Billy Mays Reviews the IFComp 2016

ifcomp2016
#21

I doubt there are flying carpets at the real-world Burning Man.

(Billy Mays) #22

Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire - Chapter 2: Journey to Hell

[spoiler]I scored this game a 9

I enjoyed the game mechanics of shape shifting, and the puzzles were OK. The writing appeared solid on a technical level, but seriously lacking on any sort of artistic level. I suspect the writing is very beautiful in the author’s native(?) language(Italian?), but I need to score this game based on the English version that was entered.

Where the game really fell apart for me is how egregiously the author misrepresented the entire theme of vampires. This can be summed up when you need to type in “man” to change back into your native form, and then receiving the message “You turn yourself into your original human form.” (I added bold). Wrong, and wrong. A vampire is neither of those two things, a vampire is an abomination. A vampire forfeits its humanity, and lives for the sole purpose of perverting innocence. This is the significance of why it drinks the blood of humans, it is doing that as part of a ritualistic ceremony to mock life’s beauty, that is where it gets its sustenance. It doesn’t have a metabolism that it needs to keep feeding, the symbolism of blood runs the entire course of human history, but I do not want to get sidetracked too far here. While it is true that monsters don’t always see themselves as monsters, even the vampire knows there is nothing man or human left inside of it anymore, and it relishes in that fact. In Stoker’s Dracula, you will find the theme of class conflict running just beneath the text throughout the entire course of the novel, but I am basing my review on a more general vampire mythology to be fair. These two words may seem like a minor grievance on my part, but where they become significant is how they are symptomatic of a greater problem. Once you miss that key detail, your whole story collapses like house of cards:

You have to fight the powers of Hell…

Why? You are the physical manifestation of evil.

For the purpose of overcoming your weakness to the sun?

First this misses the whole light vs dark, purity vs corruption, righteous vs unholy symbolism critical to vampire mythology. But even if you are able to get past that: what reason do you have to maximize your hours of operation? First, You are immortal, you can take your time, savor the moment. Second, conquer the planet? Then what? Retire?

In conclusion, the author presented a game that had above average game mechanics, mostly uninspired writing, and which failed to properly address the source material.

I would have given this game a 6 based on just the above.

I then decided to add 1 point for a final score of 9 because in the AMUSING section (still part of the game, and overall experience to be judged) the author:

  1. Congratulated the player, and thanked them for playing it in several very sincere sentences. This demonstrated generosity on the part of the author. You should be thanking the author, what is done here is the author is thanking you. This did not gain the author any points, but it was a nice gesture, and I appreciated it.

  2. Where the author gets the 1 point is then providing a link to a site where you can sign a memorial along with everyone else who completed the game. A simple link to projects the author has completed would be nice to know, but the 1 point is earned entirely in the memorial. I love seeing authors go outside the box to enhance player interactivity, and also when they use their game as a tool to facilitate community building. It made me really excited that you could play a game, experience the presentation, feel the accomplishment of completing it, and then have the opportunity to sign an online placard to be memorialized along with all of the other people from around the world that had gone through the same experience as you. Magnificent.

*****Update: I added two point to my original score, for a final score of 9, because I felt I was too critical on my “missed the concept of vampires” argument in my review. Castlevania was a pretty epic game, and its mythology is a complete mess, it wasn’t the best that the NES offered, but it was up there. I feel the same about this game in regards to this competition.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #23

Detectiveland

[spoiler]8

You take the roll of a detective in solving 3 different cases. I enjoyed it.

More zany than I would have liked to have seen, some serious cringe moments, the funny parts outweighed the bad.

The mechanics were pretty neat.

I enjoyed the story, but not to any extremes.

The music was completely disruptive to reading, but catchy for stretching my legs and reminding me I still have a game to play, this balanced itself out.

