Snakes of Avalon

Fuck it, Bob, Just Get Me Another Drink

Free Download
Alex van der Wijst & Igor Hardy
Suggested By:

Snakes of Avalon is a graphic adventure in which you play Jack, a severe alcoholic hanging out in the Avalon, apparently a dive bar that caters to scum like you. You believe that you overhear plans to commit murder and decide, in your boozy and inept way, to foil them.

The technique of the unreliable narrator is common in fiction, and quite often in noir fiction, but it's something I've never seen used in a graphic adventure before. The results are amazingly surreal, as what you interact with is not necessarily anything remotely like reality, but instead Jack's deranged, alcoholic idea of what's going on. This alcoholic dream-logic meshes curiously with the rigorous logic of the graphic adventure, in which specific uses of inventory items produce concrete effects, but the result is more than a little appealing.

Despite the noir elements, Snakes of Avalon is quite funny, reminiscent of games like Time Gentlemen, Please -- certainly more grotesque than a Lucasarts adventure, but sharing something in terms of tone.

It's fairly short, and the puzzles are by no means easy (or even coherent, as your character is not); there is a walkthrough though, should you become stuck. The music by Thomas Regin is excellent; while the game itself has no voice acting, the cut scenes do, and they're pretty good, really.

Bottoms up.


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Unreliable Narrator in Games

Thanks, Greg. I ran across this a little while ago and thought I should play it for possible review. Now, I now I need to play it for my own sake.

I'm trying to think of other games with an unreliable narrator now, and you're right, I can't think of any.

Certainly, a lot of games (too many) where you realize that you've been fighting for the wrong side for half the game, and some that feature "malign paradigm shifts" (such as the madness systems in "Eternal Darkness" and "Call of Cthulhu"). A lot of Sierra and Lucasarts style adventure games feature protagonists with an exaggerated sense of their own importance, but the player is offered a clear-eyed view of the game world, and the protagonist's ego is repeatedly and comically deflated.

I think that's part of why this is so novel: it involves accepting that the player sees things as the character understands them, something that runs counter to the illusion of "objectivity" that games tend to present to the player.

Example: in games where the Player Character starts out working for the wrong side, it is usually immediately obvious to the player that the big corporation / secret society / King of all Cosmos is evil.

I'd like to see more games in which what the player gets to know is filtered through the protagonist's perceptions.

Two Platformers

These aren't graphic adventures, rather platformers that symbolically represent stories through their mechanisms, but The Company of Myself and Braid both seem like they have unreliable narrators in their intertitle text. In a way it's like the fighting-for-the-wrong-side twist, but it's still presented through unreliable narration. --In both games the narrator's unreliability is pretty obvious from the beginning, but that's not uncommon in fiction too (Kinbote in Pale Fire is plainly off his rocker by the third paragraph).

Are there no other graphic adventures where at the end the scene changes and you were doing something different all along, as in Power Kill? I can think of one or two interactive fiction games like that -- also at least one other game that uses the unreliable narrator in an unusually devious way. But I guess I can't tell you what they are.

(I say "seem" because I haven't played Braid yet. Find an OS X porter who can actually make the game work with OS X, Blow!)

@matt w: There is a pretty

@matt w: There is a pretty decent OS X port of Braid that worked fine on all the Macs I tried it on. It was even included in one of the Humble Indie Bundles (bought it that way).
Give a try to the demo you can find here:

Unreliable Player Character

Hello, Igor Hardy here - one of the game's 2 designers.

Thanks very much for the write-up about Snakes. It's incredibly cool that both in the review and in the comments I read suggestions that we managed to achieve something novel through Snakes of Avalon. This certainly wasn't our conscious goal when creating it though - we just wanted to tell a strange story within the boundaries of adventure game style gameplay.

But one thing that we really had fun with in connection to the "unreliable narrator" aspect of the game is that our hero doesn't just always run with what his mind tells him is happening - he struggles. He desperately tries to get a grip on reality, because he would like to influence it in a meaningful way. However, the reality repeatedly slips right through his fingers and his bodily faculties often fail him as well, providing additional challenges. So I would say he's not just an "unreliable narrator" of the events, but also an unreliable, unpredictable player character - something which I guess is usually discouraged in game design. :)

@IBelanszky: I bought Braid

@IBelanszky: I bought Braid through the Humble Indie Bundle, but it doesn't work on my Mac. I "seem to be the handful of people caught between the two versions as far as compatibility goes" according to the HIB people. (I did play through a little bit of the first level at this exhibit, so I do know first-hand that it's obvious from the beginning that the [third-person!] narrator is unreliable.)

Braid narration

Having played through the whole Braid, I wouldn't call the narrator of the "journal entries" unreliable. More like his tales have a different meaning than the literal one. They also serve introducing a larger number of themes and moods rather than weaving a single coherent storyline.