Arlo's Review Corner IFComp 2023

Hi all! This is my first post in the forum (thank you @manonamora for inviting me!), so I might take a while to figure things out. I’m planning to play a few IFComp games and share some thoughts/reviews in this thread


(thank you to @sophia for the adorable introductory pic :green_heart:)



by Allyson Gray


This was the first game of the comp I played, and, as someone who also has a condition that can make communication a struggle and social interactions challenging, I found Dysfluent a compelling window into what it’s like to live with something like that.

There are adaptations and work-arounds (and agonizing decisions over whether to utilize them, and to what extent). There’s deciding whether to try to explain the situation to strangers. There’s self-doubt, self-consciousness, and unwarranted self-criticism. Even friends, while well-meaning, don’t really understand. I think this game offers a thoughtful view into those kinds of experiences, and those who can relate may feel a little less alone after playing.

A few thoughts on mechanics:

  • The game uses timed text very effectively. The pauses between “You hit / several / PAINFUL blocks” really drive home the impact of the struggle to get words out.

  • I really enjoyed the inclusion of achievements. It made me want to keep playing until I get all of them.

  • A suggestion: It could be a good idea to offer the option to turn off text animations at the beginning as an accessibility setting, rather than as an extra available after the first playthough

Overall this was a great first game to play, and I’m really glad I did.


One King to Loot them All

by Onno Brouwer


I played this game in story mode, which was very helpful for me as someone who rarely plays parsers. I could poke around and see what I could find when I wanted, and move on without getting slowed down when I couldn’t find a solution easily.

I love sword and sorcery stuff and this game felt very nostalgic in the best way. I also thought the action sequences were especially well-written. Sometimes I bounce off action-heavy writing when it’s hard to tell what’s going on, but here the descriptions were captivating and the action enthralling. Especially at the game’s climax, the visual descriptions created a really vivid and dramatic picture of what was happening.

I was also really delighted to discover the (big spoiler here) undo command being used as a major game mechanic. I don’t play enough parsers to know if that kind of thing is done a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised by this revelation during my playthrough. (Part of me was hoping that the unbiased companion to accompany the king on his quest the second time around might have been one of those goats, though, haha :smile:).

Overall I’d recommend this to people who like sword & sorcery, and the story mode makes it very accessible to people who don’t usually play parsers.



by Hubert Janus


OK, this title made me laugh. It does, in fact, deliver exactly what it promises.

Apparently there’s another version of the game too, assigned randomly when the game starts, and I got the “good version”. The other supposedly features flashing pink and green lights, lots of spelling errors, and ends pretty quickly. Seems like a Golden Banana contender.

I haven’t played through all the branches in the “good version”, but some of them seem fairly long and complex. The absurdly escalating danger/jokes got more than a few chuckles out of me. (For some reason the one that got me most was that the player can at one point attempt to hide in a “clog-on-swinging-rope warehouse.” Not the best place for some who is, as the game so eloquently puts it, “fated to be kicked in the nuts.”)


It’s not. Usually messing around with the base commands is a big no-no!


As one who got the (very, very bad) version of Dick McB, I’m really curious about this other version…


You should be able to play in a private browsing/incognito window? If you don’t get the one you want, close all the private browsing windows so it stops remembering who you are, then open a new one and try again?


I got the “bad” version of the game when I clicked the link to play it online from the IFComp website, but when I downloaded the game and used the html file I got the full version. Not sure how you guys have been accessing the game, so maybe that’s not helpful at all, but I at least got to play both versions pretty easily.


(I haven’t figured out yet what the etiquette is for replying or not replying to review threads – hopefully this is an okay thing to do! If not, I’m sorry!)

Thank you so much for giving Dysfluent a try and writing such a thoughtful review of it! It means a lot to me that you could understand and even relate to the story, and I’m very very happy to hear that you enjoyed a few of my design choices and overall had a nice time with the game.

Thanks for the accessibility suggestion as well!
I honestly agonized over how to handle the animated text, and was torn between several different options.
I wanted to make sure that players are encouraged to experience the game in a way that’s best aligned with its themes and mood, but it’s also important to me that the experience is accessible to as many people as possible, so that’s something I always want to improve and really appreciate getting feedback on.