I liked that you could change the font to just regular letters.

update: I added one point for a final score of 8. No reason for this outside of attempting to maintain consistent scoring. I feel this game was better than the 7s and worse than the 9s. I may go back and write more about this later, but right now I need a bit of a break.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #24

Evermore

[spoiler]Edgar Allan No

The inherent danger of fan fiction occurs in the added responsibility of having to stay authentic to your source material. Worlds you are excited about, and believe you have a thorough understanding of, become incomprehensible mazes as you try to figure out how or why Jedi or child sorcerers work so well within a greater narrative. The author of this game decided to go to the extreme blistering limits of fan fiction by selecting one of the greatest American authors of all time. In this regard, the game appears beautiful as a metaphor of the Icarus metaphor, but this is where any beauty ends. This game cobbles together classic Poe stories into a jumbled mess held together by words that appear Poe-esque. But Poe never chose a word because it appeared to be in the style of Poe, he chose a word because it was the correct word to choose, similar to Beethoven selecting the correct note, and Monet making the correct brushstroke. The composition is finished when it is the correct time to do so. Nothing about this game felt correct, and how could it feel that way while being nothing more than an imitation? The title being a pun from The Raven is all the more appropriate as this game appeared to do nothing more than mock what it attempted to emulate. I am confident this was not the direction the author was trying to go, this game just demonstrates the dangers of fan fiction.

I have a lot of respect for the author for trying something so courageous.

3[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #25

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending

[spoiler]7

A noir occurring on an autonomous spacecraft in a dystopian future that revolves around ethical dilemmas in science and intergalactic politics! I try to be as unbiased as possible as a judge, but this game felt tailor made for me…at first…

Waking up from a suspended state on a military spacecraft, that you’re apparently captaining, you are first met with the mystery of your withheld memories…oh man, this is getting interesting…you need to uncover the truth about who you are, who you were, and what you’ll become.

The writing I found to be exceptional, it just felt right, I am not sure what magic authors use in their writing to make something just feel right, but this author clearly demonstrated it here.

The first thing I noticed that bothered me (at first?) was a pdf device with a flickering screen, I hate the flickering screen cliche that authors use in space fiction games. How haven’t you learned to fix flickering screens throughout the entire course of creating highways out of the stars? It is just counterintuitive…and then I thought this sure does seem awfully out of place in such a well thought out opening scene, and then I started wondering if maybe it was one of those neat things authors throw in to either clue you into a bigger story going on or just to mess with your brain because even they don’t know what it means, and it just felt right to introduce it at the time. Not a red herring, those tend to be on the annoying side, just a moment of inspiration where whatever it means is left to be determined, but it definitely means something. So then my mind started wandering as I was playing the rest story:

I am alone on a ship far outside the boundaries of my own civilization, the ship’s AI doesn’t seem too talkative, I don’t have any books, the game machine only plays one game which requires another person to play…what would just prevent somebody from going mad and making a bad life decision? So I tried doing that, and was pleasantly surprised how the author handled that scenario, introducing another piece to this puzzle…at first…

The picture, the letter, the email messages, my journal, the multiplayer game, this was all really well done. I enjoyed how the author introduced an additional character into the story through shadows of a past life. I felt this was a more effective method of introducing the Aleph character than something more traditional like a live video chat.

While I thought this effective, it seemed a little suspicious considering how few personal items were on the ship, and that the military would allow a commanding officer to own dissident paraphernalia on a world busting craft?

Very suspicious.

Whose memories are these? Did I even know an Aleph, or are these just manufactured by the command structure to implant this fake past into my mind?

The game was short, it had three distinct endings which is a good thing, but even then the experience was short.

And then the epilogues, this is where the story collapsed for me. The author demonstrated story organization by opening with a famous Sun Tzu quote, and neatly tying that quote into the three different endings, but at what cost? The epilogues stole from what the story could have been, it wrapped it up into a neat little package, closing any doubt as to what just happened. Those were actual photographs, it was just a silly flickering screen, you could only make that really bad life decision so many times (which kind of defeated the point of having the extras in the first place).

The author could have still inserted the Sun Tzu quote into the game without actually making the quote by alluding to it through thematic elements. I also would have liked to have seen either no epilogues, or make them something elusive and thought provoking for readers to sink their teeth into.

It was still a very good game at the end of the day.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #26

Fair

[spoiler]7

I felt this game was written well, with nice imagery. The story I was a little indifferent towards, I didn’t find it boring, but I didn’t find it terribly exciting at the same time.

The regular people all seemed real, and the people you were selling your books to all seemed kind of like aliens. I enjoyed this dichotomy because I imagine that is how a real author views their encounters with fans since they know more about you than you do about them. I also felt the book selling mechanic became tedious really fast.

