Billy Mays Reviews the IFComp 2016

Night House


I was captivated by the author’s writing, it was very atmospheric, and the music helped set the mood. I enjoyed all of the extra fun stuff the author added to flesh out the story: the computer, encyclopedia, pictures, newspaper clipping, etc. I love it when authors implement items that tell a story within the story. I felt the puzzles were nice, and I loved how I was always unwrapping another layer to the game, how the story morphed from a suspense, to a horror, to a fantasy, it was all very engaging.

There was definitely a lot going on here in this story, and the author kind of flipped it one me at the very last moment, so I haven’t quite figured out what specifically to write about the game with the exception of your baby brother’s room, I felt the hallway description once you leave your nursery was a continuity error on the author’s part since you just found out that your baby brother is missing, then when you get to your dad’s office and do some research you realize that it was not a continuity error at all, but the author was flipping the script on you…whoa…that was really cool. This is another thing a like, when authors elude to clues that appear insignificant at first, but turn into something major later on. I also love stories that you have to experience multiple times, and every time you uncover some casual detail that you missed the first time around because you didn’t have the complete picture, and those details become clues to unraveling a much bigger picture.[/spoiler]

Not Another Hero


Anomalies in the world have caused certain individuals to obtain super powers. It is your responsibility to make sure those enhanced humans do not use their powers for evil.

The writing was difficult to get through in how dry and static it felt. Every character felt like the exact same low-energy, eye rolling, all smiles at the end of the day person with the only differences being their names and physical appearances. It wasn’t written poorly on a grammatical level, it just felt like it had the qualities of reading the instructions for assembling a grill. Here is one of the lines I disliked the most:

"Your task: Being the main damage-dealer of the team.”

This is the equivalent of playing a baseball game and your position on the team being described as “the guy who makes the baseballs go wham-o.”

You start the game getting recruited straight out of college to join some super elite commando team designed to fight these super villains, I didn’t find this very believable, it is like that old joke:

A twenties something shows up for their first day of work, the manager there hands them a mop bucket, to which the young adult responds indignantly “you do know I graduated college right?”, to which the manager responds “Oh, sorry, let me show you how to use that then” and begins to vigorously push the mop on the floor before handing it off to the grad.

While this isn’t entirely true, it isn’t exactly false either.

The type of person that would end up on a team such as this would be middle aged, has a diet largely composed of Motrin, and in the event they are a man: their immaculately groomed beard would have seen more horrors than a typical Bob Crane motel room.

There was no repercussions for any of my despicable decisions, just pretty much a “well he did what he thought was right at the end of the day and we can’t fault him for it” response.

There was some drama about protest groups of anomaly enhanced individuals fighting for their rights. you had to deal with that, along with public relations that dealt with handing out unwanted pets because I guess the healthiest home for an abandoned cat is at the residence of an owner who doesn’t even have the personal initiative to pick one up themselves in the first place.

There was some drama about one of the team members being an anomaly I think.

The game concludes with you waking up in the hospital, and all of your family and team members surrounding you…that was a nice touch.

There was a character sheet that displayed your current proficiency in a number of traits and skills (stealth, strength, aim, tactics, health, and public opinion). I am not sure if or how they were really incorporated into this game, but they could have been, and that is good enough for me.

I liked how the story opened up with you in an ICU, and you have to figure out how you ended up there.

I liked how you could fill in your own name and handle because you could type in really inappropriate stuff that livened up the story a good bit.

The story was ok, the interactivity was fine, the writing wasn’t the worst thing I ever read.

I feel the game could have been improved substantially with less drama, less story, and more uppercuts to the chins of bad guys.[/spoiler]

Pogoman GO!


I originally gave this game a six because while it was very entertainingly written, and there was a whole lot going on, I just didn’t understand what the hell any of it meant and just gave up on playing it. I didn’t feel that was fair to the authors, so I went back with my remaining amount of time for this game to try and get a better understanding of it. There are a lot of medals you can get which I felt the authors were really bringing their A-game with, they were all rib splitting funny. There are also a lot of things to interact with in the classical parser fashion which I found incredibly pleasing. Interacting with things would reward you with a funny story or items of various rarity. You have these little monsters that you keep in your inventory, they were all very cute with my favorite one being:

“Misdementor is the evolved form of Perpie, and evolves into Fellanon”

Reading that was a lot of fun.

