Amanda and Tom Review IFComp with Songs and Feels

I’m not going to write long reviews this time. I’m going to pick games based solely on what I want to play, and then say why I played a game and how it made me feel. My husband Tom doesn’t play games at all, tragically, which is pretty much his only flaw although it IS a big one. But our normal MO is: I play the game, he doesn’t want to play it but wants to hear about it, or watch me play, or read my transcript. He’s a major, serious music guy, and he is going to gauge the game this way and pick a song that shares important vibes with the game.

Because I’m not choosing games with any objectivity at all, if I don’t review your game, don’t fret. I certainly won’t get to them all, and a game needs to be well-marketed to my taste (generally parser, horror/mystery/fantasy, good blurb, good art). So your choice-based romance, amazing though it may be, will probably not make into this thread.

Edit: How on Earth did I forget to put in my bespoke art by @sophia ?? I mean, I paid her a fortune in commission for it, and then I just leave it sitting on my desktop? I am just not right this week. Anyway, here it is…

Ready? OK.

It will surprise no one to learn I went straight to @dibianca, since I’m a screaming fangirl for his games. With Art’s work, you KNOW you’re going to get a game that’s really fun and funny and puzzly and polished, but it’s more than that. His games are all parts of an experimental vision for IF (very limited command set, limited typing, extremely player-friendly) that, in my opinion, is an excellent direction for expanding IF’s audience. So when you play a DiBianca game, you get to see how he’s refining and playing with his ongoing experiment, and that’s just awesome and is a big draw for me.

I didn’t finish it in 2 hours, but I will finish it before I move on, because it’s exactly what I wanted and expected. So. Much. Fun. Most of the gameplay is standard for his games, but now he has eliminated the need to even press enter after a command, since all commands are single letters. There he goes, refining and tweaking that vision, and long may he continue.

How did I feel? Exhilarated! So many gloriously fun monsters, so much dungeon crawling futzing with spells and puzzles. What song is it? It’s, it’s a ballroom blitz, of course!


I’m interested to see how these songs compare to the ones I chose! (I limited myself down more by only using Radiohead, so these are probably better, but …)


Sorry, Max! I didn’t look at any review threads before writing my own, so I didn’t know you were choosing songs, too! I didn’t mean to steal your schtick.


Nah, it’s totally fine! Makes it more interesting anyway.


Beat Witch by @rpatten

I don’t know anything about this author. They might be new; they might have 20 listings on IFDB. I picked the game solely for its blurb and cover art, and the fact that it was tagged as a horror game. This is a great example of how crisp, sharp cover art can catch your eye, and how a well-written, short blurb can sell it with mystery and quirk. This was marketed very, very nicely. Take note, because this is how to generate interest in a game, at least if you want to interest me.

I had a little trouble getting started because not all exits are listed, so I actually had to go to the walkthrough to figure out that I should just go east. But after that, the game more or less pulls you along with very few choices. Which actually fits the theme of the game: control over others.

How did I feel? I felt like a puppet being jerked around, which sounds bad, but isn’t, because the game is about an evil mastermind destroying everything and using people as puppets, so the gameplay echoed the content well. And this made Tom’s choice of song very easy (the song is eerily appropriate, actually):


Thanks for the review, Amanda! I’m glad you liked the cover, blurb, and game, even if you got stuck at one point. (If you feel so inclined, message me details of where or a transcript if you have it, so I can make things more clear.)

That was a perfect choice of song! Believe it or not, during the last stretch of coding before the comp began, I was listening to Metallica a lot (though not Master of Puppets).

Thanks again, and tell Tom he’s doing great at picking the music!




Aww. There will surely come a time when, bloated with murder and zombies and spaceships and fantasy kingdoms, tired of typing parser commands, I will wake up one day and decide to shake things up a bit. Right now I just need the comfort of playing games that are squarely in my wheelhouse.



I think Xanthippe could take on a lot of people. But could she take on Amanda? I’m not sure.


A Thing of Wretchedness by @AKheon

Having just played a horror game with great black and white cover art, it seemed appropriate to do it again with this game. Its blurb didn’t mean much to me, having never played Ascension of Limbs, but it had me at “sandbox horror.”

