Amanda's Short Reviews of Petite Morts

As I did last year, I’ll review every Petite Mort game in this thread, about 5 at a time. For those of you new to the format, Petite Morts must be made in 4 hours, which is like 4 minutes when you’re doing it. Nearly every game is going to have issues of bugginess, incompleteness, typos, unimplemented things, etc. The fun is in seeing what people chose to focus on with their time, and how much game they managed to get done.

I’ll use the randomizer and save the games I tested for last. Without further ado, the first 5:

Untitled Ghost Game, by Damon L Wakes

Summary

This was a great way to start a comp. Really funny, with great choices, You’re a ghost, and you don’t want new living people in your house. So you have a certain amount of time to choose what kind of ghosty pranks you’ll play before the new owner of the house comes home. Some choices are scarier than others, some take more time than others, and when you’ve run out of time, you see what effect all this has on the new owner. I played through twice making different choices but got the same ending, so I’m not sure if there are other endings. The writing here is great, there’s real gameplay (which is the hardest thing to accomplish in 4 hours) and overall I loved this.

Martyr Me, by OverThinking

Summary

I loved this. It’s gross, scary, gory, and well-written. You are a captive of—maybe a serial killer? Except you’re not really a captive, despite being bound. You want to be there. You’re rapturous about the torture, the dismemberment, the truly awful things that happen to you. This has an impressive amount of choice and feels like a real game, which not many Petite Morts manage to do. I normally don’t like timed text that shows up slowly on the screen, but here it feels right, especially the weird and creepy repetition of “yes, yes”. I got both endings here, and they’re both just horrible, and I mean that in the best possible way.

origin of love, by sophiades

Summary

This is interactive poetry, which is right up my alley. Even more so because it’s really sexy, and it involves a vampire. The writing is sometimes over-the-top, which really works in this context. There isn’t really any choice here—just clicking on words to get more poetry and to continue to the next page. And that’s a thing about writing a game in a short amount of time—unless you’re a magic wizard coder, you’re probably going to have to sacrifice something, and in this case the author prioritized writing over gamifying, which is an excellent choice for an interactive poem. Creepy, with some truly lovely writing and a lot of heat.

Buggy, by Mathbrush

Summary

I expect nothing less than great work from Brian, and great is what you get with this game. It’s a tremendously weird little parser game that plays on parser conventions and default Inform messages with creepy glee. Do something violent in it. Play with your inventory. Do all the things that never get good responses in parser games. It’s a really clever game that I don’t want to say anything else about. Go play it (Note: if you’re not a parser player, you might not get the jokes. That’s OK.).

Trick or Treat or Trick or Treat or Trick, by Stewart C. Baker

Summary

I’m pretty sure this is Ryan Veeder’s pen name, and I love Ryan’s games, so this had me grinning before I started. I had a little bit of a rough time getting going (there’s only one command that will work, and don’t precede it with “say” or anything like that). You’re a kid, you’re trick-or-treating, there’s a weird old guy and a weird time-loop device… it’s a good setup with a fun—and frustrating—puzzle. This is a parser game, and Inform 7 is hard to do in a short amount of time, so as is usual with Petite Mort parser games there’s a lot of underimplementation here. There are some strange solutions—try everything. There aren’t many items in the game, so it’s not too difficult to try things, but you’re on a timer, so keep a map so you don’t waste turns.

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Thanks so much for the lovely review, Amanda! I’m so glad that you liked it. Your encouragement back from SpringThing has stayed with me, and is a big part of why I felt comfortable joining EctoComp this year! (I was also a touch nervous about releasing something sexier than my usual wheelhouse of writing, so I’m glad that aspect of the piece also worked!)

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Heads up, @The_Xenographer: Your game isn’t running for me. It says “Loading game for the first time…” forever. I think bug fixes are allowed.

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Thanks so much for alerting me! I had checked last night after I uploaded it to make sure it was working, and it was fine then, but when I checked again, I had the same issue you did. Extremely weird!

Anyway, I just uploaded the game file again–the same thing I uploaded yesterday, no changes–and now it’s loading for me, at least. Is it working for you?

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Quick check–Opera, Chrome and Firefox all worked for me.