Each location appeared to be named after a different icon in the interactive fiction community.

There were areas you could “die” in and I got a big kick out of checking those out. My favorite one was when I got accosted by a pair of back alley deviants and my body was thrown onto a pile of unconscious adventurers, and my phone tossed onto a pile of glowing phones. What I enjoyed most about this was that the phones were still “glowing” which means they never turned any of them off, which means they really didn’t care about the phones since they didn’t care about saving the battery or ripping the sim card out, they just liked accosting complete strangers in seedy back alleys.

Your in game phone has a map that displays your current location and the location of other important areas, that was really helpful, but I still prefer mapping out games that have this many locations in them, I like the free trizbort program for this due to its intuitive design and useful features:

I was carefully mapping everything out in trizbort, and despite everything that I liked, I was still thinking what in the world am I playing? So I quit out, and then loaded up another game because I was determined to give the authors a fair score here. This is when I discovered that your starting monsters and staring location is randomized, I found this a cool thing they did to increase replayability.

There are pogostops, listed on your phone map, that you can spin and they will give you random amounts of loot which is essential as they supply you with the generous amount of balls that you will need to accomplish your mission.

So I went around, armed with my balls, throwing them at monsters in order to capture them. The monsters, as inferred earlier, can evolve to become stronger at training gyms if you are the appropriate level to enter one.

At this point, I was getting precariously close to my time limit so I peeked at the help section to discover that the goal of all of this is to become a pogomaster whatever that is supposed to mean.

This game is clearly a satire of the popular “Pokémon Go” game that includes many playful references to IF icons and iconography. I originally didn’t get that pokemon game. Have you ever looked at a tree for example? Not casually glanced at one on your way to something, but actually took a moment to study it in all of its beauty? This is just one of an almost infinite amount of natural wonders that people take for granted every day. Why are you staring at a screen when you could be staring at nature? Or since you are already outside, why not spark up a random conversation with some interesting strangers? And I suppose that is one of the pulls of the game is that it gives strangers a common ground to spark up a conversation with only a minimal chance of it being a trap set by some violent predator, and that’s a good thing. But with clear destinations marked, it eliminates the complete randomness of an adventure, and that’s a downside. This game sort of takes all of that away. On the plus side, if it weren’t for this game, I have no idea what I would be writing about or doing right now, and my view count indicates a bunch of people are actually reading these reviews, and they can’t all be the feds, and other people enjoyed playing it and writing about it and reading what others wrote about it, and these are all good things. All this aside, I guess what I am trying to get at is I just don’t understand why I was going around capturing monsters…either way…

This is an outstanding game that was very well thought out, has excellent writing, has tons of detail, also tons of feel good IF goodness, also ample amounts of balls, that I then decided to deduct a point from the maximum score because I still don’t understand what the hell any of it meant.

Also, there wasn’t enough of a spread between the original 6, and the final 9, to justify putting your game on the elusive “times I ate crow” list…maybe next year with a different game…

****update: The good news for the authors is that I just recently decided to add the point I had originally deducted back for a final score of 10 because of how much this game offered in comparison to the other entries this year. The bad news is that it still does not qualify them for the “times I ate crow” list because while a spread of 4 from a three to a seven would have made it, a six to a ten just doesn’t cut it for me…maybe a five to ten…either way, it is my list, and I get to decide which games go on it, and yours just doesn’t get to this year…it was still one of the highlights of the competition, so congratulations on that![/spoiler]

The Queen’s Menagerie


This game was too short to score it any higher, and too well written to score it any lower. The author clearly knows their way around the written language, it would have scored higher if it was longer, and would have scored a ten if it was sufficiently longer. That is my only criticism here.[/spoiler]

Quest for the Traitor Saint


You take the role of a human whose civilization is on the verge of collapse due to environmental issues. In order to avert disaster, you must gain the diplomatic favor of a race of anthropomorphized horses, and the only way to do this is to learn their customs, and track down their patron saint of diplomacy. You have a horse companion, the drawings were cute at the end of the day, there was also interdimensional travel, and probably some other really crazy sh*& that I am forgetting to mention now, none of it makes any sense to me even as I am writing this, but I guess the important thing is that this is actually a pretty fun game once you’re able to get past the fact that you are talking to horses for most of it. You can tell this horse mythology is important to the author, and that was reflected in how playful the writing was. The locations were interesting, and the story was surprisingly captivating. It was also interesting to examine all of the different plant and animal lifeforms that the author created to round out this world.

