I’m putting the entrees of IFComp aside for a while so I can gobble up the bonbons of Ectocomp, which in many way is my favorite comp of the year. I just love seeing how other authors approach the time limit of 4 hours and what they can get done. Weirdly, there were several authors with enough time left on the clock for play testing, which gobsmacks me, but also allowed me to get a head start on playing a couple of them. I might play a few Grand Guignol games, but this thread will be all Petite Morts.
Starting off with…
Please Leave a Message by @malacostraca
I’m a big fan of Sarah Willson’s games. She always manages to do a lot with a little, and this little game is no exception. It’s a character sketch of someone you’ve met: the relative who leaves you rambling, disturbingly passive-aggressive messages that telegraph their needy, paranoid pathology and make you want to run. The horror of it is sly and low-key, each message you leave snowballing into a weirder and weirder narrative. An extremely effective way to write a tiny game. As always, I’m impressed with the smart choices this author makes, and the unsettling impact of the story.
The Loneliest House by @alyshkalia
I’m always most interested in seeing what other parser writers can do in 4 hours, because hot damn, it’s very rough to write a working parser game in that time. And this one makes the smart choice of limiting the gameplay to examining, which means that the author could focus her energy on the writing. It’s got a feel which immediately resonates with me, as I’ve done this very thing many times: stood looking at a grand old abandoned house and imagining things about it. This has a lonely autumnal feel and is really quite lovely.
Bonfire Night: The Black Dog by Carter X Gwertzman (I’m going to go out on a limb and tag @carterx here in the hopes that it’s the correct person. If not, sorry, wrong Carter X!)
Another parser game, one that is too ambitious for the 4-hour time limit in the same way that I am too ambitious. This leads to some problems-- I wasn’t able to finish the game because even though I shot the black dog and the game told me was dead and I was safe, he was still threatening me with his knife at the same time. Additionally, unimplemented things, lack of synonyms… all these are hallmarks of running out of time, something I am intimately familiar with.
Which makes me feel better about my own game, which no doubt has some game-breaking bugs and lots of unimplemented stuff.
However, this is well worth playing for the incredibly creepy setup and scary story. Very Halloween appropriate. And despite the hiccups, I’m impressed with how much was done here-- way more than I could have managed.
Vampire Gold by @OlafNowacki
The cover art for this game is SO BADASS. Fantastic job. I would have played this one outside of the comp because the cover art would have sucked me in. And this gives me the opportunity to note, again, that cover art is important, y’all! That’s your advertisement to people outside of this little circle.
This is a nice little dungeon-crawling combat parser game, where you fight enemies to get their gold and level up in weaponry and defense as you go. It took me 4 tries to beat it-- mostly you have to fight the enemies in the right order. One nice little puzzle which I had to think about for a while. The only problem I encountered was a disambiguation problem with 2 keys, but dropping the one I’d already used elsewhere solved that.
The gameplay is simple, but it took an impressive amount of coding to make it happen, and with such a short time to do it, wow. A very fun experience.
A Study of Human Behavior by @EarthTraveler
A parser game about abduction by aliens, who experiment on you. And it’s about ethics, with some little lessons in philosophy. As nearly every parser game in this division will, this one has rough spots (unimplemented things, typos), but it plays pretty smoothly and is interesting. I was a little discomfited by the descriptions of your fellow abductees by their races, which seemed neither here nor there (since some of the ethics lessons focus on tribal identity, I wondered for a minute if this was going to play out racially. Thankfully, it did not).
It seems to me as if there’s only one way to finish the game, which is to be selfish and sacrifice others-- I couldn’t find any way to end it otherwise. So the game forces you to go against any ethical principles you might have in this regard if you want to complete it. If there’s another way to end this, someone let me know. There’s a lot of work here for 4 hours; I’m continually impressed by how much people can do with the time limit.
The Author and Its Characters by @Stanwixbuster
This author did Nose Bleed, which I loved. This is not a game, however. There’s no interactivity at all beside clicking through it. Which is understandable given the time constraints, but projects like these raise the question for me of how interactive something has to be for it to qualify as IF? Clicking is interacting, for sure. I generally grouse about lack of interactivity, but I wonder if I’m too closed-minded on the topic, since often these projects are very worthwhile.
The project itself has lovely pixelated black and white graphics which play nicely with the poetic musings of the text, a meandering set of thoughts on authors and their creations, and the way they are and are not connected. I liked it very much.
Youngblood; Yellowbelly by Swanchime (do they have a handle here?)