I had to resort to the walkthrough as I ran out of things to do, and was a little dispirited to see that there’s a lot here that depends on random chance. So I pressed Z many times waiting for something to happen and finally got an ending, although I did not get an answer to my biggest question (is your husband the wretched thing? Right now as I deal with a demented parent who has become a terrifying and wretched thing, my immediate hypothesis was that the wretched thing was a demented husband). In the end, I felt the tone of the game was extremely effective, but the random nature of the gameplay and the lack of closure or answers was a problem for me.

How did I feel? Depressed, ooged out, and unsettled, which I think is exactly what the author was going for. It’s a cold, dreary, gross, lonely, and scary experience.

We tried all day to find an appropriate song for this and so it gets 2 songs. It clearly needed some Bauhaus for the lyrics, but Bauhaus is too peppy, so we had to go to opera to find some music that worked for this level of sadness. In the end, this game is somewhere between Bauhaus and Puccini, so you get both.

And the scary and wretched death scene from Manon Lescaut, the aria Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata, sung by the incomparable Montserrat Caballe.

English translation (although Caballe's voice carries so much emotional meaning that you shouldn't need it):

Alone, lost, abandoned.
in this desolate plain!
Ah, the horror of it! Around me the day darkens.
Alas I am alone!
And in the depth of this desert I fall –
what cruel torment! Ah! alone, abandoned,
a woman deserted!
Ah! I do not want to die,
no, I do not want to die.
So all is over.
I thought this would be a land of peace.
Alas! my fatal beauty
arouses fresh troubles,
they wanted to snatch me from him.
Now all my past rises up starkly
and stands vividly before my gaze.
Ah! It is stained with blood
Ah! All is over!
As a haven of peace I now invoke the tomb.
No, I do not want to die, I do not want to die, No, no, I do not want to die: love, help me.


Hey, thanks for the review. I’ll have to check out those songs after work. As for the spoilers, yeah, the third ending, after reaching the husband’s workshop, reveals that the husband has changed into the wretched thing.


I have to play this game now. “The enigmas are three, Bela Lugosi is one!”


Dr. Ludwig and the Devil by @svlin

This author’s first game, in last year’s comp, just blew me away, so I was pretty excited to see what they’d do next. Also, I desperately needed something funny after the last game I played. I was not thrilled by the cover art, but the blurb was great, and I was gratified to see Linwood do a parser game, since last year’s game was choice-based.

And I’m happy to report that the game is a joy from beginning to end. There were some puzzles that required some beating of my head against a wall, and a place where I had to go to the walkthrough (although I am so zonked this week that it very well might have been my brain and not the game that was problematic here). But nothing unfair in the grand scheme of parser games, and I appreciated that I couldn’t just sail through it.

How did I feel? Charmed and delighted. The game is so endearingly silly and written with such exuberance that it’s impossible not to enjoy it. Linwood is absolutely on my radar now, and is going places in the IF world.

Tom was thrilled to be able to pick Asha Puthli for this game: The Devil is Loose!


(I’ll shut up after this, but of the best Bauhaus/Puccini crossover is Terror Couple Kill Liu.)


Please don’t shut up. I personally like “Tosca’s in Parties.” Until, you know, she isn’t.


The Little Match Girl 4: Crown of Pearls by @Afterward

I picked this because I like Ryan Veeder’s games.

It’s very inconvenient for me that Ryan put this game in the comp, because I hadn’t played the first 3 and now I’m playing them out of order. You might say this is my fault, and it was until LMG 2 came out, but when I realized it was a series, I made an active decision to wait because I loathe waiting for the sequel/next installment of anything. Those greedy Hollywood studios have fucked up my life by refusing to do the right thing, which is making me wait too long for the next season of The Boys. I could have just waited for the whole show to be done instead of being over a barrel waiting for each season, but we are where we are.