The game could have improved with more options for interactivity.

I thought the cliffhanger ending worked because it made you reflect on your journey thus far, what you learned from it, and how you are going to proceed moving forward. I did not appreciate the “postscript” that the author added, but did not deduct points for this because it occurred after the “game over” indicator.

*****update: Basically what I didn’t like about the postscript is that while the author probably intended it to be a friendly heads up, I just perceived it as weakness. If they didn’t like the ending to their game, or thought their fans wouldn’t, it doesn’t matter, own the ending or change it, but never feel the need to give an explanation to anyone, it makes people lose confidence in your story.[/spoiler]



This game was completely terrible. The writing was painfully bad, and the plot was ridiculous. You take the role of a nervous riot cop, nobody brought any rifles or sidearms so your line gets wiped out by Molotov cocktails, you brain some hooligan, and then you wander around until you decide to let some little kid follow you, and then because why not an actual news crew. You wander around some more, film a message, and then decide to go back and zip tie your hand to the dead guy you brained earlier. Somehow this cures you of your jazz hands which didn’t make any sense because now you just have the added problem of being anchored to a corpse. I will give the author credit on one thing, it took a lot of guts ending the game this ridiculously. If they were to sharpen their creative writing skills, and applied that level of guts to better story crafting, they could probably make some pretty amazing games. It is still better than any two I played.[/spoiler]

Rite of Passage


The game is told through the diary of a child as they experience the tentative years from the 5th through 8th grade. The protagonist’s insights into his classmates was interesting, and I liked how at the end you could select an option that allowed you to replay it from a slightly different personality, and seeing how the story changed as a result was interesting. The quotes that started each chapter were appropriate to that particular moment in the protagonist’s life, and a nice touch. The biggest problem I found with this game is that it was dull, very dull. I remember my childhood as a time of mischief and excitement as you learn new things and meet new people. One of the entries was about how a classmate dropped her luggage on some train tracks or something, and he went to get help, and it was so special to him that he wrote it down in his diary? How pathetic is that? The protagonist here was really boring, seemed to already know it all, and was a complete push over. Maybe things are different now, or around the time this story took place, but from what I remember growing up you were nice to other people, and some teasing and horseplay was fine, but if somebody honestly tried laying their hands on you, then you decked them, and if that didn’t work, you hit him again. Even if the other person was bigger, faster, and stronger than you, you could still leave him with something to remember you by. Violence may not be your solution to problems, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t somebody else’s solution, this is a pretty important lesson to learn. Instead, this kid was getting slapped around in locker rooms and jumped by local hooligans, and didn’t stand up for himself or anybody else, it was a disgrace. I suppose that was supposed to be tied into the “harsh trials of life” theme going on, I just couldn’t get into it.[/spoiler]



I was really excited about this game playing it up until the first flashback, then it stalled out for me a little bit. The flashbacks had a nice payoff at the end, but I felt they could have been shortened significantly to just hit the high notes of the back story that way the game wouldn’t have lost its pacing so badly. The facility scenes demonstrated the best and the worst this game offered. I really enjoyed playing as the bear, tearing stuff apart, and then watching the panicked reactions of the coworkers as their situation went from bad to worse. I also enjoyed doing all of this with the torn off face of Clark as it would have been kind of weird in any other circumstance, but fine here since you are a bear. I liked how everything they did to try and stop me just backfired, and I liked the meeting at the end of the facility scenes where you see the up close encounter from both sides, that was funny.

As far as the bad goes, it seemed as soon as this game started hitting its proper rhythm that something would always stall it out. The “click-click-click-click-click” every word in a sentence was really annoying when it was done. The dramatic pauses were also very annoying, a few felt appropriate, but for the most part it was just a little frustrating. You should force a dramatic pause in the player with your writing, and not with game tricks. The shaky words were cute at first, but got overused and became really annoying towards the end. The bear puns were really terrible, the first few were fine, but it just got out of control and bad fast in this game. An over the top pun is fine in extreme moderation, but if you want to throw them in with this sort of frequency, you need to send them in under the radar, like a ninja, being as discreet as possible, and ideally the person doesn’t catch on until two or three sentences later when it is too late and you already gleefully got away with your crime. All of the puns were in caps, and over the top, and really bad. And many of those puns were from that one guy, and I know it was part of his character, but in real life nobody likes that one guy, and he should have suffered more from his own incompetence, that would have felt nice.

