Sorry, James by Konstructors
Sorry, James by Konstructors is a game where you complete number-based puzzles in order to decrypt someone’s chat logs. Once decrypted, you are free to read them and try to figure out why you are decrypting them. You soon find out that these chat logs are intimate conversations between two people, but only the messages from Eliza are decrypted. At first it felt a little wrong reading these private chat logs, but it is an interesting way to uncover the game’s narrative.
One Side of the Story
The fictional narrative revolves around someone named Eliza. You learn a lot about this character, from their sexual fantasies to their fears and aspirations, all helping develop a relatively faceless character. The game does a fantastic job providing social commentary in regards to how much we, as a society, divulge on the internet. It also shows how vulnerable we can be because of our blind trust in technology.
The first handful of conversations are mainly sexually driven, but as you solve more puzzles to decrypt more chat logs, the conversations show a deeper side, detailing opinions ranging from happiness to the meaning of life. In these logs, Eliza is chatting with someone else, but all of their chat responses are scrambled and unreadable. It creates a sense of mystery as you piece together the relationship between these two individuals and potentially try and figure out what happened.
I’m being purposefully vague, because I don’t want to spoil what’s going on, but I’ll say that the subjects and themes the narrative tackles are creative and topical, especially within today’s technological climate.
The Truth Isn’t Black and White
Decrypting puzzles involves placing white or black squares next to other squares. If a square has a number on it, that’s how many white or black squares it needs to be connected to. It easy to understand and wrap your head around, but the puzzles start to get increasingly more complex when the game introduces rotating squares alongside larger scale puzzles. It can get difficult but never felt impossible. Puzzles cannot be skipped and must be completed in order.
I can see how this might get frustrating if you’re more curious about the narrative than solving puzzles, which I think is a testament to how engaging the narrative can be.
I did find the story to be more compelling than the puzzles in this game, even with its faults. The chat logs you decrypt are out of order, which means you have to link them together yourself if you want to read them in chronological order. In fact, most of this game’s narrative relies on you piecing everything together.
There are no cut-scenes or instances where the game flat out tells you what is going on. It requires guesswork and potentially searching the web to get a bigger understanding of plot points. Since the chat logs are basically your reward for completing puzzles, when most are unfulfilling and throw-away, it leaves you feeling unsatisfied. There are times where the game hints at what is going on, especially a crucial plot point about some characters, but more nuanced aspects of the narrative are never elaborated upon.
This left me feeling deflated when I finished the game and read the final chat log; it felt very anticlimactic. Overall, I found the narrative to be engaging enough to keep me interested, but not as compelling as other mystery-driven game narratives I’ve played.
A Partially Missed Connection
Aesthetically the game did a good job making me feel like I work at a desk job for a company and evoked a real sense of isolation within its mysterious atmosphere. Soft ambient music set a nice subdued tone to keep the puzzle-solving experience more relaxing than frustrating. The game’s simplistic visual design and muted color palette really sell the simulation that you’re using a company’s computer.
Sorry, James is a good puzzler with an intriguing narrative that could have been more emotionally effective. The narrative themes the game tackled were fantastic, but its “piece it together yourself” approach ends up doing the game more of a disservice when you realize how anticlimactic it all is. If you looking for a good puzzle game, I’d recommend it; just don’t expect a fulfilling narrative experience.
Sorry, James is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for the game below: