Concours FI Francophone '23


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.