Ah. That explains all the filing cabinets.
Les Saisons de Pippa
Magical. Truly enchanting.
An impressive feat of worldbuilding. A mysterious setting with lore, mythology, flora and fauna. You get to discover this world through the curious, innocent eyes and questions of Pippa, an adventurous 5-year-old girl.
Ask questions, listen to grown-up conversations, explore on your own. There are three main stories set in three different seasons. Each allows for a number of choices and side-explorations in this engaging, familiar-yet-mysterious world.
A truly well built world made even more real by the magnificent drawings.
- Les saisons de Pippa - Details (ifdb.org)
Expanded and heavily edited full review, in which I have attempted to convert my disappointed but unfair rant below into constructive criticism.
And then, just as with La Mort venue des Archives: “Oh, hey reader! Would you mind terribly if we set up our still-to-do notice board here? You don’t mind we entered a WIP in the Concours, do you? We still got loads to do, so we thought we’d throw you three small bones and then put up a list of all the things we didn’t do yet.”
Guess what? I do mind. Very disappointing. Just give me three well rounded and polished stories and never mention all the rest. Now you’re practically advertising that you’re throwing unfinished work at your readers.
EDIT: I may have overreacted a bit. “May have”? I did. I lashed out unfairly out of frustration. The three finished stories really are beautiful and enthralling. As an introduction to Pippa’s world, they made me dream and fired up my imagination.
The short notes about topics that aren’t incorporated into stories yet also show deep worldbuilding, and as such strengthen the immersion.
I have now convinced myself to regard this work as an incomplete collection of folklore, parts of which are lost to the ages, perhaps to be uncovered by the author in later installments.
A bit of context on unfinished entries in the French comp:
25 entries is 2.5 times our previous record which was 10 entries and not long ago, it was 5 per year. Until recently, that was also our main/only event and we don’t have many releases outside the comp. So these 5 to 10 games were what we got for the year. To encourage creation, we decided we’d prefer an unfinished game rather than no game at all.
Thanks for the context. Yes, I can see how that works. It’s good motivation for the creation of more games. If even some of the demos get supportive reactions and are expanded into full games, that would mean a significant boost.
I’ll keep this in mind.
Sorry for overreacting.
Le grenier de mon grand-père
I don’t know anything about the background of this game or its author, but it feels like a very personal story of discovery. The protagonist seeks to connect to her grandfather, to understand his life and history. She has the feeling that while he knows her through and through, she doesn’t know him nearly as deeply.
In a scene reminiscent of the tale of Bluebeard, the protagonist searches the attic while he is away, something he has explicitly asked her not to do. When he comes home, she confronts him with what she has found and learns more about him in the conversation that follows.
The first part of the game has you stumbling about in the attic with the arrow keys, obtaining descriptions of the stuff there with the spacebar.
The next part is a one-on-one conversation where your choices are how to react to some of the secrets you discovered.
The game is rendered in perhaps charming DOS-like retro graphics that didn’t do much for me. Exploring the attic comes without challenges or obstacles whatsoever, and navigating the ensuing conversation is very straightforward.
While it feels like this has the potential for a moving story about connecting across the generations, about deeper understanding, about the strange paths a life can take, Le grenier de mon grand-père failed to engage me emotionally. Story-wise, it felt too flat to have an impact. There is a shocking reveal, but it was stated so matter-of-factly and the protagonist seemed to gloss over it so easily that I couldn’t empathise with either the protagonist or the grandfather.
A good story-idea lacking in execution.
Deux pages avant la fin du monde
Oh but this is clever! Deux pages… employs a very original mode of interaction with the text to progress through the story.
The story itself is simple, almost childish: A grand, universe-spanning civilisation has put a plan in place to survive even the death of the universe itself.
You (an unnamed academic on the supernatural) come across this story in a folder which has only two pages of writing in it, accompanied by a letter from a friend and colleague saying that they have found this in the old archives of the library.
