Sterling Suburbs

Player Rating4.88/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 25 ratings since 10/31/2020
played 242 times (finished 28)

Story Difficulty5/8

"run through the jungle"

Play Length3/8

"A nice jog down the driveway"

Maturity Level6/8

"I'll need to see some identification"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 16. If this were a movie, it would probably between PG-13 and R.
It's the 'burbs, baby. Wipe that city grime off on the door mat. You know what, why don't you just remove those filthy shoes entirely. She's calm, collected, and safe. Sterling Suburbs, nothing like her erratic sister, filled with carpool lines, trick or treaters, and a steady supply of Budweiser. Author's Note: Written for Mara's Halloween Writing Jam. A small-sized, suburb-dwelling Sterling City spin-off!

Player Comments

I’m writing this review as I go along, so it may be a bit unorganized at times! Also: spoilers, obviously.

I’ll start off by saying, something I’ve thought of your other stories as well: I REALLY love your writing style. Your prose makes stories so much easier to read. It doesn’t come off as pretentious, but actually makes reading the stories themselves more fun. The little quirks like the line, “what’s the expression? Out of the frying pan, stuck in rush hour traffic?” followed by repeating the same thing. Little things like that really make it more interesting.

I was a bit disappointed that Grumpy Gary’s story didn’t pan out very much. I imagined from the beginning that the story would be focused around ‘Martian daddy’ since that’s who you start as and it wouldn’t make sense to set it all up just to toss it out for another character, but when I clicked Grumpy Gary and got a bunch of backstory about him, only to have him immediately killed off in both options, I was a liiittle disappointed that I couldn’t go further with him. But also, the deaths were well done, both being suicides. I just wish we had a bit more to go off of, I suppose. It felt like it happened so rapidly.

The part about working on your novel only to get writers’ block was sweet. All three options leading to the same thing, however, was also a bit weird. I mean it makes sense and it works for a general story, as the message given is essentially “no matter how this went, you were going to end up drinking a Budweiser and seeing Beth.” But in the context of a CYOA, I think the options should have a bit more consequences and thus far, there really haven’t been any other paths to take.

First death, the zombie woman, and it’s done very well. I loved the build up to it, from seeing her, to getting closer to her, to getting murked. Loved it. Although that was another example of the branches interlocking; whether you chose to let Beth get the door or answer yourself, you end up at the same place of you having to answer. Which again, works great rhetorically, but also didn’t do much in terms of a CYOA story.

The first ‘victory’ was satisfying too, but it left a big mystery. Now, I realize this game is supposed to be like a short, trimmed story to go along with Sterling City, so I imagine that some of these questions were meant to be answered in that one. But as a standalone, I was wondering who this weird fedora wearing man with the cigarette who was watching you kill a zombie was. I wanted more from him, but he disappeared as quickly as he came.

I was a bit confused at the last death too. In the only ‘victory’ to the game, you kill one zombie woman and then the game is over and you’ve won. In this scene where you try to run upstairs instead, you are attacked by a horde of zombies. Where did they come from? Would they be there in the other branch after you killed the one? If so, does that mean every end result would end in death via zombie? So many questions!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I only saw a couple of typos here and there that weren’t game breaking, and the story itself was neat. My issues were mostly with the lack of branching, how short it was, and the end result being the exact same no matter what choices you made throughout the story. It definitely made me want to read Sterling City, but this one had a lot of potential too. I imagine it had to do with being a competition story, but I wish there had been a bit more. Regardless, it was still an enjoyable read, I still think you did a great job with the story itself!
-- TheCanary on 11/15/2020 3:19:22 PM with a score of 0
(reposted as one at request of mizal)

This is good. Major spoilers in this review.

The constant metaphors were offputting at first. It felt like they were interrupting the flow of the narrative. However, upon finishing the thing, they're kind of essential to the vibe you're building. The whole game feels like it's being recounted to me by a dude with a mullet and a 'stache who says "hell yeah brother" a lot; irritating at first, but with a fundamental white trashy charm that bleeds through.

The story kind of read to me like a somewhat comedic take on suburban anxiety, and how these sort of middle class stiff characters are terrified of any "inner city" problems bleeding out into their perfect world (in this case, literally bleeding in the form of a zombie pack). I thought the ending was pretty perfect in that respect, because after killing a zombie with a pizza cutter all I want is to clean the fucking floor.

Suburbia is not perfect however, which is why I assume you put the stuff with Gary offing himself. Honestly, I would have liked to know more about Gary, because it kind of seems like he was just injected into the story to provide some alternate pathing.

All in all, this is solid stuff, and an interesting companion piece to Sterling City, although it falls kind of short of the original.