The game was on the short side. I imagine the absurdly high max score has something to do with replaying it and selling more books, I don’t know because it kind of lost interest for me.

You sell some books, you examine some mediocre exhibits appropriate for a elementary school science fair, you don’t have much time to do anything before you are forced to judge the fair. I imagine this short time limit is intentional for the replays?

The judging is where I feel there were some serious missed opportunities. First there is no way that an elementary school band would play anything even remotely recognizable as a song, it would be a completely muddled mess. The second is in between judging you have the opportunity to emote to the crowd, and there is some generic response. Why doesn’t the principal be a little mischievous here and ask you why you picked each entry in between? And you have to give ridiculous answers because you either don’t care or don’t understand or weren’t paying attention to anything? And then the audience of parents and students reacting to your comments followed by a complete mess of instruments screeching some sound out? I don’t know, I just felt this part was a little anticlimactic.

I also didn’t get the running joke of the online book store. They’re selling his books, and sending him checks, so he gets burned a little in the face to face, he still has his books being sold on a world market.

I felt this was a fine game overall, some things done well, others a little tedious, and some missed opportunities.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #27

Fallen 落葉 Leaves

[spoiler]Fallen asleep.

In this game you get to select a verb and an adverb in order to create pages of complete gibberish. This message came up quite a bit:

                Error: <<if>>: bad conditional expression in <<elseif>> clause (#1): Unexpected identifier 

These messages did not impact my score as I considered them a much needed, albeit temporary, reprieve from the overall experience.

I replayed this game in preparation for my review with the remaining time I had left and concluded that this is the absolute worst thing I have ever read in my entire life, I then awarded it one additional point because I liked how the game incorporated adverbs into the player commands.

2[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #28

The Game of Worlds TOURNAMENT!

[spoiler]10

A card based strategy game that is considerably more complex than it first appears. The board is a miniaturized representation of a world that contains two civilizations, yours and your opponent’s. The number of continents and composition of the game planet is different every time you play. You each start off with 7 cards and 5 counter tokens. Turn order is decided via coin flip at the beginning of the game, the player whose turn it is can play a card, the opposite player can use a counter token as long as they have them, and those counter tokens can be countered as well, an update is shown that describes how both civilizations have grown, evolved, military conscription, and expanded onto other continents. and then it becomes the opposite player’s turn. If a card was used by either player on their turn, it is replaced by a new card on the following turn. The object of the game is to destroy your opponent’s civilization, this can be accomplished either through warfare or becoming so advanced that your opponent resigns. There are a lot of different cards, the cards perform a wide variety of functions, and these functions can stack according to the turn duration of the card. How and when you play them goes a long way in shaping the grand strategy that will hopefully take you to victory. There is A LOT more going on in this game than what I just described, this is just the introduction. I have played a lot of strategy games in my life, online and staring down opponents across the table from me, the joy of discovering the tiniest weakness to exploit and just twisting and twisting; if I had to guess, I would guess that the author is fanatical about strategy games, has a deep understanding of their mechanics, and used that passion to create this wonderful game.

The creative writing skills are masterfully demonstrated in this game. Everything from the worlds, the civilizations, to the card descriptions all comes together to make an incredibly engaging experience.

The use of graphics was also perfectly executed. Each card having its own nicely done illustration, the spinning globe that reflects the current planet, even the imagery that surrounds the playing field all added to the overall appeal of this game.

All of this adds up to a game that has a tremendous amount of replay value as you constantly hone your own skills mastering all of its nuances.

In conclusion, I love this game, I really, really, love this game![/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #29

The God Device

[spoiler]I gave this game an 9. I wanted to give it more, but at the same time I felt like it deserved less.

I’m not sure if this was the direction the author was trying to go, but everything about this game had that whole cheesy B-movie appeal that you love because it is so bad. The writing was sophomoric, the plot was nonsensical, the characters were irreverent, and I loved every minute of it. And this was not loving it in a being mean to the author sort of way, but rather there was some spark of real charm at the beginning which quickly got pancaked by ever increasing amounts of ridiculousness until there was no turning back.

Here is one of my favorite lines in the game:

“‘Thanks.’ Tanya looked at Jenssen’s door again. ‘I better get going.’”

