Late start on judging! Hope everyone’s doing okay this year.
This first batch I did play earlier this month, so maybe some of them have been updated since.
Short slice of life Twine story about homesickness and belonging. It’s an immigrant story that centers around a cultural comfort food, so you’ve might’ve seen something like it before, but that’s because many of us have associations with food from our childhood. And this does a very good job of it. Very nice presentation, with text effects, careful use of timed text, a smattering of images, calming music, all the different types of Twine interactions, and a spiffy messaging app UI fascmile. There are some very nice small details here, like your mom not answering the phone because she’s watching cantonese soap operas, or the list of cultural differences,, though it did take a surprising amount of time before I was clued in to where I moved to. You’ve moved from Hong Kong to the UK, but you’re not given too much more than that (small town? Middle of London?), and I did wonder about the specifics of the location, in a story about adjusting to living in a different country from the one you grew up in. This seemed more interested in exploring a mood more than detailing the setting. Some of the dialogue parts also felt a bit non-interactive, presented just as a bunch of back-and-forth quotes.
But Congee is simple and nice and provides warmth, just like its namesake. I also learned that some people call scallions (or green onions) “salad onions” so it’s educational too!
A Twine choice-based narrative. It lists its genre as “A social critique.” Told from the POV of an investment firm CEO, you’re given a series of moral choices with cascading effects. You check your email a lot, and there are short scenes as well. Could use more proofreading, the most basic issue being the tenses aren’t consistent. Also has what I feel is a common issue with writing in second person (at least to me), which is overusing “you” especially at the start of sentences. The moral of the story is explicitly spelled out in the competition blurb, though I don’t feel like the choices I was given really sold it to me in the game itself. This feels like it’s supposed to be played multiple times, which I did, but I hit broken links in one path and I’m not sure it culminated in a bigger picture overall. I’m also not sure I quite understood some of the story, specifically a fairly important anonymous mass email which is apparently bad for your company. There is some thought put into how this was structured and what it’s about, which is nice. But it needed more testing/proofreading, and the choices and consequences were a bit too black and white to explore the themes it’s purporting to.
A seemingly semi-randomized cave crawling adventure game. You’re lost in a dark cave, trying to find your way out, and you’re moving through a bunch of locations where you’re given scenarios (you hear someone in the darkness, or you feel around and find a puddle on the ground, or there’s a huge pit…). You’ll find items which you can use in other places, and certain choices seem to give you increased attributes like wisdom. It seemed bug free, and quite competently put together.
The basic structure seems to be a semi-randomized loop, which makes sense for a maze-like cave where you’re lost. You’ll stumble across locations you’ve found before, but perhaps this time you’ve picked up a coin from elsewhere that you can use somehow. Here’s the only thing with that; the beginning starts off well, with a lot of feeling around in darkness and uncertainty. Eventually it starts looping, and though in this setting it makes sense to go around a bit in circles and to get a sense of deja vu, when you’re repeating specific details within scenarios (the exact same dialogue with an NPC, or the same reaction to the same dead body) it stops feeling real, especially since I was just hitting too many of those repeats before reaching an ending, and by then I’d stopped feeling a sense of danger since I wasn’t ever punished for my actions (though I did choose the more cautious options for the first half, so maybe that makes sense).
I think this is fine. Everything seems to work as intended, including the randomization and the inventory system and the behind-the-scenes stats counting. The setting and story is pretty indistinct though, so the title is fittingly generic on that front. There’s some philosophizing at points after you make some choices which didn’t quite seem to match the broad cave adventure stuff and which is what makes me wonder if there’s some sort of metaphor this is going for, but the passages musing about life didn’t really stick with me, and they also felt a bit choppy to read since they used a lot of super-short sentences.
What I got at the end:
Your final scores:
STR 10 INT 10
DEX 15 WIS 15
CON 9 CHA 12
Items Carried: a long stick, a black leather corset, a rusty iron key, a mace, an unknown book, some ashes.
Spells Learned: none
Rooms Explored: 10/10
You spared the life of the ravenous wolf
A space adventure setting, lots of randomization of flavor text to this it seems, with a bunch of short yes/no prompts. Ambiguous choices: raiding colonies, giving gifts, asking for help. Nothing seemed to really matter on the surface, and eventually I just started hitting memory errors, which I couldn’t tell if it was some sort of meta aspect to this, or just an actual error, but I gave up. I know Nick Montfort (assuming it’s the same one) wrote a book about IF, so I feel like I could be missing something. I’m seeing a thread about it so other people have questions too. It’s supposed to be written in Commodore 64. There’s a separate introduction that is very nicely presented, but taken at face value, I’m not getting from these choices what it says I should be.