B's Ectocomp Review Thread

Congratulations to everyone who finished a game by the deadline! And especially if you finished in three hours! This year I failed three attempts and ended up with nothing, so, yeah, you won the game already just by finishing.

However, since IFComp seems to be sucking up all the review energy (as is usually the case), I thought I’d do a review thread just for this comp! You’re welcome or I’m so sorry, depending on how you feel about this.

The Ghost Ship

[spoiler]I’ll preface this review by confessing that Escape the Room games are my favorite kind of games, so I may be biased here. If someone were to kidnap me and put me in a room with puzzles to solve, after getting over the initial terror of it all, I’d probably be a very happy camper. Yes, you’re free to judge.

Anyway, the premise of this game is you’re locked in a cell on a ghost ship and you have to escape. There are some basic find object/use object puzzles to make it through a few death trap scenarios. A couple of countdown-to-death sequences are added for flavor, but I’m really only assuming they end in death because they’re easy to avoid. One the puzzles requires the “use” verb to solve, which I find is usually avoided, but I was glad the author told me what to do when I tried a different verb.

There were a few typos and bugs, but nothing game breaking. A couple of rooms had west exits even though the text said east, though that made me laugh because it’s a ghost ship, so why not? Also, SpeedIF. Although I find it strange the author didn’t use fore/aft/port/starboard because the entire reason I want to make a game on a ship is to be able to put those directions in a game.

Overall, I’m pleased with the experience. Good job![/spoiler]

Woohoo! Thanks for reviewing all the ectocomp games. This makes me want to try out Ghost Ship.

Did you know there are businesses that lock up small groups of people who have to work together to get out? Apparently my old landlord ran a side business doing it .


[spoiler]I had thoughts playing this game. Here they are in no particular order:

Axolotl is a real name for a pretty neat salamander thing. I immediately fell down the Wikipedia rabbit hole about axolotls, how they’re possibly extinct in the wild, how Mexico gives no F’s about axolotls, and basically how we humans destroy everything that is good and wonderful in the world. An hour later I remembered I was playing a game and found myself not really empathizing with the protagonist’s dislike of axolotls anymore.

I’m glad the game let me know that kangaroos don’t actually jump through windows and die, because I would never go to Australia if this was just a normal thing that they do. I mean, I’m probably still not going to Australia because of your giant spiders and other death animals, but at least your kangaroos are slightly less death-inducing.

That fridge. There is a fridge at my office that isn’t quite at the level of the fridge written about here, but it’s getting there. Definitely the most horrific part of the story.

This game had a real nightmare vibe to it. Unrelated weird things just seemed to happen. At one point the protagonist was running through the bush from the killer after discovering a dead body when her mom suddenly shows up. Mom: I brought you a dog! You should move home with me. Protagonist: Mom, I have asthma! Mom: Asthma is a phase. Killer: You two look like you have some things to talk about so I’ll step away for a minute but then will try to kill you again. By the end I was half expecting the game to say: and then you woke up, the end.

The protagonist also had weird reactions to things. Salamanders and old food in the fridge? TERRIFIED. Weird slug creature? LET ME TRY AND PICK THAT UP. Dead body in the water? THAT MAKES ME ANGRY AND NOT FRIGHTENED AT ALL. Yanti seemed to react more like I would. I think Yanti and I would be great friends.

I played through a few times, but only managed to save myself once. I’m not sure if there’s a way to save Fei Fei, or if the stats make any difference in the endings.

I enjoyed the writing most toward the beginning.

I’m reminded I need to go back and play Scarlet Sails again and actually win this time.[/spoiler]

Halloween Dance

[spoiler]This is a conversation game that uses a parser, and I must say there are currently not enough conversation games that use a parser, so I welcome this one with open arms. I’m impressed the author decided to attempt one of these because conversation games are incredibly difficult to do well, or at all, even without a SpeedIF time limit. I made conversation a major part of my Introcomp game last year and spent what felt like hundreds of hours to bring the game to maybe a mediocre place. Basically, kudos for the attempt.

I managed to find a couple of different endings - one that was sad, and one twist ending. I’m guessing there’s a happy ending using the Crush topic, but it never appeared in my inventory, which I assume is a bug. Oh well. Fred and Jane’s love is never meant to be.

In the end, it’s a nice, bite-sized IF to reminisce about high school dances and lost loves before you open up Tinder yet again and start swiping because that’s how it done now adays.[/spoiler]

Open That Vein

Okay, so I’m skipping this game. Not because there’s necessarily anything wrong with the game, as I honestly have no idea what the game is about, but it’s because I’m a big ol’ wuss. Having blood drawn is a miserable experience for me where I try really hard not to pass out or vomit or both. Even typing out the title made me want to go vomit all over my bathroom. Nope.

