Game Review: Sort The Court
A kingdom's citizens need action and you're the decisive ruler for the job. Sort the court by applying your wisdom to the complicated problems that your advisors and visitors will bring to your attention in a free browser and downloadable game.
If you've ever had dreams of running (or ruining) a kingdom you can do it - with ease (well, not really the ruining bit) - in
Sort The Court
, a free city-management game that can be played in a web browser or downloaded for desktop computers (Windows
, Mac OS
, and Linux
). The game was developed by Graeme Borland (coding and writing), Amy Gerardy (art), and Bogdan Rybak (music), who are all from Winnipeg, Canada.
In Sort The Court
you play as either a king or queen who has to make decisions regarding the running of what starts as a tiny village in order to grow your kingdom. The townsfolk, members of the royal court, and assorted visitors to the town visit the king or queen to ask for favours or help, ask for advice, offer their services, or, sometimes, just to chat and you control all of this via simple Yes or No answers. Your decisions will affect the running of the kingdom, either directly by immediately increasing or decreasing your population, happiness, and the amount of gold in your treasury or indirectly through developments in the story that you may only see the result of many days later.
The controls are incredibly simple - you can play the entire game with the Y and N keys and the spacebar (or with the mouse if you really want to but the keyboard is quicker) and even the spacebar is optional as you can actually just press the Y or N keys in its place.
To show progression the game is divided into day cycles, and day, evening, and night visits within a day cycle, but the day count really is just an indication of the passing of time and to give and end-of-day signal that will adjust your population and sometimes trigger special events - there's no time limit to the game or how long you want to take to finish storyline items.
The game is an endearing mix of medieval fantasy and science fiction, with vampires, wizards, and skeletons coexisting with aliens, robots, and scientists. The storytelling is humorous and superb, with nearly 40 characters who can pop in for a chat and branching storylines that are affected by your decisions. There's so much content that you won't see everything in one game, even if you play it the same way as most of it is randomised, but, of course, it's fun to try different decisions to see what happens.
The game is very positive and happy, even if you choose to (try to) play in a negative way. It wants you to succeed, however, and it is designed to help you by offering options that will rectify problems, such as if you run out of money. (In fact, you don't just run out of money, you can go into debt by somehow still spending money you don't have. When this happens the story progression will pause and the game will offer random options that can help you to generate income until you get out of debt.)
The only downside to having so much content is that at times the game can feel a little slow in terms of story progression, especially if the randomisation that powers most of the visits happens to kick up certain story loops a little too often, but then something new or exciting will happen and you'll feel energised again to see what happens next. Sort The Court
also saves your progress you so can take as much time as you want.
The game has an ending (more than one, actually) based on one of the storylines but it doesn't actually end as you are encouraged to continue to play as long as you'd like. It's worth playing on once you've "finished" the game as there are sub plots you may not even realise exist that you can still wrap up, plus possibly entire storylines that haven't even been triggered, depending on how quickly you meet the game-ending goal. I'd also recommend playing more than once to try different choices for the main storylines (you'll know what they are once you've played long enough) to discover the different outcomes.
Sort The Court
was initially developed for the Ludum Dare 34 game-jam competition in December 2015, which had the themes of "Two Button Controls" and "Growing". Borland decided to incorporate both themes into the game, hence the city-management aspect, as well as the fact that you can control everything with two keys. The game was very well received and won Bronze awards in the Jam competition for the Overall (best game) and Coolness categories, as well as a ranking of #6 for the Humor category and #15 for the Fun category. What's available now is an expanded version with a different "ending" to the original Ludum Dare entry.
Sort The Court
is a superb example of what good writing is capable of (nevermind what you can do during a game jam even when you have very little time to complete your project) but the entire package is wonderful, with a lovely art style by Amy Gerardy that really brings the quirkiness of the huge cast of characters to the fore, minimal sound effects, and a beautiful, gentle ambient track by Bogdan Rybak that serves as the score and which is also available for free via Bandcamp
(via a pay-what-you-want model so you can toss in a little tip to support the team; the same goes for the downloadable version of the game on itch.io
Sort The Court
is easy to play, really entertaining and relaxing, lots of fun, and highly recommended for a laid-back gaming session.
Sort The Court: Official Site
, Community Forum
, Ludum Dare 34 Game Page
Play Online: Official Site
, Game Jolt
Graeme Borland: Official Site
Amy Gerardy: Official Site
Bogdan Rybak: Official Site
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