into your slack-off son!) While the dead king was not cavorting in some afterlife paradise, he seems content enough to lie in his grave like a dead log. Well, if that's what he really wants... 

While sudden deaths have often been the bane of interactive fiction players (I usually don't mind them overmuch so long as I have my handy Undo command), this is one of the few games where finding those sudden deaths and offing yourself in various humorous ways is the point. Poisoning seems to be the death of choice (with nearly half of the deaths being related to poison in some way), yet I was particularly amused by the two balcony related deaths, especially the one where the poor commoner survives your landing on him, but not the wrath of Verenor. (Although perhaps I feel the most sorry for "some fellow who was passing by the palace at the moment you died and, thus, immediately became a suspect" and was summarily executed, of course.) I only wish the game were a bit longer, with even more deaths to find. (I can think of a few more ways for a king to kick the bucket with panache...) 

While there are twelve different ways to kick the bucket and only ten available in one play through, 'Back to Life... Unfortunately' is really rather short. There are only five rooms in the game, so one of my favorite Adrift functions, the auto-mapping feature, is not necessary. Or perhaps I did need a map after all, as various websites and the game itself mentions the five rooms, but I was only ever able to blindingly find four. Then, with unerring talent, I also seem to have stumbled upon a way to put the game into an unwinnable state, as I reached the maximum ten deaths per play-through but wasn't able to achieve an ultimate death. (Or perhaps I was supposed to suffer with the king, doomed to an eternal life of boredom pacing within my four rooms?) 

Unfortunately in 'Unfortunately' it is quite easy to cut yourself off from a suicide attempt by not completing them in a correct order that can really only be deduced in hindsight. If you're too gluttonous and not studious enough or if you give into the temptation of that rickety balcony just waiting there, begging to be jumped off of (before you realize that death is not going to come that easily), you will end up missing the optimal ending. Some of the puzzle solutions seemed a bit counterintuitive, such as the Gadrian one -- it would seem only logical that a person with such a huge death wish would run gladly into the arms of an assassin (and that the assassin wouldn't be so persnickety as to not to deign to show up if he's not noticed.) While I was glad that Gadrian put in his expected appearance, the 'optimal' scenario seemed to waste his character potential a bit. 

Other puzzles were a bit guess the verb-y. While I enjoyed messing around with the potions (although I wish there were a few more reactions included when mixing them) I originally missed one solution when I was told that a potion did nothing. It actually did do something, but only when referred to by its full name. I also had a hell of a time with the quill, ink, and coupon, whereupon I knew exactly what I wanted to do but could not quite get that idea across to the game. (Funnily enough, when I finally 'SCREAM'ed in frustration while trying to deal with the coupon, the guards answered me, heh.) The only thing that bedeviled me nearly as much as the coupon (the twist with the second coupon was amusing, but it ended up sending me down the dead-end path) was the ring. At least I was able to eventually get violent with the latter. 

As stated within the game info, there are no real non-player characters within 'Unfortunately'. Your misguided head chancellor, Venenor is the most chatty and well described of all the castle cast, but he appears only in non-interactive cut scenes. Your beloved wife isn't able to visit her newly resurrected hubby as she's dead drunk (Oh well, at least that's better than my first suspicions!) and you have no interaction with Gadrian the assassin in the optimal storyline, and only a cut scene with him in other plotlines. You can also try to strike up conversations via menu choices with your blithering idiot guards (supposedly guarding you from others, but more likely guarding you from escaping) or communicating with your slack-off of a son through the aforementioned ring, but these conversations are rather stunted. (And the king first mistakes the ring for his son ... and he's supposed to be the intelligent one!) 

Along with an amusing status bar that keeps track of successful suicide attempts and current health (the worse being the better!), it's interesting to note that there are three types of walkthroughs beyond the rudimentary help/hint section. One is a list of basic commands, one is told in amusing story form, and one is a transcript. Alas, none of them helped me in the situation I found myself mired in and overall I found the in-game hint system too vague. However, the reading material within the game ended up being a pretty good and interesting hint system for the topics they covered. (Although I never did figure out the genie in the bottle puzzle or if the missing journal was more than a red herring as neither was mentioned within the clues or walkthroughs.) 

There are also a few other interesting meta-commands available in the game such as Facts (for game tidbits), Reviews, Games (for other games by the authors) and Intro which replayed the prologue and was a necessity for me as I clicked 'Enter' one time too many originally and had the text go flying past unread. 

Another joy of the game is simply poking around with stuff, delighting in the amusing descriptions. I was quite glad that the cold draft in your bedroom could be examined (as I wander through games poking anything that looks remotely pokeable) and found it funny that you observe "Even as you wince at this poor description, you realise you just can't find a better way of describing it. It's cold. It's a draft. It's a cold draft." Yet it seems a bit of fun was missed with the description of the dead king, which remains the same throughout his ordeal no matter if his head explodes or he goes splat against various sundry objects, and who seems to look exceedingly good for a man seven years dead. (Shouldn't he be a skeleton at this point, or perhaps a mummy if this kingdom has good preservation techniques? Or at least have some body parts falling off, as there were only the maggots in the prologue.) 

And so 'Back to Life... Unfortunately' with its amusing twist on a morbid subject ends up being a short, entertaining bit of fluff, ultimately not particularly memorable beyond its premise, but worth the download and the time spent playing it. 

Reviewed by Chillindawg

When I saw the title, I expected little from this game, but when I opened the game and saw the goal was to kill yourself, not only was I surprised, but intrigued... When I started playing, I found the first couple of ways to kill yourself simple and fun, but then I came to a wall. The game got a little complicated, but a quick typing of ’short’ got me some help, and I was back having fun! This games storyline is a wonderful twist of hate and wonder. though complicated, I give this game a 9/10

Reviewed by Duncan Bowsman

In concept, a game about suicide shouldn't be this funny, but there you have it. Mr. Whyld's wacky, over-the-top style of comedy swings left and right here, landing many blows. For me, most of the laughs came from the exchanges between the protagonist and his High Chancellor Verenor, who refuses (despite insistence and the evidence of many attempts) to recognize that the King wishes to die and stay dead and keeps on getting him resurrected while punishing others for the King's many deaths. Give it a play... if you've hit a death or two without managing to laugh, maybe this game isn't for you. But then maybe you've also had your funny bone surgically removed recently?

There are one or two guess the verb bits in here, one of which is actually a puzzle in itself solved by inductive reasoning, the other of which is a true aggravation because you're likely to hit on so many syntaxes that *should* work, but don't. Luckily, the game includes plentiful documentation and hints, as well as a built-in walkthrough which there is no shame in consulting (if you're like me, the proper syntax for one verb is a real forehead slapper... shoulda thought of it earlier). If you're curious, the author even invites players to view the game's source code.

To get a full score, one needs to find all of the game's possible deaths. Some are a little obscure, but reward thorough investigation of the environment. It's not a game anyone is likely to beat with the best score on the first time through, but it is likely to be enjoyable even without reaching an ending or getting all of the deaths (although the last death really is the icing on the cake).

I can't speak for how the affect holds on multiple playthroughs, but if you find new deaths on every playthrough, you're likely to feel rewarded.


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