Upon perusing the text, you find you can manipulate certain sentences of the text, thereby expanding (or contracting) it, revealing different meanings and more chapters. Those seem to contain riddles and problems which you must solve in order to bring the story in the text to a universe-saving conclusion.
All very mysterious. I found the way Deux pages… expects you to directly, almost physically alter the words to get the manuscript to reveal its secrets very satisfying. The only thing I would like to see different is the font of the main text. Something that fits the “old ancient alien lore”-theme a bit better.
Very intruiging. Very much fun to solve.
I was well pleased to be greeted aboard the grand vessel of La Compagnie Transatlantique on the hour of her departure to Southhampton. As the new Second in command, I was to balance the needs of a) the owners of the Compagnie, b) our beloved first-class passengers, and c) the rats, ahem, less-endowed passengers below-decks.
Unfortunately, the job quickly became dull and dreary, my choices being a matter of clear favoritism or recalcitrant meddling just for the heck of it.
Good graphics, a promising setup, but not as engaging as I thought it would be.
This is interesting. A sort of slice-of-life with a ghost protagonist. It has a simple but versatile game mechanic: subtly manipulating other people’s minds.
On the evening after his own funeral, Victor appears as a ghost to his best friend Guillaume… who asks him to be a sort of invisible go-between to find out more about a girl he likes, Marie. (Because, well, that’s the sort of thing you ask your best friend to do, right? Even if he’s just come back from the dead…)
Unnoticed, Victor can listen in on the conversations between different groups of friends at the remembrance party. He can intervene by inhibiting or reinforcing them spiritually to speak their true mind (or not), and steer the conversation somewhat in the hopes of getting more info on the love life of Marie.
In doing so, the group dynamics could get shaken up a bit…
Very relatable stories of a group of teenage/young adult friends and their relationships, their worries and interests.
Way too much clicking (or pressing spacebar) involved. to. advance. to. each. new. sentence though.
Les Archives Culinaires Royales
It is with pain in the heart that I have to say this is another unfinished piece. Oh, what a pity. I would so enjoy spending more, much more time with this game.
What a delicious setting! What grand architectural features! Such intriguing personnages!
You are an apprentice archivist in the Royal Archives, the Gastronomical section.
This introductory chapter has the Maître Archiviste showing you around in your new workplace and submitting you to a simple test of skill: locate a certain recipe in the immense vault of culinary delights at your disposal.
You also meet Mathilda Aharia, your colleague of the departement of geopolitics, who seems nice and helpful (and is a bit vague about her backstory…)
It is made clear that the Maître Archiviste lives for his archives, and there would be hell to pay should anything untoward happen to his precious documents. A beautiful opportunity for a theft to be solved, or a murder mystery to present itself, or an emergency involving the misplaced recipe for Lapin à la Flamande to occur!
Ah, but I shall have to keep my eyes peeled for the finished version of this delicacy.
Entre les Lignes de Feu
A whack in the gut. This is a hard story. Brutal even.
A soldier is broken. He succumbs to his obsession. Treason means nothing to him anymore. He must obtain what he needs.
Four short linear chapters are all it takes to leave the reader gasping for air, as if his lungs were ripped by the PC’s bayonette.
Very powerful writing, pulsing drive, evocative sparse descriptions, haunting imagery and theme.
Expanded review: Entre les lignes de feu - Details (ifdb.org)
Les Prophéties Perdues
A nice and classy mysterious ancient jungle temple. Some poking of mysterious ancient runes in an untranslatable language (except to You!).
Hop on the next boat home and wait for the Prophecy to take hold.
5 or 6 clicks to discover an ending.
The game promises a variety of ways to conclude the story:
a) I’m seriously missing something and there are a bunch more combinations of those 5 clicks to produce the number of endings the game advertises on the final screen, or
b) Someone’s pulling my leg.
