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Sarawak (PC) artwork

Sarawak (PC) review

"A Literary Itinerary "

No oneís going to confuse Sarawak as a rolling epic; instead, itís a self-contained little tale that you should see to completion in about 90 minutes or so. It describes itself as a literary mystery game, which is fitting enough that Iím going to steal it and use it like my own. Itís the tale of Mia, who finds herself mixed up in the murder of an Oxford professor. Her initial investigation is begrudging, but each new discovery makes the ordeal more personal, until sheís finally forced to go all in.

Thereís a fair bit of story crammed into less than two hours of running time, so itís to Sarawakís credit that it never feels especially rushed. A text-based adventure at heart, progression is mainly highlighted by scrolling down the page, as if you were reading an interactive word document. This is used to the gameís advantage in several inventive ways. Sometimes you need to scroll back up because something has changed in a previous image after a bit of amateur sleuthing. Sometimes, scrolling down brings up new images in unexpected ways.

For the most part, youíre scroll-locked at various points until youíre able to nudge the story along. This usually either involves solving a simplistic puzzle or by abusing various conversational prompts. The puzzles are unobtrusive and embrace the simplistic nature of the game, giving you the option to skip some of the more challenging ones and scoring huge merits in my book for not containing a single sliding tile puzzle. Several important conversations can branch out, offering you several replies you can select to advance the topic in a way of your choosing. Mia can often be straight up with people, or play it coy, trying to work better angles. Or try to work from a false sense of naivety.

It keeps her busy, taking tours through the oldest parts of Oxford academia, or jetting off to Borneo to visit the titular location itself. Her journey is divided into small chapters, making it easy to go back and see how a conversation would have gone had she adopted a different tact, or if a puzzle can be bypassed a different way. And then, itís over. In contrast to the main body of the game, the ending is the first time Sarawak feels like it has rushed a slice of the narrative, but the tale is neatly concluded nonetheless. Itís not going to keep you enthralled for several evenings on end, and thereís not a lot of reason to revisit it once youíre done, but it contains enough solid writing and creative puzzles to keep you invested throughout. Strong conclusions are overrated, anyway.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 25, 2021)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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A clever inside reference.


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