That said, A+ for having the game title let me know that I shouldn’t be playing this game, unlike another game that involved roasting cats. I’d say I’m in the Chandler Groover fan club for the games that I have played, but at the rate we’re going, I feel like I’m only ever going to get to play half of his games.

Food, Drink, Girls

[spoiler]In this Twine game you’re a dude who wants to spend Halloween drinking and smoking cigarettes and chasing girls, which sounds very similar to the Halloweens of my early twenties except I chased boys. I almost noped out of this game when, after meeting a woman, you have the option of following (stalking) her off the bus to her place of work at a hotel, as I didn’t entirely trust where this interaction would be going. Fortunately, you never become anything more than that somewhat-creepy-but-ultimately-harmless drunk guy at the party. Well, except for the zombie ending.

I got a sense that English was not the author’s native language, but was able to follow along well enough. My favorite part was when the game judged me for buying women’s cigarettes, because I totally bought women’s cigarettes in college thinking I looked cool for breaking gender norms (SPOILER ALERT FOR THE CHILDREN: smoking does not and will never make you look cool even when you break gender norms). Also, I really appreciated the Halloween themed CSS instead of the ugly Twine default! Custom styling can really make a big difference.[/spoiler]

The Physiognomist’s Office

[spoiler]Another escape game! This one is about escaping from the titular physiognomist’s office, and I definitely had to google what a physiognomist was before I started playing. It turns out you’re the test subject to whatever experiments they’re doing, and you just want to escape. At least I did; the office was justifiably creepy.

There was one puzzle which involved finding a key, unlocking a window, and escaping. I know this because I typed TAKE ALL, the game said key: Taken, and then I opened the window and won. I then restarted and spent a fair amount of time looking for how I was supposed to know there was a key in the room, but I never did. I tried examining, searching, and looking under every noun, but no cigar. There’s a locked drawer and cabinet which I can’t open, and a chair I can sit in but otherwise does nothing. So I’m stumped![/spoiler]

The Oldest Hangover On Earth

[spoiler]Let me tell you about the oldest hangover on earth. The year was 2002, and I had just enough money for every flavor of MD 20/20 at the liquor store… on second thought, let’s skip that and get right to the review.

At first, I was tempted to name this game the Best Game right away and be done with it. The opening is genius. The concept is great. The heart pun made me laugh. The cat is adorable. The puzzles were going so well… I learned English! I caught the drone! But then I got stuck.

And really, I’m pretty sure I tried using every standard verb on every object in every possible way. Either I’m missing something obvious (oh man do I feel stupid when that happens), or I’m not guessing the right verb to do something, or there’s a bug. Someone can feel free to hint me in the right direction to solve this, because I’m enjoying it enough to want to see the end![/spoiler]


[spoiler]Thanks to some timely hints from CMG, I was able to finish! I clearly didn’t try everything on everything, so boo on me. The puzzle/solution ended up being cute and clever despite feeling underclued. Anyway, I had fun!

…and then I got to the 9/11 reference at the end, which came across tonally dissonant from the rest of the piece. Congrats, you’re now an Arab man in a time of heightened Islamophobia! Also, a lot of people are going to die tragically today! I mean, if you want to remind me the world is a terrible place, that’s fine and all, but you chose an awkward moment to do it.[/spoiler]

Hints for Oldest Hangover:

You don’t need to use the drone as a vacuum, but you do need it for something.

Try putting it somewhere.

Inside something organ-related.

Also, additional hints you might need later:

You will need to use the laptop for something.

You will need to use violence.

Break the laptop.

The Story of the Shinoboo

[spoiler]I began by googling Shinoboo, which is similar to shinobu, which is Japanese for stealth, and when combined with mono, you get shinobi no mono, which is another name for ninja. This is a game about ninjas. I love little details like that! Also, a digression: I took exactly one semester of Japanese in college, and all I remember is that ‘ki’ means cloth, and ‘mono’ means thing, and when you put them together, you get cloth-thing. CLOTHING. KIMONO. Language is the best.

In this game, you’re a tiny ninja, and you have to put together a tiny costume and talk to your tiny ninja friends to get tiny candy to put in your tiny sack. Kawaii desu ne! It’s one of those games that doesn’t give you an objective directly, just some objects to play around with and you have to figure it out. The last task to make the jack o’lantern took a minute to get as it wasn’t in line with the other puzzles, but I think it all works in an endearing sort of way.

I was also highly amused that there was a pumpkin described as twice my height that I could pick up and put in my tiny sack.[/spoiler]

Is that even allowed?

Is there a reason it shouldn’t be?

Whoops! Thanks for picking up on that :slight_smile:

NEVER! (edited to say this is a very sarcastic never, because boy am I worried about being textually misinterpreted)

It may just be my thing, but I enjoy knowing what I’m supposed to do, unless it’s specifically a sandbox-type game, and even then I get bored quickly with those.

There’s a difference between you not liking it and it not being allowed. If I had my 'druthers, safe combination puzzles would not be allowed anywhere in any way, shape or form.