The old lady in the attack helicopter was atrocious, it was open mic hack comedian material, it was really bad. After the terrible helicopter scene, I was happy with how the story ended.

Throwing my 2 cents in for what it is worth, this is how I would have liked to have seen the game pace itself out: Keep the entire opening scene until the first flashback, keep the flashbacks where they are, but condense them down significantly to just capture the high notes, focus on the game’s strengths: bear lands on Clark, takes his face or not, bear tears up facility, employees are panicking trying to stop it, releasing the hallucinogen, the sprinkler system, add some more stuff like this, everything they try just ends up making things worse for them, cool it with the overkill on the bear puns, at some point when tearing up the facility is exhausted, and the employees are at the breaking point, have the bear meet the employees like in the story, this was cute, especially seeing it from both perspectives, the helicopter you can keep, just save the reveal that it is your elderly lady boss until after it crashes, it’s a better payoff that way, end it like you did.[/spoiler]

The Shoe Dept.

[spoiler]Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I stumbled through some bits of the this game the first time? I don’t know, what I do know is that after going back through it with my remaining time that this is actually a pretty darn good game, not perfect, but significantly better than my original disparaging remarks.

I enjoyed the writing, it was very fanciful, some parts were more over the top than I would have liked to have seen. Old lady jokes are pretty tacky, I don’t believe anything is beyond ridicule in a comedy, but the old lady jokes are really hack and overused. The employees in the hoodies just seemed like the author was stretching for something and just didn’t get there. And the epilogue, while tying everything up nicely, was a little dry and anticlimactic. Everything else worked really well within the context of the B-movie atmosphere of this story, and I enjoyed it.

I really enjoyed the puzzles, the shoe/lizard puzzle had me laughing and was a good payoff to a previous reference, the ad lib puzzle was funny and clever, I enjoyed beaning the one manager in the head with the shoe sizer, and the rebel employees were a really nice touch all the way to the detail of them wearing a hodgepodge of clothing as camouflage.

I really enjoyed this game.


******My judging update: I’ve played a lot games so far, some I really enjoyed, and some I did not. If you made a game that I scored poorly, it just means that I didn’t enjoy that specific game you entered, in many cases you made a game I loved in the past, just not this one, either way: I still appreciate your contribution to the competition.

I have also been reviewing my scores up to this point, reflecting on the games, and in some cases going back to replay them if I still have time left in my 2 hour allowance. The one thing I noticed right away is an inconsistency in what I considered a “5” at the beginning of this competition, and what I consider a “5” to be now. The result of this is that some games got upgraded to a “6”, and an even fewer number of already “6” games will get upgraded to a “7”.

Some reviews that are only a handful of words I will go back and try and fill in the blanks for where the game fell apart in my opinion.

I will be doing another evaluation when I have finished up all of the games, and making adjustments using this same methodology.

In a handful of circumstance I will be deducting a point in order to try and keep some consistency in my scoring. If you received a “10”, that score is locked as far as I am concerned. With only one exception thank I can think of off the top of my head, if you received a “10” that means that your game made me happier than a possum eating peanut butter from start to finish, I don’t feel like it would be right to take anything away from you in retrospect.

Thanks again!

Thanks for this post. I must admit to being peeved at your few word reviews (not just for my own game, but others’) due to your brilliant/ useful in-depth discussions of the games you liked/ respected. So, it’s good to hear you might be revisiting some of those games to lengthen the review and provide more detail about what didn’t work for you. Evermore is (rightly or wrongly) a very big game and the hypertext effects, variables, pictures, sound effects etc. are pretty well distributed throughout. I am starting to think that I laid it on a bit too thick in the first few screens though so at the very least I’m going to go back and introduce more paragraph breaks :stuck_out_tongue:

(obviously the tortured sentence constructions and gratuitous over-verbosity aren’t going anywhere however, which seems to be the main sticking point for many, so I’m not trying to angle for a higher score or anything - just a more engaged review if possible.) Thank you. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your insight!

