Games like Undertale and Doki Doki Literature Club are good at filling a player with guilt for doing the wrong thing. The Deponia trilogy does the same thing considering some of the stuff that Rufus does might be borderline transphobic and racist in the third game. Yet when the code came out for NecroBoy: Path to Evilship, I was intrigued. It was a cute two-dimensional style that demonstrated some fun music and moral ambiguity. Plus, no one as cute as the player character could be that evil. Right? Right?
Maybe. That's my verdict thus far after playing the first bit of the game. NecroBoy thus far doesn't do anything that is terribly evil. Sure he summons souls of the dead to do his bidding and offers nothing in return, but a lot of college internships work the same way if they don't even offer academic credit. He demeans his sidekick Lackey when the latter offers sensible advice; we have learned this is a common trait in the corporate world.
My instinct is that there is more to NecroBoy's story under the surface. He himself wants to question what it is he wants, and he thinks that graverobbing has the answer. If only he would listen to his lackey, whom he only addresses as Lackey. The two have a vibe that reminds me of Hater and Commander Peepers from Wander Over Yonder. I do hope that Lackey gets a bone thrown his way, like a statue or even an acknowledgment of cool photos. For Lackey, I will play the whole game in the hopes of giving him a happy ending.
Nitpicky stuff out of the way
As I ran into a rather frustrating occurrence, I'd like to offer a suggestion to the creators: have a way to save the game, or provide a warning that switching levels will erase how far you've gotten with the puzzles. I admit that I screamed with frustration when learning that I had erased my progress by accident. Rather, I gave a big "WHAT?" on the stream. While the early puzzles aren't hard, I had stopped on one that was stumping me, where you had to open two gates, but had no way of keeping both open at the same time. I don't know if it's intentional that there are no save slots or if it's something that will need a patch in a future release, but I felt frustrated that I'm going to have to redo my progress to get to that point. It's the principle!
What Is NecroBoy's Tragic Backstory?
According to NecroBoy, he was left abandoned in the woods as a small child, and he learns it was because of his ability to raise the dead. Feeling that he deserves revenge on the world, NecroBoy wants to become the greatest necromancer in the world and use it to prove that he is superior to the rest of humanity. To do that, he wants to raid the grave and tomb of the previous necromancer that held the title. He will do this across several levels of puzzles that must be successfully solved to get to the grave. With these artifacts and powers, he can handle his abandonment issues in a completely healthy fashion.
At least, this is what NecroBoy relates to his sidekick, Lackey (not his real name, but NecroBoy won't bother to offer decent respect in the undead workplace). Lackey has heard this many times and has learned how to roll his eyes as a sapient soul raised to do NecroBoy's bidding. He asks logical questions, like the holes in NecroBoy's backstory about when exactly he was abandoned and when he discovered his powers. NecroBoy reminds Lackey that one of them is the Necromancer, and the other is the sidekick, so shut up unless he writes down what keys the player needs to press.
A quantum dimension opens up when you enter the tomb. Several mazes appear, with doors activated by levers. You need to rally dead souls that can't climb stairs to pull these levers and assist in your conquest. The farther you go in, the more powers and skills you can learn, and the closer you get to harnessing a dead person's powers. While NecroBoy doesn't care that he is using sapient beings as unpaid labor, the souls in the dimensions are thrilled. They've been bored by lurking around and having no tasks to complete. Sure none of them can climb stairs, meaning that he can't take them with him to future chambers. There are also hints that something mysterious may lurk in the spot with the final resting space.
Of course, why does this need to be complicated? You could just open the levers yourself if you convinced NecroBoy to be a normal person. That would certainly help for the puzzles where you need to hit levers with precision. But no, NecroBoy has such an inflated ego that he feels that he is beneath pulling levers or figuring out how to solve puzzles. So instead he summons dead souls in the Dark Lord's kit. Lackey notes that pride comes before a fall, but he is not paid to advise his summoner on the dangers of groupthink. Every time he tries, NecroBoy shuts him up and orders him to offer extended compliments. Lackey does, with deadpan sarcasm that drips through the text. If he were actually to advise Necroboy, this game would probably be a lot shorter.
You can activate several levels of puzzles on the main menu, depending on how skilled a gamer you are. I admit that I'm not that skilled, so I went with the basic level. The others I may do after beating the game once, which may take a while. As mentioned, it is very easy to erase your progress in the version that I am doing. I do wish that it wasn't the case because I wanted to take some time away to either reason through the puzzle for a few days or come up with a walkthrough. If there isn't a patch that either adds save slots or has a spot where you can load a game, I would recommend warning the audience about this little fact.
Predictions for the rest of the game
My guess is that the necromancer resting in peace will start a bit of a boss fight. Even if it's a puzzle game, the stage is set so that the tomb has one last explosive trick up its sleeve. That could be a boss fight, a puzzle under pressure, or a dilemma like in Deponia. I really hope it's not the last option because the end of the third game drove me to cry on a stream. Either way, a payoff is coming.
I do think that the deeper we go into the quantum realms while navigating the various mazes and puzzles, the more that we will see NecroBoy's soft side, and his heart. He can do good even without meaning to, and he can show off a bit of compassion. Sure, the attitude he has now is of a spoiled and entitled child, and in all good conscience, I cannot condone that. Even so, there is hope that he will come around, and at least thank Lackey for all of his good advice. Seriously, dude, listen to your sidekick. He is the Commander Peepers and you do not ignore Peepers when talking about tactics and dealing with a hostile threat.
We may also see if Lackey is really sticking around because he has to thanks to the summon, or if he does have a soft spot for the kid. NecroBoy is not a fun boss, but to his credit, he hasn't killed anyone as other necromancers have. Petty revenge occupies his brain, along with delusions of grandeur. He is basically a child with a lot of power, and that is a little terrifying.
I cannot wait to play the rest of the game and update you all. So far, the game has made a good first impression on me, problem with the save files aside. That could also be one last trick from NecroBoy to not make things easy on the player.
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