I actually had a screen-reader-friendly mode planned, which would have made all the text static and optimized layout/typography for a better text-to-speech experience. I downloaded JAWS and NVDA and I was all excited about working on that part of the project… then I completely ran out of time and had to abandon it! I would love to implement it at some point in the future if there’s any interest.

Thanks again for an extremely lovely first review, it made my day! I’m looking forward to reading more about your comp experience. :blush:


I just used Josh Grams’ method to play the “bad version” and it is really something :joy: The “good version” is still written around a single joke and variations of that joke, but it seems pretty well-executed from what I’ve seen. I’m sure there are branches that are a lot longer/with many more choices than the couple I played too.


I’m still figuring out the etiquette around everything here too, so no worries! (And if I do screw something up very badly, anyone, please feel free to let me know. It’s definitely out of ignorance rather than malice). I’m so glad the review was helpful :smiling_face:

And I can completely sympathize with agonizing over how to handle accessibility re: the animated text! It really does enhance the experience of the game so much. The screen-reader-friendly option sounds great too, if you do decide to implement it eventually.

I’ll close by adding one of my favorite parts of the game I didn’t address in the review: the ending where the main character’s friend asks what it’s like from their perspective. It really can be so profound when someone offers to listen, even if they can’t completely relate. I can almost imagine the main character coming away from that conversation, after experiencing that for the first time, and deciding to write a game about it.


Thank you for your kind words. Adding the story mode was something I wanted to do for quite some time and creating the game the way I did made it easy to do so. It gave me an easy way to zip through the game to get to the parts I wanted to test or further tweak without a bunch of test me commands and its ilk, and, more importantly, allows my game to be played by everyone, no matter their previous IF experiences. At least that is my goal.

The special mechanic I used also allowed me to create something which I had not seen before (and I felt happy when I saw the reactions from the ClubFloyd team when they encountered this feature), so hopefully it delights players who are very familiar with parser games as well.


Wow, I didn’t realize until I read this review that there was a . . . different version available (the one that I played felt like a complete game).


Gestures Towards Divinity

by Charm Cochran


My perceptions of this one were probably warped due to some recent traumatic events in my personal life that I won’t go into here. Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed this game. Especially having been familiar with Bacon’s work, seeing a game take on this subject matter was both fascinating and incredibly emotionally resonant.

Through conversations with Bacon’s paintings, the player converses with Bacon’s former lover and muse, George Dyer, at various stages of his life (and death), a fury, and ultimately with Bacon himself.

But it is the others, the security guard and Jude, the barista, that my mind is drawn to as I think back on the game now. These two offer a kind of stand-in for potential player/audience reactions, asking questions that have surrounded Bacon’s works since they were first shown: Are the paintings terrible and beautiful and to be admired, like the security guard believes? Do they show the dark side of human nature in ways that are valuable? Or are they merely morbid, horrific, and exploitative, like the barista says?

I’ve recently been reading Ten Steps to Nanette, and thinking about Hannah Gadsby’s engagement with trauma and art. Their recent show at the brooklyn museum is a kind of takedown of Picasso and his own exploitative and horrific actions. Maybe that’s the only way the barista would approve of Bacon’s work being displayed: alongside explicit condemnation.

There are ways to engage with such troubling art. This game is, in my mind, a good example of that kind of useful engagement, and one I highly recommend playing to experience for yourself. It gave me a lot to think about, and is a game that I’m sure I’ll remember for a very long time.

Side note: Some players mentioned disliking the long descriptions in other reviews. I’m wholeheartedly in favor of them exactly the way they are. I found myself noticing details in the paintings I wouldn’t have otherwise, and the descriptions were a good mix of interpretive and descriptive. Those descriptions, along with the nuanced characterizations and complex themes, were definite highlights of the game for me.

Additional side note: I really loved Jude, the barista’s, character in the context of the larger game. She is the only one who offers major resistance to the player character’s questioning, and talking to her is a real moment of, “Oh, wait. This is probably how most people would respond to being asked this stuff by a total stranger.” It’s a notable contrast after spending so long steeping in trauma with the other NPCs; entering the paintings is like wading through open wounds, and Jude’s character brings things into perspective in a way that’s wonderfully jarring.