I imagine that many of my reviews put me in danger of becoming persona non grata on this forum, but my original intention was to score the entire competition, and give reviews regarding my impression of all of the games. I decided to not selectively write about only those games that I enjoyed. Some games inspired me to write longer reviews, some reviews are just my first impression that I plan on going back to explore before the competition is over, and some reviews just sum up a completely abysmal experience for me. Most of the short reviews, including Evermore, fall into that second category.

While I appreciate your kind words regarding some of my reviews, I can not emphasize enough that all I am doing is expressing my own personal experience of each story, I am no more right on anything than anyone else, this is because I view creative writing as a form of art. I am an adamant believer that an author’s single role is to introduce a story, once that occurs: the story now belongs to anyone who has experienced it, the author has no more right to determine what any of it means to anyone outside of themselves than that of each of the individuals who experienced it*. Taking this idea to an extreme: if somebody released a game that just had thousands of commas on the screen and the only game mechanic was clicking on a box at the bottom that depicted just a lonely period, I would imagine that just about everyone would consider that the worst game in history, and nothing more than trolling. However, if one person in the entire world, the author or players, honestly believed that it meant to them the meaning of the universe, then their opinion would be no less valid than everyone else’s.

Evermore is second on my list of games to go over, re-evaluate, and possibly improve the score if I feel such action is merited, and write a longer review on. I seriously need to recharge my batteries with another “10” before doing that . My main initial critique, to which I will be evaluating in a more thorough review after replaying it, is that it just didn’t feel like Poe…at all. I will go over this more in depth at a later time in the section reserved for the game, but I can not emphasize this enough to everyone who is getting hammered in my reviews: You made a game, which is more than I contributed, I am sure plenty of other people enjoyed it or will be enjoying it, and that is really cool of you, Thank You!

  • In hindsight, I am pretty sure that my mind is just pulling this last line from either “Dead Poets Society”, or some really hack Ben Affleck movie, I can’t be sure to be honest.

A suggestion perhaps for the future:

Since this is kind of a theme, why don’t you make it a feature; “Comp Reviews in Three Words or Less by Billy Mays”? That way it’s a fun thing and expectations are set?

I know you can do what you want and although you feel there are a lot of games not worth your time, to many people an abrupt 1-3 word drive-by slap in the face is worse than no review at all. If you give every game a micro review, it’s not so unexpected.

You could still circle back and talk more about the games that you enjoyed later if you felt you wanted to discuss them.

My original plan was simply trying to write down my experiences with the games. Sometimes I am moved to write a lot, sometimes I am not, and sometimes I go back and flesh out those reviews as the inspiration hits me. That was my original plan, but your criticism points out the one thing I clearly missed in that plan, and that is the most important thing of all:

That this experience is a communal one, and many of my reviews do not help the authors, or the other players. I have to agree with you on this point, and will work to address that issue…

How does time restrictions work for editing on this forum? Does it start from the moment of your first post, the last edited, or are they suspended temporarily for comp discussion until it concludes?

I want to change all of the short reviews to a

“[review pending] and the score.”

Until I can come up with a better review that involves more constructive criticism, but am worried about getting locked out and having to start another one up making this more of a convoluted mess?

Thank you.

This would be a terrific blurb to have on any dust jacket! XD

I don’t think there’s a limit at all–I just added a couple of spaces to my first (?) post on the forum to check. If you edit after someone replies to your comment then the comment will get a message about the last time you edited, as you can see there, but that seems like it should be OK.

No, thank you for being so open to comments, and for understanding that constructive criticism is the only way that we can write better games for you! I’m hearing positive feedback about how hardworking a beta tester you’ve been for for some of the Comp authors. We want and need your feedback and your impressions and your suggestions, so I’m glad you understand that detailed thoughtful review is almost more valuable than the actual score! :smiley:

I insisted that they lie about me before I agreed to test anything.

Here is a list I am making of the pending reviews that I have completed so that anybody can quickly see what I have written without having to comb through anything.

List of completed [pending review] reviews

  1. Fair
  2. Evermore
  3. Fallen 落葉 Leaves
  4. Black Rock City
  5. Cinnamon Tea
  6. Letters
  8. Rite of Passage
  9. The Shoe Dept.
  10. Riot
  11. The Mouse
  12. Pogoman GO!
  13. Moonland
  14. How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors
  15. Not Another Hero
  16. Hill Ridge Lost & Found
  17. Quest for the Traitor Saint
  18. Toiletworld