The King’s Ball by Garry Francis
So I confess to a little resentment against Garry, because he says he didn’t get testers for this game and yet it still plays really well, and I don’t see how that’s possible. If I didn’t get testers for a game it would be unplayable. He’s like that friend you have that just sails through P Chem while you stay up all night studying.
So, the game. Like all Garry’s games, it’s a good old-fashioned text adventure. You’re a baker, you want to go to the King’s ball to show off your cake-baking and get on the King’s radar, but you didn’t get invited, so you’ll have to sneak in. Puzzles ensue.
The puzzle difficulty was on the easy side, which makes this an excellent game for newer parser players. The descriptions are short but engaging, and there’s some really funny randomized commentary from NPCs-- especially about your odor after you’ve taken a trip through the sewer.
The only problem here is that you can lock yourself out of victory by using the sack as a holdall. Don’t put anything in the sack and you’ll be fine.
I do think this could use a little polishing (some unimplemented scenery, a few synonyms that could be implemented), but it’s insanely good for being untested, and everything works smoothly as long as you don’t use the sack to carry things. Recommended, and if you have any trouble with the most difficult part, Garry has given some hints in the comments above.
free bird. by Passerine
There was a thread a while ago asking which authors are the rising stars you follow. I follow Sarah Willson. She just always does remarkable work.
This game was based on my “Feathered Fury” seed, and also makes use of Charm’s no-verb-escape-room seed, and it blends these two seeds wonderfully well. The effect is simply charming. You’re a macaw who has been captured by an animal trafficker, along with other birds and animals, and you’re all held in cages in a bad place. The verbless writing works beautifully here; it puts you in a different, non-human mind. I’ve had a lot of birds throughout the years (starting with a parrot my father had when I was a kid that was a major talker. It would mimic my father’s deep voice: “Who’s Daddy’s pretty girl? I LOOOOOVE Daddy. Kiss me, Daddy” and it was SO pervy sounding) and birds are all about adjectives and nouns. Good nut! Scary towel!
Sarah has a knack for using a choice-based format to make puzzle games that feel parser-ish, and this one is no exception. You can carry one thing in your beak at a time, and your goal is to free yourself and the other animals, forming a crack team of jailbreakers and revenge-takers. It’s really satisfying to solve the puzzles, and there’s real emotional weight behind the sad, abused animals and the plucky courage of the PC.
I highly recommend this, and I recommend you keep your eye on Sarah’s games in general.
Thanks for the nice review. I’m glad you found the puzzles on the easy side. Some of the puzzles were a bit devious and I’m always concerned that they might be too difficult. Some of them were quite technically challenging to implement.
Sorry about the issue with the sack. That was part of the last puzzle that was implemented. Believe it or not, I was still working on that about an hour before submissions closed, which is why it hasn’t been tested. It’s a miracle that the whole of this puzzle sequence works at all. I’ll certainly fix the sack and many other issues in a post-comp release.
Did you burn all your stuff when you threw the flour sack on the fire?
She did. She had the cake in it, so she couldn’t finish the game.
prepare for return by MoyTW
An unusual game, a mashup of old poems and texts, commercial copy, and original poems and fables, all stirred into a sci-fi framework. Humanity is long gone from a devastated Earth, either killed or off-planet. You’re an AI tasked with readying the planet for people to return for it, and learning about human culture and sensibilities. You get alerts that either educate you about human culture, or tell you about how badly things are going in preparing Earth for human habitation. You set the priorities for how to approach readying the planet, but there are new people now, lizard-like but with societies, and they aren’t going to let your drones change things. So, fight the new dominant species? Or try to prepare for humanity’s return while letting them be? Could these be compatible goals?
You also have dreams, in which short stories and fables play out. These appear to be original compositions of Travis’s, and they are very well-written. The whole game is worth playing just to read his original poems and stories.
I never saw the AI protagonist come to any sort of understanding or closure, so there was something missing here, some sort of narrative arc for our character. Even though there are many signposts that this game is a morality tale of sorts, I never got the sense that I-- as the AI-- was growing or changing or learning. I felt the impacts of my decisions, but I didn’t feel I was doing so as the PC. And the ending came quite abruptly for me. I was left wanting more.
I recommend you play this-- the writing is just superb, and the framing is unique. It does feel unfinished in some ways, but perhaps that’s just me. I’d be interested to hear other people’s takes on this.