She had already disengaged and brushed off the stranger, who was helping her out, before even finishing up the conversation that she had initiated in the first place.

I will be going back to this game before the competition is over and use my remaining time to see if I can justify giving it an even higher score…[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #30

Hill Ridge Lost & Found

[spoiler]8

When things just don’t seem right in your dusty, backwater town, a lone cowboy takes it upon himself to travel to the hilltop home of an old acquaintance in order to confront your guess is as good as mine here really, the plot wasn’t exactly this game’s strong suit.

So you start up the game and the first thing you are met with is a complete text bomb that saps your enthusiasm to continue playing, the end result is that the protagonist is a little suspicious over the fact that his dead town is appearing a little more dead than usual, and that is linked to your neighbor Lonon because whoever is left is misusing a figure of speech that he is known to use. One or two paragraphs is usually sufficient to start a player off in the right direction.

Most of the location descriptions were too long which made it tedious to track exits when you were moving around. I usually like to see location descriptions around maybe two or three sentences at most, and have all the extra details buried behind the various examine commands. More than that is fine if you get to a location that is a real doozy and it merits more explanation, or even if the information is pertinent, but in this game you would cross over a fence and get some rambling about this one time when he was a kid something happened by that one tree and all of this would be mixed into the information you need to know like what you are seeing, and where you can go. I get that the man is a lonely rambler, but it just went too far.

The thing about all of this is that the author was creating some really effective imagery with their writing. The intro didn’t make any sense, and was too long, and the dialogue seemed very artificial for the most part, but the locations were written really well. I think if the location descriptions were shortened down by hiding some of the extra details behind various examine commands, and the wandering thoughts were hidden behind the think or remember commands, that everything would have come across more fluid.

I also didn’t like the change in font colors, it was a neat trick at first, but quickly became a distraction, and the author really didn’t need to do it because the writing was really selling the imagery on its own.

I liked the puzzles, that was another strong point for me. I liked the vorair puzzles, and the windmill puzzle, and I really like when puzzle objects like the lamp and the candlestick have multiple compartments and levers, and latches, and basically a lot of stuff to fiddle around with. I wish there was an in game prop of a carbide lamp owner’s manual, maybe there was, I had to look it up online and doing so disrupts the experience.

I liked how the author seamlessly inserted the fictional vo-ball, vo-nip, jiller vines, vorairs, and catknenk bushes into the story, it was a nice touch to round out the experience.

Now back to the story…

So you wander around until you find the makeshift chapel, wander around some more, find Lonon, he’s dead, great, problem solved, time to get the sheriff and wrap things up…no you actually need to burn down his chapel for whatever reason despite the fact that he is clearly dead. The result is that you get chased around by a fire elemental until you bury Lonon, and confront the fact that when you were a child you hid some girl’s doll which made her cry, stole some fruit from Lonon, and scared him with some plant that looks like a roman candle when you burn in, which I am not sure why that would scare Lonon, it is unlikely that nobody else knew about this remarkable property that one plant had. So you bury Lonon, tell the fire elemental sorry about that stuff you did when you were a kid, and then walk off into the sunset. I guess this has something to do with confronting childhood guilt, but I don’t recall anything bad happening to Ellie except for the fact that you kept her doll from her, which was a pretty lousy thing to do, but you were a kid yourself at the time and it seems a little extreme that a flaming monster would be chasing you across a hilltop as an adult over something so trivial? Maybe he was responsible for Lonon or Ellie’s deaths? If he was, I missed that part, and I don’t think a simple “sorry” would have made up for it.

The writing was pretty good but disorganized, I wish most of it was hidden behind the examine, look, and think commands. The dialogue was pretty bad. The intro could have been done in a paragraph. The puzzles were pretty cool.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #31

How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors

[spoiler]7

In this game you play a high school student who sacrifices everyone he knows and cares about before an altar of pagan gods for the mere joy of winning a rock paper scissors tournament. The protagonist has gone to extreme lengths for this simple pleasure, this brief moment of victory. What would seem completely insane to some, would appear autobiographical to others. I particularly enjoyed how the final competition wasn’t even a best of three, it was just one shoot, a slap on the back, and it was over. To get there you needed to trick your classmates, your old English teacher, your best friend, a crossing guard, and even your girlfriend to a game of rock paper scissors, thereby sending them to oblivion. Captain Ahab himself would envy this scoundrel’s mad obsession.