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Yep, it’s loading now. Yours was the second one on my randomizer and I kept trying to load it between other games. No idea if my computer had a freakout and got over it, or if you re-uploading it did the trick. But I can play it now!

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Well, like I said, I had the same issue when I tried again, and @Encorm just told me she hadn’t been able to load it earlier today either, so I think Itch.io must have just barfed somehow between when I uploaded it and when the comp went live? But I’m glad the reupload seems to have fixed it!

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Something Blue, by E. Joyce

Summary

This game is like E. Joyce decided to write something just to please me. Joy, joy joy for this fairy tale lover—it’s a Bluebeard story! And it’s epistolary. And it’s gothic. And the choices are great. And from the very first words, I was all in, because all of this seems like it was written just to my taste. It’s very short, and that’s probably because great care was taken with the writing, which is very good. I played twice, trying to choose different things, but got the same ending, and I do wonder if there’s another one or if the author ran out of time.

One More Page, by Princess Internet Café

Summary

The randomizer gave me an epistolary game, and then a modern version of that—a text messaging game. This one has sound, and I confess I usually hate sound in my games and nearly always turn it off, as I did here. The situation feels appropriately off from the start—a friend shows up at your house while you’re gone, and scariness ensues, with some really effective simple graphic efects and a story that genuinely had me worried about the NPCs. The text boxes come up reeaallyy sslloowwllyy, which was a bit of a problem for me, as sometimes there are choices and sometimes there are not, and if choices didn’t pop up right away I’d just click, only to see a new choice start to fade in too late. Other than that, I really dug this game and found it scary.

Cell 174, by Milo van Mesdag

Summary

The mighty Milo van Mesdag won the Petite Mort division last year with a great game about an evil book, and his IFComp entry rocks, so I was pretty jazzed to play this. And it’s really, really disturbing. I don’t know how Milo gets so much written in such a short amount of time, but there’s a lot here—it’s a therapy session between a doctor and a hit man who has some anger issues, and there are some pretty graphic descriptions of sex and murder. It’s well-written and definitely not for the faint of heart. I was totally engaged the entire time and felt slightly ill afterwards from being in that man’s head. And I mean that as a compliment.

Starlight Shadows: Halloween edition, by Autumn Chen

Summary

This is another game where I am dumbstruck at how much an author was able to produce in only 4 hours. You’re at a party. An entity is about to attack—you know this because you have Powers. You can talk to others at the party and get them on your side and learn a little more about your special abilities, and your relationships with the NPCs. It culminates in a battle and then a surprise ending that I’m not sure I understood. Was it all a simulation? Although I probably don’t need to tell anyone at this point that Autumn Chen can write, there’s some excellent writing here, and I was fully engaged in the story.

Blackout, by Playahead Games

Summary

I really liked this game. It’s about the end of the world as we know it—seven days from now. Then the game takes you through those last seven days, which for the PC are probably a good deal like they would be for most of us: a veneer of ordinariness, the mundane tasks of life still present, our desire to work and create still present. What would you do with that time? The writing was good, conveying a sense of loneliness and longing as time ticks away. The only irritation I had here was that I had to click twice on every clickable thing to progress, which I’ve never seen before.

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Hey, thanks for the review! It was my first time doing timed text and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too much, so I’m glad you liked it!

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Thanks Amanda! I’m very glad that I made you feel sick. And maybe one day I’ll worry about why I can write that kind of content so quickly, but that day will not be today!

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This is really nice.

Consider without obligation replicating them in social networks. Maybe some people will find all those nice Petites thanks to your recommendations!

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I might be the only person in the world without a Facebook or Twitter account. But I hereby give permission for anyone else who wants to post these on their accounts to do so.

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You are very wise, indeed.

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Nah! better could post their own using the hashtag #ECTOCOMP2022, as I said in the main thread. Anyway, I’m enjoying it a lot the reviews posts. Thanks, everyone!

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You Are a Zombie Yelp Reviewer, by Geoffrey Golden

Summary

This is a short, funny game which is exactly what you think it is—you’re a zombie, you kill someone, eat their brains, and then Yelp the experience in a Grunk-like voice, choosing how good or bad the review will be. This was a really smart design for a short game; it’s polished and finished and, if you’ll forgive the expression, it sucks all the juice it can out of the joke. A really silly and fun couple of minutes.

