Developer: Laundry Bear Games Publisher: Laundry Bear Games Composer: Halina Heron Platforms: PC, Mac via steam and itch.io, iOS Release Date: For PC & Mac 18th October 2017, iOS 22nd November 2018 Genre: Story-Driven Management Sim.
A trigger warning for this review. I will be talking respectfully about the processes that take place within a funeral home from washing a body to the process of cremation. If these things may trigger you, please skip this review.
A Mortician’s Tale is a game that introduces you to the intimate and confronting world of what happens to your body after death. You play the black-haired, tattooed Charlie, the newest funeral director in the family-run “Rose and Daughters Funeral Home”. Charlie has managed to land on her feet with a boss who eases her into the swing of things, with her first job being a closed casket funeral. So, to show your respect you are asked to wash the body to prepare it for the funeral, and then attend the funeral. After changing into a “respectful” outfit, covering your tattoos, you reminisce with the attendees, listen to their qualms, and take a moment to stand by the coffin and process the death yourself.
The gameplay has a very simple loop. Go to your computer to check your emails where quite a lot of exposition lies. You will find your Monthly Newsletter with handy dandy tips and tricks, your job for the day, and correspondence from friends and co-workers. Then you will follow the routine of attending to the client’s requests in the preparation of the body and attending the funeral. This can range from open caskets to cremations with all the tools and steps you would normally take simplified for the gameplay. However, the real gem of this game is the story inbuilt under this.
Each loop takes place about a month or so after the last. By reading the emails you follow the ownership of family-run business doing the best it can for their clients where the head wants to retire and slowly move into the hands of a larger conglomerate. In this business the model is to push for sales and exploit the grief of families for higher profits and at the crux of this game, a few real issues. Do you respect the last wishes of a person, or go for that commission? Where do you stand when a family member wants something different to the person who once inhabited the body in front of you? Is processing this body worth the environmental impact? Is a funeral worth going into debt for?
The soothing, yet eerie background tracks composed by Halina Heron are a perfect accompaniment to the repetitive procedures, email reading, and funerals you attend. While the track’s loop isn’t very long, the tracks provide smooth loops and transitions between scenes. When it comes to sound effects, the ticking of the embalming fluid machine, the rumble of the cremation, and such can be quite confronting starting off, but quickly become routine. Other sounds are quite soft with the cremulator making a sandy hush that may be disconcerting for entirely different reasons.
A Mortician’s Tale is a simple story, in a simple point and click game, that hit quite close to home. I played this shortly after visiting a local mortician who had recently sent off a friend’s father and we sat and chatted for a few hours about many things, including the idea of being death-positive. I thought I knew the basics of what happens after someone dies and the processing of a body, but at the age of 38 this game taught me about new procedures, things that made me feel uncomfortable, and about not having a will which would leave it up to family or friends to deal with.
Overall, I recommend taking your time and playing A Mortician’s Tale. Not because it’s an amazing visual extravaganza, but if like me you haven’t thought too much about your post-mortem corpse disposal process, it will hopefully make you seriously reconsider the last impact you will leave on this earth. While also having few easter eggs to dig up for good measure.
A Mortician’s Tale was released in October of 2017 by Laundry Bear Games and is currently available for PC & Mac through Steam and Itch.io, and for mobile on iOS. I received my copy in a Humble Bundle.
I’m a not quite Atari old school, but definitely a 5½ inch floppy, anti-piracy Code Books/Wheel, hooking up the Nintendo Entertainment system via the Aux Cable attachment and turning the TV knob to channel 4, kind of Old School gamer. I grew up in Melbourne but have couch/console surfed most of the east coast of Australia with a laptop, hard drive and a Nintendo device in tow. I was indoctrinated into the gamer world at a young age with Sierra’s Mother Goose and Super Mario Bros. Now I’ll play on anything I can get my hands on; clickers and puzzle games on mobile, PC MMO’s, FPS’s and anything that will turn my PC tower into a wind tunnel. I’m working at getting more into consoles, but I still can’t play a twin-stick shooter to save my life. In my heart of hearts, I am a social gamer. My best memories of gaming are from playing games with friends, battling together in an MMO like World of Warcraft or Destiny 2, chatting about tips, tricks and trades in Animal Crossing or just sitting together while swapping controllers in Super Smash Brothers. That, or a puzzle/management sim game like Factorio, those can make me zone out for hours. My favourite game? Let’s find out together.