The puzzles were clever in the context of the story, albeit a little on the easy side, as they are predominantly centered around instigating a rock paper scissors pose in someone, and then throwing out the winning hand sign to banish them. I feel the puzzles being a little on the easy side was appropriate for this game as it demonstrated that protagonist was willing to go to the extreme ends in sacrificing others, but took the easy route for himself.

The writing was very entertaining, and I found the story to be very funny.

All of this added up to a six, I then added one additional point for a final score of 7 as this game had the very best easter egg in the competition so far. Typing in xyzzy in the quad will cause a giant hand to come down and you can play a game of rock paper scissors against it, and the opponent’s decisions here are randomized.

I am not really sure where the author could have improved, my score is basically based on how this game stacks up to the size and scope of other entries.

The author stated that this is their first game, and based on my experience, I hope this is the first of many![/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #32

Inside the Facility

[spoiler]10

I like feelies, this is difficult to do nowadays, so what the author did here is provide an e-feely. It was something simple, a basic 10 x 13 map of blank rooms, a compass image, and the starting room labeled “lobby” to print out and fill in as you play. It was something incredibly simple, but I always like it when authors throw in extra stuff to round out the experience. Unfortunately my printer is currently out of ink, but luckily I have trizbort which is a very useful (and free :wink: ) mapping program:

trizbort.com/

The author created a game around essentially just the n,e,s,w and “wait” commands. Everything was presented gracefully despite these limitations. The game never felt clunky, but rather I was constantly being amazed with the ingenious ways the author kept these mechanics both fresh and exciting.

The creative writing was fantastic, and the author demonstrated a very strong comedic understanding, everything from cheap laughs to sharp witted humor. I don’t recall any areas where there was a lot of writing, but what there was was very effective. I have the feeling that the author was trying to squeeze every last bit of potential out of 5 basic commands, and then carried this same concept over to the writing.

There was another subtly I really appreciated, the reason why the author restricted you to just those 5 commands is because you are trespassing. Your friend bet you that you wouldn’t come back with a map of the mysterious facility (the feelie you print out). So you would get in, make the map, and get out before getting arrested or worse. This means that you would want to be as discreet as possible, not opening sealed boxes, looking under somebody else’s table, using items in every conceivable way imaginable, interrogating the staff with a 100 different questions…all very fun stuff to do in the the right kind of game…here you just need to stay as low key as possible. But even low key is not enough for a complete stranger to wander the halls and not get noticed, fortunately everyone who works inside is completely nuts. The entire experience felt like a carnival.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #33

Labyrinth of Loci

[spoiler]6

Wonky Font

As a general rule: If your local library does not have a particular font, then neither should your game.

Also not conducive to reading is the music that was selected. This game’s music is badong.

The game crashed on my first attempt to play it, and then it crashed a second time when I exited out and tried playing it down a different path. I was playing “Updated: October 7, 10:20 PM (UTC)”.

****update: While attempting to wrap up my reviews for this competition, I decided to go back and play this game since my first two experiences were cut short from game crashes, and I still had a long time left to play it as a result. I managed to achieve an ending without a crash on what is my third playthrough. The biggest thing I noticed is that while one of my biggest criticisms initially was its poor writing, it actually demonstrates some of the best writing in this competition?!

The author managed to combine the helpless terror of Lovecraft with the sleek horror of Poe.

I love these genres probably more than anything else.

My initial problem was with how completely awful the font is in this game. My mind was/is constantly having to correct the deep cutting stems, and this irritation feels very similar to that when you are forced to read through long strings of text that are loaded full of grammatical errors (similar to my reviews). Being aware of this fact, I went back and conscientiously focused on the words instead of the font and found the writing to be remarkable. The writing was too good for me to believe that this wonky font was just some gimmick used by authors sometimes to make their writing appear more creative than what it is, but rather that it was used intentionally to enhance the feeling of frustration and disorientation of travelling down an ancient labyrinth towards your doom. The badong music was also implemented to enhance these feelings. The problem was that this font choice channeled my frustration towards the author, instead of towards my predicament within the game. I feel there are situations when going away from the norm is justifiable in font selection. A cursive style font is more appropriate when trying to replicate hand written letters because it gives them more life, or a font that replicates computer messages when appropriate, there are probably other exceptions, but these are because it it merely replicating what you would normally read which makes them appear more natural, and not because they are trying to instill added emotion.