In a Tomb with a Donkey by Dee Cooke
I always love Dee’s games; I’m guaranteed a zippy plot, good puzzles, and great PC characterization. And so it is here. You’re a witch/magician of sorts with the killer name of Evidence Sweet, and due to an unfortunate series of events, you get stuck in an Egyptian tomb, with a donkey, and most of your magic spells lost. You have to retrieve your magic and undo a time warp to get back home. As you find your lost spells, you can use them to help you solve puzzles, and also to help angry lost souls rest in peace, which was a nice touch. There’s also a great arc of self-understanding for the PC, which is something I always appreciate.
I did have one really frustrating moment where I couldn’t find the right term for climbing off something, but I think that’s been fixed now? Anyway, it was the only blip in an otherwise really smooth and fun game. Dee’s games are always excellent choices for new parser players, so if you want to dip your toe into an Adventuron parser game, this is a good option.
Recommended-- and cat lovers will adore the ending.
Thanks for the lovely review - glad you enjoyed it!
In the Deep by Styxcolor
An enjoyable game about a dangerous deep-sea diving mission, this game quickly sets up the PC and the situation: you are an experienced freelance deep-sea diver, and you’re about to do a job for an oil rig company. Something went wrong down there under the water, and you and your team are to retrieve equipment left behind. So down you go, though things are looking weird about this mission: a shady proposal from a co-worker, a protester with bizarre claims, a debrief that leaves many questions unanswered…
This game is thoroughly researched-- there’s a lot of engaging descriptions of life working deep under the sea and making dangerous dives. The PC is also well-characterized, so you have a good sense of who you are and what the tension points in your life are.
I played through once (I’ll say it again, I almost never replay. If I had the option to go back a turn or two, I would have done that), and was kind of underwhelmed by the ending I got (ending 1, I think). Perhaps that’s because I made too many careful choices and didn’t take enough risks, but none of the promise of monsters and terror were realized at all, and the game ended very abruptly. I do hope different choices lead to a better ending. But I did really enjoy it until then.
I had 2 problems with this game. First, the interface seemed designed for a phone, so it was a long, narrow strip with tiny text in the middle of my computer screen that was difficult to read without zooming in (I am old and have old eyes). I guess many people play IF on phones, so this is probably a decision that benefits a lot of players, but I found it really problematic.
Second, I encountered a bug that took me back to the beginning of the game about 10 minutes in. I chose “That sounds stupid” in response to Herzog’s offer to help him find the creature, and suddenly I was back to the first page of the game. So I did have to replay a good chunk of the game just to get back to where I hit the bug.
Overall, I recommend this. It sets a great mood and the author has clearly done their homework about diving. It sets up what looks like a great horror/creature game. It fizzled for me and didn’t live up to that promise, so my advice is: be bold and throw caution to the winds and try to get a better ending than I did.
My feelings exactly. I was eager to see the AI’s character development in response to the dreams and the exposure to human cultural sources, but that didn’t happen.
Cage Break by Jacic
This is the second game that used my “Feathered Fury” seed, and it has a bit in common with free bird.: a plucky captive avian PC and a selection of other birds caged with you. In this case, you’re a cockatoo. It also has some really nice art of the various birds, but I couldn’t find attribution for the art-- is it AI-generated? And the similarities end there, as this is a far chattier game, with some back-and-forth between the various birds that is by turns funny and sad.
This is far less polished a game than free bird, and I believe the author suffered a bad head injury in the weeks leading up to the end of the submission period and wasn’t able to polish it as much as they liked (I do hope your head is OK, @Jacic). That’s a pity, because there’s a lot to like here, and the game is worth polishing up in a post-comp release. The different birds have very different personalities, some helpful, some exasperating, and trying to put your team together means deciding who to trust.
But there are problems. There are choices that stay available even though you’ve changed the situation, and there are options like “Move on to the next stage of the plan,” when you don’t know what that is. And it’s pretty difficult to come to an ending because picking the right order of options is largely trial-and-error. I do hope the author will clean it up a bit after the comp closes.
Do I recommend it? If you can be patient with the repeating options and with making a lot of guesses, then yes, I think it’s worth playing. The most important thing is that the author is physically OK, and putting a game out while injured is a pretty major feat, so give it a play through to salute the author’s grit.
That’s the last game that I wasn’t a tester for. I’ll put out one more post tomorrow with some brief observations on the three games I play tested, which were WILDLY different from each other.
