B's Ectocomp Review Thread

Thank you for your review :slight_smile: It makes me very happy to hear you enjoyed it. I started with every intention of finishing in 3 hours but the sheer amount of text to get the story told just bogged me down. I think all-told it ended up taking somewhere between 6-8 hours spread across three days. So there is definitely a LOT of stuff I want to go back and work on and expand upon and develop for a proper full game and post-comp release.

[spoiler]Thanks for bringing up the bits about the premise. That is definitely one thing I’m going to go back and seed with a lot more backstory and foreshadowing. One idea, at the back of my mind, is that this entire setup was a Thanatos Gambit on Laurel’s part - that she knew perfectly well how unstable Liza was, and how badly this would go, and she wanted to see the world burn. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to that, and the indecision is definitely not doing anyone any favors.

Also, thanks for reminding me about the restart link. That completely slipped my mind.[/spoiler]

[spoiler]I was thinking about the Thanatos Gambit as I got toward the end, but if that were the case, it didn’t make sense to me that you (the protagonist) would be there. For Laurel to ask you to help her Die with Dignity requires a very close relationship with a lot of trust and compassion. Unless, of course, you were in on the plan the whole time, but an unreliable protagonist is a very difficult twist to pull off.

Best of luck with the post-comp release. I look forward to reading it![/spoiler]

Yes, that was exactly the plan, and exactly why I shied away from attempting it at kind of the last minute. But when I wrote the ending, I think I realized maybe that had to be the case, and I’d need to go back and adjust the beginning to make it work.

Anyway :smiley: Thanks again. Reading this review brightened my whole morning.

Nine Lives

[spoiler]You begin this game as a cat who was just run over by a car. Your kitty ghost is whisked away to kitty heaven where a kitty goddess (appropriately named Kittygoddess) grants you another kitty life. Eight more, to be precise! You are then returned to your house in which you can live out the rest of your kitty days.

Except the house is a MURDER HOUSE OF KITTY DEATH. Nearly every room has an over-the-top death trap which consequently brings nothing but death. Everything will be fine, I thought to myself as I ran away from dangerous robots and mad scientists. All I have to do is find the exit and escape without losing all eight of my remaining lives, and then I can be free and alive and have all kinds of kitty adventures.

Well, after a while of running around, I couldn’t find the exit, so I decided to toy with something that was probably a trap. It was definitely a trap. I died horribly. Off I go to kitty heaven again, but this time, I earn a point. One of EIGHT points… so it seems the goal is to murder the kitty protagonist in a variety of ways until you win.

….

….

Okay. Some of ya’ll have complicated feelings about cats. Let’s hug it out and then discuss, shall we?

In all seriousness though, I can see where the author’s humor is coming from. My partner would think this is hilarious, in an Itchy and Scratchy Show kind of way. As for me, it’s not really my thing. But that’s ok! As I discussed in the Heezy Park review, you do you, Mr. Author. You do you.

I’ve since read this is the author’s first game, so I don’t want to be critical about the details. Keep making more, and I’m sure your skills will improve![/spoiler]

oh, go on, be critical about the details, please. I am eager to learn.

Voice Box

[spoiler]This is a beautiful game. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but it sure is beautiful.

The game begins with two people/creatures/things entering a woman’s room at night. They steal her voice and replace it with a different one. After she wakes, you are given the choice to WEEP or SEEK, and you can continue selecting one of these two for the next few screens until the game ends. SEEK puts you on the path to find your old voice again, and WEEP leaves you to struggle accepting your new voice.

A playthrough will only take a few minutes, but there are numerous combinations of WEEP or SEEK, and I’m impressed the author wrote out branches for all of them. The twine layout is elegant and serves the story well, but its best feature is that the previous nodes remain visible and links active, so you can quickly go back and choose another option to see where it leads.

The writing is the clear highlight: A fit is not unlike a fire: it dislodges you and leaves you leaden, breathless, coated in particulate matter. Most you find in headlines or whispers; some you die in. She does not die in this one.

The word ‘dislodges’ is perfection - dis-lodges, as in evicts! I love when the right word can communicate on multiple levels. It’s an art that I wish I were better at.

As for the story, it’s certainly one that’s deeply personal to the author. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s about a transwoman who finds herself with a man’s voice after puberty. Some clues: there was a line about her body being all wrong in certain places, and the man in the story is described as a healthy clone by appearance. Then again, this is my interpretation, and I could be entirely off base. (I also got a Buffy vibe from the episode “Hush” when the game mentioned they had her voice locked up in a tower.)

I’m left in an awkward place because I find it very difficult to judge something so personal and subjective. The game isn’t written for me to understand what’s going on, otherwise the issue would be tackled directly. Instead, the author is saying “I’ll share this because I want to. Listen, and trust that this is how I feel.” That’s something I can do. But give it a numerical score against other games? I’ll probably recuse myself from voting on it.[/spoiler]

I’m really glad to see that Voice Box got a good review! I liked it a lot, but B Minus Seven’s games usually seem to get poor ratings, which I think is a shame. I mean, from where I’m standing, B Minus Seven is clearly one of the best writers working in IF right now. But the games are on such a different wavelength that I think a lot of players just bump around in confusion.