I can’t give this game anything higher than a six because of how much of a blunder I felt the font was. It was completely unreadable to me, and the imagery was so incredibly effective with the writing by itself. The font was so much of a blunder, and I enjoyed this game so much, that given a better font option, I probably would have overlooked the two crashes and still would have given it a 10 after all of my final adjustments of the scores. Not that it really matters, but it also doesn’t make my eating crow list because the initial review was the result of two in game crashes.

In conclusion, I think this game could be outstanding if the author changed the font to something more conducive to reading, they could even keep the completely badong music, I could live with that, and playtested the game further to eliminate game crashes.

*****version 1.1 update: Some people will probably question why if I don’t like the completely badong music, then just turn your speakers off? I’m just judging what is presented, if I praise one author for having nice music, I need to also criticize authors who have badong music.

*****version 1.2 update: I have been thinking about whether I overreacted with my font argument or not, and came to the conclusion that I have been in a number of car accidents in my life, and each any every one of those deep cutting stems had the same impact on me mentally, it was completely jarring, and my ire was directed entirely towards the author instead of my experience with the game. I’m fine with controversial topics, overtly offensive writing, mature subject matter, badong music, typos, and even game crashes ((this game only had two (three if you count mature subject matter, but it was all really tame compared any random google search)) of these seven things from what I could tell), but I where I draw the line is on assault fonts.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #34

Letters

[spoiler]10

So my initial playthrough wasn’t as thorough as it could have been, and I had completely missed the whole part about Cadence having terminal leukemia…oof…that detail certainly filled in some loose ends for me.

I feel that my experience of casually dismissing this story at first subsequently followed by the shock and surprise once I reexamined it and discovered what I had been missing the entire time was appropriate as it mirrored to some degree the experience of Protege from the story.

The story centers around the character Coleman, or “Protege”, an appropriate nickname as Cadence was the protagonist in this story, and this friend had one very important lesson to give.

The author relates this story of friendship through three different narrative mediums: notes, memories, and letters. Within these three mediums two separate stories are told, and when those two stories collide, it created and image that was brutal and unapologetic in its depiction of reality.

The first story was of notes and memories. In this story Cadence depicts herself as a strong, carefree, youth that was full of vitality, boasting about how many friends she had, and how life was so amazing. Coleman took this friendship for granted a little bit, not in a selfish way, but rather in the way many people do when they are experiencing the immortality of youth. She resented the fact that Cadence never called her by her first name, found her to be a little too clingy, a little ungrateful, a little arrogant in how Cadence’s family was wealthy and hers were not. Some notes Coleman kept, some she lost, while others she just threw away, they were just insignificant scraps of paper when you have your whole life to look forward to. The two without a doubt both viewed each other as true friends, one was just seeing things through a different perspective given a situation that made her too wise too soon.

The second story was through letters, the ones Cadence had been writing for Protege since they first became friends. Letters she knew it would be time for her to deliver only when she couldn’t. This is a story of loss, tragedy, friendship, and of courage. It is also the story of a gift. The only thing that was truthful about Cadence from her first story was her love for her one remaining friend, a love expressed through the act deception, but not a deception for personal gain, but rather sacrifice as she did not want Protege to experience the same pain that caused her parents to get eaten alive. It was out of her control to keep it from them, but she was going to do everything in her power to the very last conceivable last moment to hide this reality from her Protege, a fitting name as this relationship taught Coleman more about life than anything she could have ever learned on her own.

When these two stories collided within the confines of a completely torn apart bedroom, it created the most powerful image I have experienced in the competition thus far.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #35

The Little Lifeform That Could

[spoiler]I had promised myself at the beginning of this competition that if a game allowed me to evolve from ooze in order to ruthlessly conquer the entire galaxy, all while wearing the most decadent of hats, that I would score that game about a nine. This game did that, exhibited superb creative writing skills, and every decision was a complete joy to make.