Personally, I’ve seen a few games successfully pull off the “wander around a bit and a goal emerges”. The version of Axe of Kolt that I played (the Spectrum one) was really, really good in that regard. And other regards as well. And the games that don’t pull it off successfully are hoisted by their own petard and have no one but themselves to blame, anyway.

Thanks for the review, B!

[spoiler]Sorry that was puzzle was underclued… you’e not the only one struggling with that.

The tonal dissonance was very much intentional. I imagined it as a Twilight Zone like twist ending, well aware it wouldn’t work for everybody.[/spoiler]

For the Physiognomist game:

I looked under the workbench and saw something glinting. I couldn’t grab it, so used GET ALL and got the key.

Thanks for doing this! I hadn’t realized that

I wasn’t the only one who reached that confusion with the Physiognomist’s Office.

Heezy Park

[spoiler]An Andrew Schultz game! I tend to be fans of these, which I realize aren’t for everybody. Side note: I admire authors who know their audience and write for them. A game that’s written for everybody feels like it’s written for everybody. A game like this feels written for me, and that’s a special thing, especially in comp-culture land where if you want to win, you’ve got to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

In this game, you’re a kid who had your Halloween candy stolen by a bully, and you have to chase him down and get it back. I spent way too much time trying to use the calculator to solve the puzzle. I thought the messages were some kind of cipher - somehow the UGG became an AHH, and I’d need to use the same transformation to make a YIP into the final verb. Then I thought maybe it was a matchstick puzzle, moving the “sticks” that comprise the letters in a consistent way to spell out the final verb. Nope.

I ended up putting my designer hat on, thinking of a three letter verb that indicates surprise, and found that to be the right answer. So I win? The explanation made sense in hindsight; I was just on the wrong train of thought.

As usual with Andrew’s games I don’t have many (any) complaints. Great job![/spoiler]

It’s time for Le Grand Guignol! I feel much better about reviewing the games that were allowed more than three hours, because seriously, how can you critique a three hour game? It’s like the authors are competing on Chopped except their baskets are full of Halloween crap and they’ve got to program the oven before they can cook with it.

Also, I should have mentioned this in my original post, but the reviews may have major spoilers, so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.


[spoiler]This is a game about grief that turns to horror. You are one of five friends who take a trip to a cabin in the woods to scatter the ashes of another friend who recently passed away. Upon starting a new game, I immediately noticed the custom CSS. It’s simple and pleasing to look at, and I don’t know about everyone else, but I find I enjoy twine games a lot more when there’s custom styling.

The writing is well done and evokes the appropriate mood. Sentences are efficient and never flowery. Some are short. Some incomplete. Strong words do the heavy lifting. This is writing I like, though maybe with a few nits to pick. For example: “You rub your temple with your hand…” What else would you rub your temple with? The phrase “with your hand” can be cut. As far as typos go, sentences ending with a link often lacked a period.

Some twine games allow you to click all the links on a page before continuing, making the hub page feel like a repetitive chore. In games like those, I’m railroading through links. Here, you learn that you’ll likely only get to choose one link, so you become more thoughtful about what link you click. I like how it had the added effect of keeping the game moving.

Unfortunately, this meant that I had to wait until my second playthrough to discover that my choices didn’t have much impact on the story. On my first run, my favorite moment was the game of Never Have I Ever, as I hadn’t yet realized that there were right and wrong answers, and I thought I was building the protagonist’s backstory in a really cool way. Oh well.

The more I played, the more I realized that the premise didn’t work for me. At one point, it’s revealed that you helped Laurel commit suicide (you’re a medical professional and you got her pills to overdose with), but for some reason there wasn’t enough time for a suicide note? She was dying from a terminal illness; she’d have plenty of time and a reason to get her affairs in order, but her last request was written years earlier? Also, given how much the friends now hate each other, why wouldn’t you all call it off?

The most egregious offense was how it’s heavily suggested that one of the guys had sexually assaulted Laurel in the past. Why on God’s green earth would she have wanted him there scattering her ashes? She wouldn’t. Everyone else should have known better. This all added up to a lot of forcing-the-plot just to bring five people who hate each other into the same room so that the murders can happen.

Once the murders do start, the story amps up the excitement thanks in large part to the quality of the writing. I was a little thrown when the game asked me to finger a suspect when I didn’t feel I had been given enough evidence, as I was under the impression that I’d end up with a bad ending for a false accusation, but that turned out not to be the case. I do like how the ending tied back into Laurel’s last request in such a creepy way.

Overall, I enjoyed this one and would say it’s a strong contender to win in its category.

P.S. for twine authors: if you take away the restart button, at least put one at the end!

(Edited to organize my thoughts a little better and correct grammar, because I really shouldn’t be writing reviews when it’s late and I’m really sleepy.)[/spoiler]