Games I tested:
1.) The Magic Word by B.J. Best
I was the worst tester ever for this game. It’s billed as “A fiendishly difficult limited-verb puzzle box,” and it IS really difficult. It was simply too difficult for me, and I didn’t get through the game. It’s funny and zany and very, very hard. It’s a smorgasbord of mechanical puzzles, so lever-pulling, button-pushing, and wheel-turning are everywhere. To make it harder, you only have access to one action verb at a time, and there are timed puzzles. If you love difficult puzzles in your parser games, your heart will sing with joy for this game. I recommend you try it, because it is a marvel of design. And if you solve it, you have the satisfaction of being smarter than me (not that this is a high bar or anything).
2.) A Thousand Words by MiloMesdag
Milo’s second game in this comp, this game uses my artwork as its cover art and as the focal point of the game, so I am really, REALLY biased about this game. Of course you should play it, not just so you can appreciate what a badass artist I am, but because the game does really interesting things with how we approach art. When I play tested, I was nettled that you couldn’t use the command FUCK ART, but I believe that is now implemented, and you can blame me for goading Milo into that. It is also a very approachable parser game in one location, and without the need for most standard parser verbs, so this is a good choice for a first parser game.
3.) His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook by PatientRock
This is a sci-fi puzzle game about bureaucracy, and it makes looking for missing paperwork really fun. No, really. The PC is a bureaucrat and a rules-nanny to her very bones (this is one of the most strongly characterized PCs in the comp), and this is a light-hearted quest that nonetheless has moments of surprising pathos and humanity. The writing is engaging, the verb set is limited, and the puzzles are fairly easy, making this another excellent candidate for people looking to try a parser puzzler.
And of course there’s my sad, depressing game, After the Accident, which you should absolutely play, because who doesn’t love games about dysfunctional relationships and disaster?
And that’s all of SeedComp! Great job, everybody. I think this was an excellent inaugural competition, and I enjoyed playing all these games.
I also tested The Magic Word, and the longer I played, the more I stood in awe of all the switches and dials and knobs and counters under the hood. What a construction!
Not only is it now implemented, it’s become one of the focal points of the entire game.
Well, I enjoyed testing it. Something about driving a trainwreck even deeper into the ravine…
I love your Thousand Words-seed, and playing the game inspired by it made me appreciate it all the more.
I did have to lie down in a darkened room for most of the afternoon after playing it. I had a serious case of Magritte-migraine, brought on by contemplating a text-game, based on a work of embroidery, of which I only ever saw a photograph, rendered in an arrangement of coloured pixels on a computer screen…
Thanks for the collection of thoughtful reviews.
Wow, thank you for these kind words! It really means a lot. I’ve never had the privilege of getting to know any individual birds (yet), so I’m glad the parrot “voice” turned out all right.
My favorite thing about free bird. is that it would never have existed without SeedComp and the seeds you two submitted. This comp has some kind of magic to it, I’m pretty sure.
To make friends with any psittacine, all you need is nuts and being calm and steady. Nuts and millet seeds are the surefire way to befriend any parrot from parakeets to macaws.
I’ll take this opportunity to note that if you ever get a bird, please don’t buy one. Adopt. Parrots can be rewarding companions, but they are extremely difficult to live with, and they live forever, so they are constantly being re-homed. If you’re thinking about a bird companion, try fostering an unwanted bird first to see if you’re really up to that level of chaos, noise, and destruction. Parrots are like toddlers (with razor-sharp knives on their faces): curious and intelligent but always getting into things they shouldn’t. And they never grow up. They stay toddlers for 40 years.
Thanks for the review and use of the seed @AmandaB . Thank you also for the well wishes I almost got knocked out by a horse of all things. Total random accident involving a biting fly, but it turns out the horse’s head was significantly harder than mine. He was fine, I won a trip to the hospital for a CT scan for a suspected skull fracture I was very lucky though and no lasting damage so I’ll be fine.
I was disappointed given I’d put quite a bit of work into the game though for something like that to happen so it wasn’t a polished as I wanted it to be. I realised after submission that you’re right there is a issue with some of the choices not deactivating properly once their actions are exhausted. I do plan to go through and fix it post comp, shouldn’t take much recoding to make it easier to play .
Thank you Amanda for playing and reviewing all entries to the SeedComp!
Thanks for the reviews! And sorry that this thanks comes so late! I would not recommend getting Covid twice in under 3 months…
Forgetting what that is seems to have been my theme for Seedcomp! this year…
Ah, annoying. There are accessibility options (a couple of which turn off the flashing) in the good ol’ Sugarcube sidebar, but I obviously didn’t do a good enough job signposting them.
I think that’s the best compliment the game’s got so far! My design document was basically: “Just let the music carry it.”
I’m going to use this as my excuse… Anything to avoid thinking about how carried away I got implementing that…