Flakes on a Refrain – Brain Ouchies Courtesy of EDOC Laundry
If the catchy rhythm of ragtime music, soft-shoeing in your ear, sets your brain humming, the challenge of EDOC Laundry may tune your fork. Since the opening of the company’s online retail store, EDOC Laundry has introduced players to two websites related to the mystery of the band Poor Richard’s demise, and in its wake, a cresting tide of dead bodies. Having worn and faded the few remaining unsolved shirts – two elusive hats still evading purchase by their wallets – players had been intently twiddling their thumbs, pondering a great many things. (Really great things, such as “How much can we really HATE Sally?” and “How many bad PhotoShops of Jeff can be tolerated without inducing projectile vomit?”) Hence, once Sally and Lyn began posting on their respective websites, the players rejoiced quietly, thrilled to finally be getting a little action from the ladies.
Springing to life like an old man on his first Viagra with a number of bizarre communiques from the ever-obsessive Sally, Poor Richard Rocks has become a bevy of information – information of the kind that makes one rather uncomfortable. Ripe with the exuberance and fertility that comes with youth, Sally has been busy, preparing the nursery for her bundle of joy tucked inside her tummy bump, waiting for Jeff (JEFF!) to return home to nest with her. Despite her habit of mentioning Jeff (JEFF!) in nearly every sentence, Sally’s managed to pique players’ curiosity about her mental stability and the reality of her clandestine relationship with Jeff. Revealed in a few of the recently unlocked videos, Sally and Jeff’s relationship troubled the band in more ways than one: Sally’s age causing fits for Lyn with blackmail threats bringing murder to the stage, while Sally’s obsession with Jeff teeters on the verge of dangerous insanity.
Meanwhile, over on Hang Separately, Lyn (our intrepid narrator cum presumed killer) pulled up her sleeves and shook out a few of the magic cards she has tucked up there. Since June 28th, Lyn has taken a moment out of each week’s efforts at playing fugitive to provide players with a touch of entertainment on Wednesday afternoons. Secreted away within her cryptic weekly posts is a link to a diabolical puzzle that, when solved, unlocks one of the question-marked videos unrelated to clothing items listed on Hang Separately’s front page. The first week’s puzzle stumped the players for nearly two weeks, as a short ragtime-style musical ditty encoded the phrase “Rhythm Method” in trippy rhythmic binary code. Since then, Lyn has tested vocabulary, anagramming, mapping, and is currently killing brains with a doozie of a chess puzzle.
The scripting of the Season 1 videos remains archaic and contradictory, while continuing to impress — with the heaviest printing block imaginable — the overarching theme of the American Revolution in nearly every other sentence. The constant reminders in the videos that, yes, this is a parallel to the Revolution, begin to feel as if the writers are assuming the players are of the lowest echelon of intellectuals, incapable of understanding allegory or literary metaphor. One can hope that the quality of the scripting will strive to entertain and challenge the viewer as the game progresses, rather than continuing to beat them over the head with “revolution” and “freedom.” Likewise, the scripts struggle to stay consistent: for instance, confusing whether a main character in the story killed themselves by jumping off a bridge, or with a sharp blade pressed to the wrist. Despite the need for a good editorial slash-and-burn on the scripts to turn them into cohesive bits of intelligent authorship, the puzzles, as well as Lyn’s posts on Hang Separately, provide some glimmers of elegant writing and puzzle design. These game elements are spicing up the tired video narrative, making Lyn appear more like her namesake, the great Ben Franklin, than as is portrayed in the videos. Though the puzzles can be tricky, the elegance and logic of the puzzle design paired with the video rewards is delicious enough to keep driving the player exuberance for the game until the next influx of snazzy clothing hits the e-store, and with that, hopefully, some snazzier videos.
Despite the flaws, much of the backstory has been revealed through the puzzling effort, and the activity of Sally and Lyn is actually deepening some of the mystery: Is Sally completely bonkers, or is she just charmingly naive and youthfully exuberant? If Lyn is as brilliant as her puzzle-making skill implies, is she smart enough to manipulate the band? Is she smart enough to kill? More intriguing is the possibility of Sally as a criminal mastermind – is her obsession with Jeff (JEFF!) and her jealousy over the amount of time he spends with the band enough for her to commit murder? Is she even smart enough to put a plug in an electrical socket, let alone electrocute someone? Join the fun in pondering the many possibilities by dropping in on the UnFiction forums and chat room for discussion on the game.