Trilby’s Notes is the sequel to “7 Days a Skeptic”. However, its only value lies in its valuable plot contribution - as a game it’s quite awful. I’d recommend for all but the masochistic to just read a summary instead of subjecting themselves to the experience of trying to “beat” this game.
The foremost issue is the interface. The game uses text-based input and direct control. Both suffer from the typical issues with such interfaces.
Moving about with the arrow keys is not inherently broken, but the hotel you spend most of the game in has several flights of stairs. You can’t go “under” the stairs, as this is still a 2D game underneath, so you have to squeeze yourself down just to get to the other side. Moreover, the stairs are slightly diagonal, so pressing down only goes half the distance, then you have to press right, then down again. It’s a minor issue but seeing as most of the game is just running around like a headless chicken, not having any path-finding becomes annoying quickly.
The parser is, well, a parser. You will get to play “guess the verb” with it and it will reject plausible attempts with confusing reasons because it latches onto a word in the wrong way. Some commands work only part of the time for some reason. I didn’t have the issue mentioned in the AG review, though—being a veteran of these games, it’s always “talk man about woman” for me, so there was no need to remember the name of anything, and I never used the word “shingle”.
The game suffers from a mortal sin, when it comes to text-based adventures: some items are never mentioned in the description. Because you can’t click on objects, text adventures absolutely must, at some point, mention every object you could interact with in the scene descriptions. It doesn’t have to be in “look room”, but in Trilby’s Notes, some items are just never mentioned, neither by “look” nor by “look table”, etc. You have to figure out what they are based on the graphics - and I’m sorry, but the graphics are not that good.
Beyond the crippled interface, the game itself is also sub-par. The plot is actually quite good, but the mechanics are unbearable.
For some reason the game constantly shifts you back to the dark world even after giving you means to shift between worlds at will. It’s not scary because by that time you’ve already seen everything there is to see in both hotels, so it’s just annoying, forcing you to leave and re-enter screens. It’s also a bit confusing at first, I thought it meant some places can’t be accessed in the light world, where in fact the pills just wear off really fast.
There is one ridiculous point where Trilby refuses to take an obviously-useful item because if he did it would ruin a part of the plot.
There are several sections where you just have to walk around and look for people. There is no way to deduce where they are, you just have to use the awkward interface to move about the entire hotel, looking for them, occasionally being randomly shifted to the other hotel. It’s not challenging and it’s not interesting, it’s just a chore.
The puzzles are almost all completely trivial. Off the top of my head, there are two interactions I would call “puzzles” until the very end of the game.
The end itself is ridiculous. It could’ve been clever but it’s implemented poorly, the sequence is just way too overdrawn. It’s difficult to explain without spoiling, so suffice to say it’s a “convention breaker” type of puzzle, and those always need to be handled with care.
To summarize: Trilby’s Notes is longer than its predecessors, but the extra length is mostly just padding. It takes longer to move between rooms and you often need to do a brute-force search for items or characters. The actual game-play portions total to about as long as the previous games.
Time Played: 2-5 hours
The plot ties things nicely together and prepares the scene for the next game, but you could just look it up online and save yourself the aggravation.