Uh, really nice to see my thoughts on a game echoed here. Cultist Simulator is lush and well written and mysterious in the most tantalizing ways.
And yet every time I play it, I feel like I’m just getting lost in a hedge maze and coming out the same way I walked in. Sure, there’s cool things on the other side. And I constantly see hints of greater depths with every try. But there is clearly something I am missing in order to fully appreciate this game, and I’m not sure whose problem that is.
In an odd way, I think UNDERTALE is a lot like this. Now, Undertale is one of my favorite games ever - but I respect the fact that many people can’t get into it because the bulk of the way you spend the game involves pretty fucking difficult bullet hell mechanics.
Undertale is amazing, lovely, scary, and hilarious. But what does that matter to someone who can’t get past the first boss fight? Or, much more, to someone who plays the whole game through and accidentally killed one monster and so has to replay the whole thing to get the “best” ending?
I think the reason Undertale worked for me was that it’s wrapped in this SNES-era RPG vernier and bullet hell games were some of my favorite as a kid.
Where Cultist Simulator has a lot more in common with text-based adventure games or Twine games, like the article mentions. For me, those sorts of games have rarely been more than a frustration to me. Having to try, and try, and try to get the exact right prompt to register with the parser is just a pain in the ass to me - and even when it works, I wonder why it couldn’t just be a choose-your-own-adventure style novel. Just tell me a story, don’t make me wrestle you for it.
Probably, what it comes down to, is that puzzle box games can be awesome. But you probably have to love the way you solve the box to enjoy the prize at the end.