EDIT: No pulling of legs was involved. I overlooked a bunch of clickable words in the text which give access to a number of other endings. I have upped my rating accordingly.
Still, after two or three readings, this game quickly started feeling like mechanically looking for combinations to unlock endings. While I like the setup, prolonged playing wasn’t that engaging for me.
Did you try changing the runes (bold words)? Each has a hidden score associated (positive or negative). The ending you get depends on your score. Worst & best are harder to get since only the min or max score gets you there.
----buries head in sand----
Ahem… I hadn’t until now. I only clicked the boxed links. I’ll get me coat.
Sometime in the 4th millenium, you uncover an ancient computer. Buried in its databases, underneath layers of password-protection, is the account of a chilling juridical/moral experiment.
DOL-OS falls into the genre of games where you investigate and hack your way into the deeper security-layers of a computer-system. It does this in a very engaging way, with a creative take on the genre.
First off, the user interface is extremely well-polished. The program boots up slowly (but not annoyingly so), there are loading bars, the colour scheme suggests a retro-futuristic aesthetic. Some files are corrupted, the letters shifting and blinking ever so slightly to make the text harder to read, thus adding to the sense of investigation and decryption.
The immersiveness of the UI coerces the player to let herself be cast as the PC in the encompassing narrative. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Babel, where you roam a scientific base to uncover the intruiging backstory.
DOL-OS has a similar narrative end-goal, but it eliminates the intermediary player character and incorporates the player directly into the narrative.
Of course, regardless of the aesthetics of the UI, the most important thing is the substance of the story being unraveled underneath.
The general story of DOL-OS is not that original. It takes well-known SF tropes as its basic elements. It does however take an interesting and original viewpoint toward the usual conventions of this type of story.
Rather than explicitly point out the adverse effects on humanity of the experiment, this game lets the player draw her own conclusions.
Instead, DOL-OS heavily focuses on the personal impact of being part of such a scientific endeavour. Through journals and expert reports, the personality and history of the characters are uncovered piecemeal.
One character in particular, Théophile, shines through as the tragic protagonist in this slowly emerging drama. The player gets tantalizing glimpses of his life-history, his relation to his family, his weaknesses…
Progress through the game is gated through a number of password-protected transitions deeper into the database. Especially the first puzzle is brilliant. It takes careful attention to detail and an associative leap across several documents to construct the first password from the scattered clues.
After that, the gateways are less strongly protected, serving primarily as pacing mechanisms.
DOL-OS succeeds admirably in casting the player as a technological/archeological investigator from the far future. It conjures up a world of morally ambiguous advances and of potentially chilling consequences that seem to lie perhaps only the metaphorical five minutes into the future from our present point of view.
Engaging, thought-provoking, chilling,… A very strong piece of IF.
(First, allow me a moment to shake off the grating feeling I get each time when someone abuses the Hellenic alphabet and erroneously uses the rho-symbol to represent a P-sound. ----brrrghrrr---- There. Better.)
Despite your anger and lust for revenge, the rational decision is to flee, hide, retreat into exile. Your father, the King of Korinth, has been murdered, and there is no doubt that you are next on the list of the usurpers. Best to bide your time in a place of safety and plot your retaliation from afar.
Apoikia's story is a good one. A protagonist on the run, possible enemies and traitors on the lookout. As the story is set in Ancient Greece, the mighty Gods may intervene for better or worse and therefore must be appeased. On your journey, you pass through many towns and cities, encountering locals and getting to know some of them. Enough opportunity for drama, tension, adventure, suspense,…
Unfortunately, the prose in which the story is written is superficial and overly descriptive. It remains bland, without passion.
The emotional turmoil brought by even the most heartbreaking of decisions is not reflected in the writing, which states the choices and their consequenses matter-of-factly, without sweeping the player along.
A good story in general, but the writing needs some careful editing to allow the emotions of protagonist and player to align and draw the player in.
