A Mortician's Tale
released on Oct 18, 2017
A Mortician's Tale is a narrative-driven death positive video game where you play as a mortician tasked with running a funeral home—preparing the cadavers of the deceased (via embalming or cremation), attending their funerals and listening to their loved ones' stories, and running the business.
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This review contains spoilers
very cool of the homeless man's funeral to make me cry like that
This is an incredibly short game that's very light on gameplay, which is going to turn some people away right off the bat. There is a genuinely touching message at the heart of Mortician's Tale though, and with a playtime of only an hour, you're not losing much by giving it a whirl.
While playing through some longer RPGs, I longed for a short little 'snack' in between. A Mortician's Tale looked like the ideal candidate thanks to its short run time (30 minutes of my 2 hours with this game I have optionally spent with its rendition of Minesweeper) and its interesting theme.
In this game you play Charlie, who joins a family-owned funeral home as a Mortician. The game spans about a year and you 'spawn' once a month or two, go on your computer to read some optional e-mails from colleagues, friends and prior 'customers', and also to see the mandatory e-mail that tells you what your task for the day is. You either ready bodies for closed-casket (you just have to clean them) or open-casket funerals (much more tasks involved) or you cremate them, based on the families wishes.
These tasks are rather simple and each step is carefully explained every time, so the goal is not to do it right, it's just to do it.
I know nothing about funeral homes, so I appreciated the game for showing me how they operate, how different requests are handled, about the environmental effects of embalming versus green burials, and about corporations that exploit both employees and customers even in this business.
Apart from that however, the game doesn't really manage to be emotionally impactful regarding its main character, which has no dialogue lines during the game. Anything she feels and thinks about her job, about how she handles it and anything else that could bring the players closer to her, doesn't exist, which I thought was a shame.
So while I appreciated the game for its topic, it doesn't succeed in being more than a tutorial/showcase for the 'industry', and I'm not sure if there was any intent to do anything beyond that.
An educative and somewhat poetic experience that doesn't overstay its welcome. As simple as gameplay is, there is something to be said about performing those actions nevertheless. Staring at the dead body, cleaning it, massaging it, watching it oscillate between object and someone else's loved one.