9[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #36

Manlandia

[spoiler]2

I didn’t like anything about this game. I also found the idea of a manlandia to be dumb quite honestly, I am sure this is also what the author was getting at, but some ideas are so foundationally absurd that they present very little value in actually exploring. There are currently no evolutionary pressures on men to evolve for asexual reproduction, it would take I couldn’t even guess how many millions (billions? trillions?) of years to occur, in the mean time there would be many a silent meals around the dinner table where their genetic lines would just die off, and even if all of this did happen: without any genetic diversity, they would just be popping out squids within three generations max.

This concept even falls apart prematurely on an allegorical level as well:

“So, you want to create a society completely free of women?”

“Nope.”

“Yeah, me neither, forget I mentioned that.”

-The End[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #37

Moonland

[spoiler]5

In this game you take the role of an android named “i.v.” that due to advancements in artificial intelligence and a breakdown in core processes is forced to confront advanced human emotions and concepts such as self-awareness, freedom of choice, love, death, and beauty. The game made many mother references and a birthing sequence which presented the idea that this is the inception of a new era of humanity, where we become sleeping gods, and pass the reigns of shaping the universe on to our creation.

I was very indifferent towards the writing as a whole, there was imagery that I felt worked really well, and there were parts of the story where I was just begging for it to end. I feel much of this had to do with the pacing. This is why I didn’t receive the game well at first, and have only modestly warmed up to it in retrospect. Here are the five major phases of the protagonist:

  1. Birth - The wonder and amazement of experiencing life, having feelings, and attempting to express those feelings towards somebody else.

  2. Awareness - Of who you are, where you came from, and the rules of your existence.

  3. Freedom - The joy of being able to determine your own course in life. To feel what you want to feel, to do what you want to do, and to be with who you want be with. This was far too brief.

  4. Imprisonment - Awareness of your mortality followed by a rapid descent into senility.

  5. Death - The ultimate conclusion.

Phases three and four occurred too quickly, it seemed they were just mentioned briefly, and then they were over. The reflection at the end was just stored memory banks, no emotional reaction to those experiences in hindsight, just data. And then it was all over.

The end result in my opinion is that instead of writing a tragedy, the author performed a mercy killing.

The other part where I felt it lost its pacing was in all of the dramatic pauses. I hate dramatic pauses. Especially dramatic pauses where there are no words on the screen which this game did a good bit of. When there are no words on the screen, it means that nothing is happening, and if nothing is happening, then you are unconscious which means something is happening, just nothing that you are perceiving, and since you are not perceiving it: there would be no dramatic pause because you would not notice the gap between moments of perception. Authors should always try to insert a dramatic pause with just their writing. Take for example you are reading a novel written by a respectable author, and one of the characters in the novel says something deep, and then you have to physically flip through 30 blank pages in the book, not a single word, not even a page number, and then a couple of pages of dialogue, and then you have to physically flip through another 5 or 10 blank pages, and this just went back and forth, this is what dramatic pauses are like in a game.

Overall, a pretty interesting game with fairly competent writing that failed to meet its potential due to severe problems in pacing.[/spoiler]

(Billy Mays) #38

The Mouse

[spoiler]2

Nothing happened in this game, I was waiting for something to happen, nothing happened, and then it mercifully ended. You play the role of Evelyn, you go to a class, you hang out with your elderly friend, swing by your dorm, Carrie offers you a drink, you have some drinks, then your elderly friend picks you up, and you make a big deal about how Carrie hurt you, and then it ended. I didn’t see anything wrong here, it looked like Carrie was just trying to be friendly, if you didn’t want to have a drink, you should have said so, I chose to get hammered in this game hoping it would spice things up a bit, it didn’t, and Evelyn still blamed Carrie, that didn’t make any sense, and then the game ended. “Friend eggs” was cute.[/spoiler]

#39

I liked The Facility, too. A good candidate for XYZZY Awards: Best Setting and, perhaps, Best Puzzles.
Arthur DiBianca’s games have a pleasant light-hearted minimalist style and keep getting better every year. I don’t mind even the simplistic cover art - it fits the game well.

(Billy Mays) #40

The author is incredibly talented, and entered an amazing game. That was a good point you brought up about the cover art.