Minigolf et Trahisons
This has got to be one of the zaniest IF-games I’ve seen yet. And I’ve played Sir Ramic Hobbs and the High Level Gorilla!
A weird robotic-looking character solves mysteries by the cunning use of his superior … intuition !
Too bad this time he actually has to prove his hunch.
This is where you come in. During a few encounters with some off-the-hooks NPCs, including the main suspect (you know, the one your … intuition … snagged right away), you have a variety of chances for conversational choices. Really absurd ones, in some cases.
The end consists of a scene where you confront the culprit with the proof you gathered. Depending on which topics you raised in the conversations, you may have enough of the right evidence to close the case.
There is not much deducing or sleuthing possible in one playthrough. It’s mostly a shoot-and-hope affair. The only opportunity for real deduction I saw happens out-of-game, where the player can keep track of which combination of clicks leads to which result.
The drawings add to the silly atmosphere, and the music keeps your brain hyped. (A bit too much. I turned it off after a few minutes.)
The focus of the game is clearly the nonsensical humour rather than any serious investigation. And it succeeds. It’s short enough to avoid a complete silliness overdose, and there are a few moments of jaw-dropping absurdity swooping down out of nowhere.
La Harpe de Dieu-Rouge
A traveller arrives in “Les Idylles”, the most splendid city in the realm, intending to spend the night in an inn and find passage on a ship out of port the next morning. Instead, he gets caught up in a mysterious affair, at the centre of which is a magical harp…
I imagined the protagonist of La Harpe de Dieu-Rouge to be a young man, although this is not specified in the text. He reminded me of so many young men in romantic adventure novels leaving behind their dreary lives and running away to sea.
Following an unfortunate encounter on the night of his arrival, our main character finds himself imprisoned. Even after escaping, he remains trapped in an expanding web of riddles and secrets. The more he explores, the more new avenues of exploration open up, seemingly without bringing him closer to any answers.
A gift from a character he meets early on grants him the power to return to the same place and time whenever he finds himself in enough trouble to put a stop to his investigations (our PC has a habit of walking into the arms of some prejudiced guards…)
In effect, the player guides the protagonist through a time-loop where memories are preserved, but the daily routines of the city around him start anew from the same point.
Although the game takes place in a rather small number of spatial locations, these can be visited at different moments during the day, making the number of combinations of location and time-of-day that can/must be explored quite large indeed.
Since progressing through the plot requires being in the right place at the right time, I would have liked the option to simply wait around for a while, perhaps taking a nap on the rim of the fountain in the Place Luna. As it is now, you are sometimes (especially nearing the end of the story) obliged to revisit a location you already know simply to pass the time.
There are a number of loose ends. Some of these work well as part of the mystery, giving a sense of circumstances outside the protagonist’s reach, or simply the city’s inhabitants having their own preoccupations that don’t concern our main character.
Others feel like unfinished features that may play a role in an expanded version of the game. In particular, you can pick up a number of items near the start of the game that are never mentioned or used again.
There is also the looming presence of the castle of the founding nobleman of the city. It is very tempting to try and find a path to its gates, but unfortunately the game never acknowledges the possibility of going there. The Chateau with its Mage’s Tower remains looming in the background, forever inaccesible.
Apart from the central mystery to be solved before the protagonist is free to continue on his way, there are many glimpses into the history of the city and into the backstories of various intruiging characters. These, combined with the vivid descriptions of the city streets, the buildings and squares, and the surrounding landscape, give the impression of a wide-open living world much larger than any character could explore in a single game (or lifetime, for that matter…)
A captivating mystery-adventure, well-written and ingeniously structured. A joy to explore.
Retour vers l’extérieur
A word to the wise: when you’ve been holed up in a security bunker for months, it’s not the best idea to read the “Survivor’s Guide” that came with the purchase of your bunker. Apparently it goes on and on about adopting a new routine and focusing on your breathing and nutrition, to settle into life on 50m² of habitable (under)ground.