Reg and the Kidnapped Fairy, by William Moore

Summary

I believe this is by the same author who wrote The Tower of Plargh, which I have not played, but I did read a review of. It’s a parser game featuring a huge undead gorilla and a house. You can’t do anything in the house, which has many rooms that don’t seem to be part of the story in any way. There’s a car you can’t do anything with. You can punch the gorilla, which then comes back so you can punch it again. Did I mention you’re a werewolf? And you might be Reg. Or you might not be Reg.

There’s a fairy in the title, but I couldn’t find one anywhere, and I remembered from @bjbest60 's review that testing commands were open in The Tower of Plargh. So I tried SHOWME FAIRY and GONEAR FAIRY, which worked like a charm to get me to the fairy, which I couldn’t do anything with.

There might be a narrative thread connecting the werewolf (who might be Reg), the gorilla, and the fairy, but I did not tweak to it. There might be commands aside from “punch” that do things, but I did not find them. Although to be fair, I did not try very hard. Weirdly, I recommend this game. If you find the fairy on your own, or find commands that work, please let me know.

THROW. MARIA. OVERBOARD, by MuffiTuffiWuffi

Summary

In the grand tradition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, here we have a party guest, a sea captain, who tells a story of a curse on his ship. It’s well written, and presents a moral dilemma that is really uncomfortable: would you kill a wicked person to save all the other lives on your ship? Travis is another author who gets a lot done in 4 hours, setting the scene of a party for the wealthy in Constantinople, and the manner in which you’ll tell your epic poem story. Very nice indeed.

Restitution, by Dorian Passer

Summary

Here we have another “stateful narration” project, with a grim little short story originally by Charles Henkle (a writer I am totally unfamiliar with) and exactly one word you get to choose to drive the story forward. I tried “asshole,” but was denied, so went with “jerk,” which was accepted. I’m familiar with Dorian’s MO by now, and while I enjoy the original stories, I think so much more could be done to gamify this mechanism so that these are actually games with real interactivity. Still, a project done in 4 hours is not the place to experiment, and there are many Petite Morts that are as on-the-rails as this one.

Nightmares within nightmares, by Graham Walmsley

Summary

I just loved this little game. It captured the feel of running from something in a dream, of the familiar and beloved vanishing, of that awful feeling when you wake of not knowing whether or not you’ve escaped the dream. The game doesn’t end—it loops, as repetitive nightmares tend to do. There’s some excellent writing here, and it’s gross and gory and scary. A perfect Halloween spooky story.

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Thanks for the read-through, Amanda! Glad you liked the stateless story.

Just so you know, I’m still dying to pick your brain here. And if you (or anyone else) ever wants to try out this mechanism (perhaps via the stateful narration editor), I’ll be around as much as possible to help out with that. :jack_o_lantern:

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My ideas begin and end at making some kind of actual puzzle out of this, as Neven Mrgan did in Blackbar to great effect. Just picking a word to describe a person or a mood (which may or may not be accepted, which feels flat when there’s no right answer) isn’t particularly stimulating. It feels more like a pop quiz than like a game. I do enjoy the stories, but they feel exactly like reading stories by someone else that have been inserted into your framework, not stories that have been adapted and made fresh by Dorian Passer. I think that you are probably achieving what you mean to achieve-- it’s just that the effect doesn’t particularly work for me, so you should take anything I say with a grain of salt because you should do exactly what you want to do, not what I want you to do. Adaptations are really, really hard to do well (I say this as someone who has made stabs of varying effectiveness at adapting other people’s writing). But I think it would pay to try to adapt them rather than just quoting them in big chunks. But again, that’s my preference, which shouldn’t necessarily be a guiding light for anyone.

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Mmmm, braaains! :zombie: Thanks for the tips, Amanda! I totally get what you mean about puzzles (I’ve seen myself that even something as simple as a riddle goes a long way towards engagement). I’ll definitely spend some cycles on this in the near future, so thanks for the gentle pushback here.

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Where can I find these games ?

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Over on itch.io. No account required, and nearly all playable in-browser. Enjoy the frights!

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