Aw, thanks CMG! <3 The ratings haven’t been great, but I’ve read a number of thoughtful reviews. Detailed feedback is what I need in order to improve, so I can’t say I’m disappointed with the community response.

On that note: thanks for your review, B. Despite saying you don’t understand it, you’ve offered a careful reading of Voice Box. The similarities to “Hush” are intentional, although this protagonist isn’t quite as heroic as Buffy.

I respect your choice to recuse yourself from voting on works you don’t feel capable of judging. However, I disagree that the perceived ‘personal’ nature of a work must preclude the possibility of comparative ranking. I believe this issue has been a topic of discussion for a while now, so I’ll take some time to gather my thoughts before getting too deep into it. But I don’t think judging a work’s merits necessarily demeans the life experiences that may have played a role in its creation.

Thanks for letting me know how you feel! If you end up doing a blog post on the topic, please be sure to link it somewhere in the forum, as I’d be interested in reading it.

I agree that assigning a numerical value to a work of art doesn’t assign that same valuation to the author as a person, but having entered comps before, I know I have to remind myself not to feel that way. I imagine entering a deeply personal piece must make the feeling worse. And then when the author is potentially struggling with their own self-worth as evidenced by the work, I feel bad saying anything less than positive at all.

Now it’s easy for me to say “if you don’t want to be ranked, don’t enter comps”, but the way IF culture is right now, it feels like an author who wants to get noticed has no choice but to enter comps. I have a game near completion that I didn’t finish in time for Ectocomp, and I’m tempted to sit on it until Spring Thing because I know there will be a much better chance of people playing it. In fact, I’m kind of glad I didn’t make Ectocomp because I seem to be the only one doing reviews! Granted, we’re still less than a week into the voting period, so I’m sure that’s likely to change. Though with so many entries in IFComp this year, it’s also possible people will be burnt out.

I’ve read a few thought pieces on the subject, but I think this is a conversation worth continuing, so again, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Or anyone else! Ya’ll are free to set me straight if I’m wrong.

Invasion

[spoiler]Here we have a good ol’ post-apocalyptic alien invasion thriller. The story follows a woman struggling to survive alone in an abandoned house in the woods, all while coping with isolation and the loss of her loved ones. Also, creepy human-like aliens keep showing up to eat her.

I’m personally at a place where apocalypse fiction is sort of meh. With most of them, I get it, humans are the real monsters. There needs to be something new and different to grab my attention. Fortunately, the game provides - the aliens consume memories by eating your sentimental possessions. Suddenly, all the useless little trinkets and do-dads you’ve collected over the years become pieces of meat you can throw at the aliens to lure them away, at least until they’re hungry again.

It’s an intriguing concept, and one that I’d like to see expanded more, though some of the details could be revisited. For example, the aliens will engorge themselves to death if they eat an object with too strong of an emotional attachment, or if they eat a human directly. I suspect the invasion didn’t go very well, considering their moth-to-a-flame mentality about eating.

Despite the constant threat of aliens, the major conflict of the story is internal. We’re meant to witness the point at which the running, the loneliness, and the loss of her cherished memories become too much for the protagonist. It’s a difficult story to tell in such a short format as opposed to, say, a novel, because we’ve barely spent any time with her on her journey. We aren’t nearly as exhausted as she is, and though the author tries to fill in the gaps by telling us about her past, telling rarely works as well as showing. Thus when the final decision comes around, the options that amount to “giving up” don’t carry the prerequisite weight to allow us to choose them.

Reworking the writing may help with this, as the story felt like a first or second draft. I also wasn’t a fan of any sections that circled back to a hub, as they seemed to slow the pacing down without much of a return on the investment. This was especially true when you’re given options to explore various rooms in the house, and the author essentially says “not this way” to any option other than the correct one. I do enjoy linear stories in IF, though I think they work best when the author fully commits to the format.

I did read the postmortem and I plan to visit the updated version; it’s possible that things I’ve mentioned have already been changed. Kudos to the author for taking the time to do that![/spoiler]

Hey, thanks for the review, and for your thoughts. I did this as Speed IF, which you already know, and so I did hinder myself a bit with structure in terms of the story. Some of the details aren’t articulated clearly enough, like

what it is that kills them directly about eating humans (it’s an overindulgence on one specific person’s memories to the exclusion of other memories/people, hence why they can pretty much rip most people apart but the protagonist’s self-sacrifice is enough to take this one down). That’s something I’d like to go back to in a later revision.

Most of the updated version’s details are so far changing typos and adding the CSS I’d originally wanted but worried wouldn’t be in the spirit of Ectocomp (which I was wrong about, oops). I’ll probably release another version after Ectocomp is over. But I do think it’s a different playing experience even just with the new CSS; of course, ymmv.

Thanks so much–you’ve given me lots to think about!

Belated thanks for this! I sort of expected reviews to be in the comp thread, but this is a good place to put them too. It’s good to see your thoughts even if you didn’t have an EctoComp idea this year.

I’m amazed at how much I’ve gotten from a few reviews, for stuff I could’ve done. My games generally are a bit abstract and unfriendly so it’s good to have someone say something nice and even encourage new stuff to do.