Sigh. The slowly timed text. I just hate it. Even when I’m enjoying the writing, it takes so long that I get distracted by something else. Currently, I’m writing this while waiting for the text to finish writing itself so I can read it at my preferred speed. Is it done yet? Let me see… Nope. Still writing. I’ll go do something else and come back in 5 minutes.
…5 minutes later…
It’s done. And it’s a nice bit of poetry. And I can click on something else.
Aand… it’s some more text writing itself eevveerr ssoo sslloowwllyy. I’ll go away again for 5 minutes.
… 5 minutes later…
OK, I quit. This is just too excruciatingly slow. Which is too bad, because I like the writing. If you can tolerate the slowness of the text, this is probably worth sticking around to read. Is there a read-only version of it somewhere?
Your Body a Temple, or the Postmodern Prometheus by @OverThinking
Oh, I adored this little game. An updated Frankenstein, with the monster making its own choices. Gorgeous writing, excellent choices. Packs a ton of pathos and implied character background into a small package. Enjoyably replayable, which I don’t think I’ve ever said before. A little jewel of a game. Go play it!
It seems to me as if there’s only one way to finish the game, which is to be selfish and sacrifice others-- I couldn’t find any way to end it otherwise. So the game forces you to go against any ethical principles you might have in this regard if you want to complete it. If there’s another way to end this, someone let me know.
Hi, I wrote A Study of Human Behavior, and there are in fact three broadly possible endings. I don’t know if by “finish” the game you meant “surviving the game” or if you discovered one of the endings where you die. It is possible to finish the game with no deaths. So I’ll just spoil it a bit here for the sake of the reviewer: If you simply play the game and give the wrong answers to one of the yes/no questions the others ask, one of the other abductees will automatically push the button after a set time, killing the rest of you. If you give the “right” answer to both questions or tell one of the others about your own morality (and you got the right philosophy from the questionnaire at the start), you increase their trust enough to get them to not press the button when they otherwise would. At that point, you can make it through by playing the game for ten full rounds without pressing the button, and you will get the victory ending. Admittedly this was badly hinted thanks to time constraints and the “game” as a whole lasts too long, but I wanted to correct the record on my game. I hope you like the other ending better!
The 4 hours is just brutal. Rest assured that almost no one who writes a Petite Mort is happy with the finished product. Anyone can write a great game given unlimited time!
I did enjoy the game!
GUT THE MOVIE by Coral Nulla (Any handle here?)
This was pure silly fun, although there’s an undercurrent of something darker and more serious (The Manager? The cult?) in the background. I’m not going to say anything about the plot because you should discover its goofy goodness yourself. Highly enjoyable, polished… this is an author who used their 4 hours very wisely.
ConfigurationUploader by @cchennnn
This was great! As of now, this is the scariest game I’ve played. I’ve often said that the scariest word in the English language is “Update,” and every time I read anything about an update, or about up/downloading (never quite sure what the difference is) anything to my computer, I can’t understand a word of it. I could very well be agreeing to pay for it in body parts when I click “Agree.” So things like this IRL already seem dystopian and freaky and possibly lethal to me. And here is a game-- with an impressive amount of of writing in a slick package-- that dials the doom and confusion and dystopia up to 11. It allows you to put the story together in fragments that you glean from the technobabble, and it does this very well. How the hell does Autumn manage to get that much written and coded in 4 hours? What’s your secret?
Thanks much for the review, Amanda!
You’re very welcome. I really enjoyed the game.
Forever and Ever by Petricake games (tagging @Petricake in hopes it’s the right person)
OOF. This is terribly, horribly sad. And scary. And well-written. I can’t really think of anything to say about it that would benefit you more than just going to play it, but if you’re feeling fragile as a parent, possibly don’t play this. Happy to see that there’s another game in the comp besides my own that’s just a major bummer. Well worth playing if you’re feeling emotionally stable.
Thanks for the review! My answer as to how I wrote it in 4 hours is that I spent far longer than 4 hours thinking and dreaming about it in my head
You’re welcome! I think and dream for a long time, too… but I suspect I have a couple of decades on you, and I’ve spent most of that time rotting my brain with various substances, so there’s that.
It is the right me! Thank you for your review I definitely brought myself to tears with my own story…
Into Darkness by @Jacic
A fun creepy poem about going into a wood that’s… wrong. The rhyme scheme and meter are often a little off, but y’all, this was written in 4 hours and it’s not teeny, and writing poetry to a rhyme and meter is HARD. It’s impressive how much of it does work. Definitely a Lady of Shallott vibe going here. There are little time and fear status meters going that I felt conflicted about, as the poem itself should probably be doing the work of upping my fear quotient, but also they were pretty cool. I enjoyed it!
You’re welcome! The game was really very affecting; I came away misty-eyed for sure.