Hypnotic Owl releases a new episode of their bite-sized ASCII adventure series The Pepper Prince on April 22nd. So, the story set in a fairy-tale land full of magical characters with a taste for chilis continues, but does it still deliver the whimsical charm?
The Sadness is the second of five episodes in this unique point-and-click adventure that first started as a game jam project. Episode 1: Red Hot Chili Wedding introduced a world full of familiar fairy-tale characters who speak in rhymes and have an affection for good cuisine. The simple ASCII art works well as it lets your imagination fill in the blanks, and the world comes alive in your mind.
This is helped greatly by the game’s audio. There are just a few subtle sounds that set the scene — calming ocean waves or chirping crickets. On top of that the music really helps set the mood. Simple tunes change depending on the area and your point in the story. The score has its own charm and fits the graphics without going all the way to an 8-bit style.
In my previous review I was hoping that the story would pick up steam and that the puzzles would get more interesting. The Sadness mostly delivers that. The story brings you to new areas and introduces more fairy-tale characters. You still run a lot of errands but this time it is all part of an interesting narrative that you can get more emotionally invested in.
However, I would have liked to have a bit more agency when it comes to the story’s progress. At some point I didn’t want to do what I was told to and other characters even mentioned that it might not be a good idea, but it was the only way forward. This would work better if the player avatar was a more full-fledged character as well. Someone with their own intentions that I could understand even if they don’t always align with my own. I actually had forgotten that I could choose to play as either Hansel or Gretel in the very beginning. It feels as if I’m just playing as myself but the game bars me from the decisions that I would make.
The puzzles are definitely a step up. Early on you can discover a new mechanic that opens up a lot more possibilities. Further into the game there are even more gameplay features, which help to keep the experience fresh and surprising. Some of the puzzles were also a bit harder although never unfair. At one point I ended up trying out my whole inventory on something, only to feel stupid when I picked the correct item and saw the obvious actions unfold.
Traditional point-and-click adventures have to strike a balance between giving the player enough options to allow for some creative guessing for the right solution while not making it tedious. In The Sadness the whole map from the first episode is still accessible but quite a few characters are not essential to the puzzles anymore. So, if you wander around aimlessly and talk with everybody, because you are not sure what you are supposed to do, you have a lot of ground to cover. It would be nice if that was at least rewarded with more unique dialogues instead of reading the same answers over and over.
Overall The Pepper Prince serves a good second course with The Sadness. It keeps the charm of the first episode and sprinkles in some welcome new flavours. The story has some more serious and sad tones but tries not to drag you down too much. If you enjoyed the first episode even a little bit, you should definitely give this one a chance as well.