I did not finish this in 2 hours-- in fact, I don’t think I got very far, because I was busy making detailed maps of where everything and everyone was and which fires went to which locations. But it’s tremendously fun, with a great travel mechanism and writing that manages to be terse and descriptive at the same time. I can’t decide if I should finish this, or put it aside until after the comp and play all 4 in order.

How did I feel? Mostly torn, because of the playing-out-of-order thing, but the game made me feel intrepid and excited for the journey.

This was a hard one for Tom (mostly because I didn’t get very far in the 2 hours), but it’s got a quirky cast of characters and a feel of disparate parts cohering into one story, with dark and light fantasy elements. So our song is Raven, by the Living Pins, which is great because we get to plug a killer local band.


It may appear that I have been idle, but in fact I have been playing games. However, I am only playing games that I want to play, which means I feel no need to finish a game if I’m not having fun. And I hit a streak of very cruel games, and I don’t play those anymore. This is not me scolding anyone for writing cruel games; there’s a big audience for those and I know a lot of people love 'em. But I did my time on the front lines in the 80s and 90s and aughts, and I just don’t want to SAVE and RESTORE constantly (I also have a fear of being zombified by such games). Additionally, the last few months have been so terrible that I have a bona fide case of burnout, which means I’m easily irritated and distracted right now.

I promptly quit all those cruel games, except one, which I shall review momentarily. I also played a few short games which were enjoyable, but so slight that I don’t really have anything to say about them. Perhaps some of those will get reviews eventually, but unless a short game packs a real emotional punch, I forget about them quickly. Again, not a ding on short games-- I’ve written several myself and I’ve largely forgotten about even my own.

If you are the author of one of these cruel games, do not feel bad. I also don’t watch rom-coms, and although this may shock you, I confess that I dislike ice cream. So this is simply a personal taste issue, and I won’t be judging any game that I quit.

Also I played the start of a few games that turned me off with implementation issues and grammar/spelling problems. If you have written a game that is lightly implemented or not well edited, then that’s a problem. Your game might be absolutely amazing, but I’m not going to play it if you haven’t streamlined it, implemented things thoroughly, and spell/grammar checked it (everyone, myself included, has a few issues in a released game, but I’m talking about persistent problems here). You can always ask for help on the forum-- feel free to PM me directly and if I have time I’ll put on my testing hat and go through your game with a fine-tooth comb.

OK, here we go with another review:

To Sea in a Sieve by @J_J_Guest

This killed me a lot, but it wasn’t terribly cruel and UNDO always took care of it, and it was very funny. I picked it for the great cover art and blurb, and because after several fails with other games, I needed an author I knew would deliver. I am very sorry to say I’ve never played To Hell in a Hamper, which this is a prequel to, but I will rectify that before the year is out.

The fun puzzles and one-room-escape theme were well-served by the setting and story, and although I believe I did get soft-locked out at one point (Booby had the sack of pepper and the cutlass, and so although he was asking me for snuff, I couldn’t get the pepper from him to fool him. Several UNDOs got me out of this, which was good, because I would have quit otherwise), I persevered and I’m glad I did.

How did I feel? Proud of myself for sticking with a game that kills, highly amused, and happy with the puzzles, which were just right dificulty-wise.

Tom’s first pitch was a really offensive Ween song which was pirate-y in tone but not in lyrics, which I nixed because he was just trying to get some Ween in there, and also it’s really offensive, which JJ doesn’t deserve unless he’s also a fan of really crude Ween songs. After sulking for a while, he came back with this, which nails it:


Even when fizzed?


Hi Amanda!

Thank you for your review, and for persevering with To Sea in a Sieve in spite of its propensity to send you to Davy Jones’ Locker! The song is a great choice, thank you! I confess that though I have heard of Split Enz, they’ve never really been on my radar. This is surprising, since their list of genres on Wikipedia; progressive rock, new wave, art rock, pop rock and post-punk, is pretty much the list of musical genres I most like to listen to. They’re also a New Zealand band, and as a New Zealand passport holder I appreciated the reference to Aotearoa. So please thank Tom for his (second) choice, I now have something new to listen to on Spotify today as I tidy my flat and hunt for elusive freelance work.