I'm adding an addendum to my review because I forgot to say something. This game suffers from the same problem as Sterling City, which is that the characters are all pretty underdeveloped. Sterling City gets away with it, though, because the city is kind of a character in and of itself; the very nature of the suburbs means that this story can't really do the same. It would have been nice if Beth and the kids had been fleshed out beyond just being archetypes.

-- hetero_malk on 11/15/2020 3:37:44 AM with a score of 0
I enjoy that the city is both my mistress and my wifes' sister. The first page didn't grip me at all and felt like I was sitting in a barber shop reading an anecdote from Readers Digest.

What kind of horrible parent names their kid Barry? What is this, the 50s?

I wish I could choose the beer. "You take a sip of Budweiser. For shit beer, it’s not too bad. " doubt it.

Should've just left out a bowl of candy and sipped the beer outside. Could've enjoyed the naked woman silhouette longer.

Why did I die wishing I had moved from the city? Seems like I had a pretty good deal there. Beer, candy, a wife, a house, a car, etc. I wish I had thrown a rock at the naked lady before approaching.

My hands would make a better weapon than a fucking pizza cutter.

Why the FUCK were we going up the stairs one at a time?! Our adrenaline and parental instinct and the fact that its a fucking emergency there's no doubt we would have already been bolting up stairs THREE steps at a time!

As if any dad willing to protect his kids and wife would just get eaten without at least a life-ending push, kick, war cry, or anything. Haven't you ever seen people getting their limbs chopped off in africa? Even they roll around still and have energy and adrenaline to keep them trying to escape or whatever. If I directed that last bit of life energy towards an attack it'd at least be more realistic.

And again with the regret of moving to the city?? It looks fine. I'd fuckin kill to comfortably live in suburbs, drink beer all day, watch TV with my kids, drive my muscle car, and have a sarcastic wife.
-- Ford on 11/14/2020 9:24:34 PM with a score of 0

Waaaay too short. Is there any way to "win" this game? I like the snarky writing style. You have something here. Expand and have at least one ending where the main character doesn't die.
-- Quorrah on 12/27/2020 12:27:38 PM with a score of 0
This is a neat little story about life in the suburbs. You can follow the story of a father poorly adjusting to being a stay at home dad. You can also mid way switch to the story of an old man who's tired of being and doesn't have anyone to keep him here.
-- DerPrussen on 11/15/2020 1:48:35 PM with a score of 0
Seemed to get a bad ending, for the first time around that I played but tried out a few more routes and enjoyed them.

Really liked the writing in sterling city and this had the same dialect that came along with it so I liked it.

I see a few areas that could have been continued but given that it was for the writing jam and there was a deadlline I understand that it couldnt be continued further, regardless this was one of the better stories Ive read in awhile. The setting was also fun given that I really like things that remind me of noir and other topics that relate to it. Honestly though I wish it could have been longer and I hope this setting and storyline gets brought up again in your future writings.

I actually liked this protaganist better than the one in sterling city too honestly because I thought he was more interesting, and I feel like if he was in another one of your stories it would bring into something interesting.
-- Digit on 11/14/2020 11:25:38 PM with a score of 0
A nice, short story. A bit too short, in my opinion; Fairly linear, and there wasn't really any resolution in the end, but for what there was, it was a nice read. Funny, with the spirit of the original in terms of metaphors and themes, albeit with a very different style and genre. And acceptable and very safe spin-off.

All in all, it was what I expected it to be. And not much else. 6/8.
-- Tim36D on 11/8/2020 2:23:37 PM with a score of 0
I was a big fan of the original "Sterling City," which had an imaginative structure for a storygame (with its constantly shifting POVs and whatnot) and seemingly endless potential for branching.

The "Suburbs" are a brief outtake, offering only a small glimpse of what the parent story offers (the running inner commentary, one abrupt POV shift if you so choose), although as a standalone story it ends before it begins.

In terms of quality, the writing is on the same par as "City," but with the subject matter shifted appropriately to the setting: instead of a surly, boozing hitman, we have a surly stay-at-home dad who aspires to booze more than he does (the wife takes his second bottle of beer, poor guy).

All of this is a good introduction to a longer story. But I did notice going in that the word count was only 5100, and so I wasn't exactly brewing a pot of coffee to see me through to my first "End Game" link. Indeed, after a few pages of commentary, tangential events happened and were resolved all too soon.

For the purposes of contributing a manageable entry for a writing jam, this is all well and good. The set-up for this story is strong enough to support a full-sized storygame, however.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 11/3/2020 8:29:00 PM with a score of 0
It was a fun read, full of innuendo humor if you like those, I enjoy the writing style, the end of the story left me on my thirst, but I would recommend
-- Kemlly161 on 11/2/2020 3:39:56 PM with a score of 0
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