It’s like listening to the idiot on stable ground yelling at you not to look down while you’re in the middle of the tight-rope above the 400ft ravine. It can make you a bit nervous.
In Retour vers l’extérieur, changing the PC’s mood is a prerequisite for progress. As the player, you need to rile up your character, stoke the fire and re-awaken the lust for life on the outside.
For a game that attempts to put the player squarely in the PC’s shoes, I found there were some severe gaps in the experience. You have to search the bunker and the database of the computer for passwords and secret compartments. But the PC themselves installed those security measures, only a few months before.
Presumably, at the point in time where the game begins, the PC has already entered a state of such apathy and mental detachment that adventure-related amnesia has set in. But that is me as the player trying to fill in the gaps…
Ignoring this, the game has a seriously claustrophobic escape-room vibe going on. The writing is clear and descriptive, the puzzles are well-balanced. I found the pacing through the different stages of the PC’s mindset very effective.
The UI is well-designed, a natural addition to the themes in the text. It smoothly draws the player into the game-world without distracting you with too many bells and whistles. The bells and whistles there are (background noises, a customisable musical theme you can find in the database, a few pictures in the appropriate places,…) are nicely integrated and add a great deal to the atmosphere.
A good game. I enjoyed working out the mechanics and the passwords of the bunker. I did not feel emotionally connected to my character, but the overall atmosphere made up for that.
I’ve started having francophone dreams of escaping huge archive buildings filled with filing cabinets and bookshelves. The ghost of the head-librarian is chasing me through an exploded battlefield with a minigolf stick while I’m dodging bullets.
Someone’s playing a tune on a badly-tuned harp and I keep smelling roasted insect meat.
Time to put the Concours FI Francophone aside.
Some things that struck me about many games in this Concours:
-Exceptionally deep and vivid worldbuilding.
-A great use of UI and graphics to add to the feel of the game-world and the atmosphere of the game.
(I’ll be paying a visit to Aunt Allison for Christmas in the Wodehouse-inspired world of Deck the Halls, Gieves next.)
Les résultats sont là! Et je me sens un peu déçus…
First of all, congratulations to @manonamora . DOL-OS is a great game, top-notch technically and narratively. I’m not surprised it took home the trophy.
About my disappointment: my personal favourite only ranked 13th. Of course, I only played half the games, but from what I did play, my first pick can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the top 5, and in my opinion, surpass them all.
De gustibus et coloribus non disputandum est…
(but everyone else was still wrong)
Without further ado, my personal top 3:
- Les Saisons de Pippa by @HEGEMONOS : Magnificent worldbuilding, Fascinating lore, sometimes elaborated upon in vivid scenes, sometimes hinted at and left to the player’s imagination. I loved the meandering furcated paths through the story and the impression of a world both mysterious and familiar, an anthropological history of an alternate Earth.
- DOL-OS by @manonamora : A much tighter game, both in storytelling and in setting. Brilliant first puzzle. Compelling gradual uncovering of the backstory. I particularly liked the focus on the characters’ personalities.
- Entre les Lignes by @paravaariar : This story almost completely forgoes player freedom, instead tying the player so tightly to the PC that she is horribly complicit in the actions the latter commits. An emotional whack in the gut.
To be clear, I gave all three games a 5 for “meilleure fiction interactive”, which in the context of the concours translates to a “push-to-win”. In IFDB-terms, all three got four stars. It’s just that Pippa transports me to “Children’s Book Nostalgialand”, touching the same heartstrings as Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja the Robber’s Daughter and The Brothers Lionheart.
In general, the Concours struck me with very good worldbuilding overall, often supported by exquisite graphics. Many games, no matter the genre, have great feeling for their characters’ inner lives. Strong storytelling in a lot of the works, again, no matter the genre.
I had played some French FI before, but it felt good to submerge myself in the French style and language for a longer period of time. The Francophone Community is thriving, and worthy to keep an eye on for new games.