Another review thread!
I’ll try to avoid spoilers: if the blurb doesn’t mention it and I think that may be for a reason, I’ll try not to mention it here. These aren’t super-polished or structured, but hopefully they’re useful to someone, and constructive. I might bring up specific issues that could seem nit-picky; the amount of words I spend writing about something doesn’t mean that mattered a lot to the game, it just means I wanted to write about it. At the end of each I’ll highlight aspects or mechanics that I think stand out the most.
Notes on me:
I’m comfortable with both parser and choice. I’m okay at puzzles.
I do sometimes get lost in larger parser maps.
If I’m confused about what I (or my character) am supposed to be doing, I hope it’s for a reason, and that reason becomes clear pretty soon.
I really like when a small neat premise is explored well.
I like strong characterisation more than elaborate world-building.
I did better in high school English with literature than poetry, so…
Also, if you missed it, there was a discussion in Marie’s Reviews thread ([url]https://intfiction.org/t/marie-reviews/10537/1]) about whether also having game-specific threads in this forum was a good idea. I do wonder if having solely reviewer-centric threads here might be discouraging more discussion from people, but I don’t want to push it further if no one else thinks so, so you can comment here if you think it’s worth discussing and if it is, maybe I’ll start a new thread for that instead of cluttering Marie’s (sorry!).
Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus
[spoiler]A light-hearted, short, easy, parser game: you’re in a video game museum in Rome that’s been invaded by zombies from the (fake I’m assuming?) game “Zombies Attack!”. The credits indicates there is a real museum called Vigamus that this game’s a tribute to, and all the NPCs are real too, and I imagine that the game museum is trying to replicate the layout of the real one.
Fairly old school feel; the overall game structure is definitely a throwback to 80s text adventures. The zombies really aren’t the focus here, they’re just obstacles in the way.
Most of the game consists of going through the various rooms, picking up the items relating to different video games, and using them to take out zombies blocking your path to go between NPCs. The NPCs aren’t too interesting, and even the video game references aren’t used in particularly cool ways. The game’s more of a hunt for straightforward ways to dispatch zombies than it is anything in-depth puzzle-y (the museum seems to have a lot of memorabilia that explodes after a while for some reason; seems like a safety hazard!).
The game guides you along most of the way, so you’re not likely to get stuck. It was originally written in Italian and then translated into English, and as you might imagine, just writing something trying to be funny is hard, then having a different person translate it into another language? Man. As it is, most of the humor doesn’t quite land, but the tone and pacing is brisk. The writing does come off as slightly coming from a different language background, but that did lend a bit of charm to the proceedings (I could imagine a version of this written in more utilitarian English that would be a lot more boring).
Best thing: enthusiasm which came through in the writing[/spoiler]
[spoiler]A fairly short twine game. You’re a squid travelling in a pack along the sea, and as you’re swimming along you come across various things that catch your interest: prey, glints of light. Other things happen later: chases, scientists. The writing’s very minimalist and spare, at least initially, which works well enough. Later parts open up into more of a traversable map with items to examine and interact with, and obstacles. The writing’s fine, but it’s in search of something more interesting to describe after awhile.
Lots of use of delayed and timed text. Some interesting effects. It does feel… a bit directionless, though. I didn’t get a feel for the plot or character motivation until most of the way through, when the plot comes in hard. Before the map opens up the writing’s a bit looser, but then it becomes just a bit too distanced, especially noticeable in the action-y parts.
There are passages later where there are no links and you’re forced to use the twine undo arrow, which is awkward (especially when you have to undo a couple passages back). Some of the later links, after it opens up, feel arbitrarily chosen and not contributing much, and it felt like it needed some more playtesting to smooth out some of the timing events, and some of the link choices, and some of the traversal. Basically, it feels like a person trying everything they can think of with Twine, so there’s a variety of things going on in different sections, but it also feels unfinished and underdeveloped in a couple parts as well. But the concept and overall structure are there, and both are decent enough to hold it together okay.
Best thing: Experimentation with different twine effects and gameplay structures. Timing-based links to click on are interesting.[/spoiler]
[spoiler]Waste of time. But you could probably guess that from the title. Whatever point the author’s trying to make, you don’t have to play it to find out.
Best thing: no[/spoiler]
The Queen’s Menagerie
[spoiler]A short game made in Texture, where you’re given some words in each passage and you can click and drag them onto other words in the passage to activate them… It makes sense if you try it. Your queen likes collecting exotic beasts from around the world. Your job as zookeeper is to manage them. There’s not so much a plot to this, so much as it’s just a tour of, well, the Queen’s menagerie.
Writing’s confident and vibrant. There’s a sort of PT Barnum, old school world-of-wonders type of vibe, and there’s a conversational personality to the narrative voice describing things to you, even the character you sort-of control: this is third person and not second.
Is there enough “there” there? I dunno; some people might think there’s neither enough interactivity nor story, but the writing carries things along well enough. Even with how short it is though, it still felt a bit repetitive; I would’ve liked to have seen more world building, or more of a twist with the, if I’m remembering correctly, the third feeding room, which is where I got a bit restless. But it’s mostly successful, I think, in what it set out to do.
Best thing: Writing, narration, imagery all very inventive[/spoiler]
Thaxted Havershill And the Golden Wombat
[spoiler]Twine game, super short. Basically, you’re an adventurer in search of a treasure called the Golden Wombat. I imagined a Nathan Drake from Uncharted type. The writing’s good enough, way too many ellipses though, font colors sort of clash.
The first room’s “puzzle” is the sort of one that I can imagine could’ve worked well in a parser game in terms of what your character actually does, but the way its implemented here I just sort of stumbled into it instead of solving it. The rest of the game devolves into a bunch of CYOA-style choices, and you playing Russian roulette with them, with one choice progressing forward and the other two literally dead dead ends which just restart you from the beginning, and that’d be fine (better) if there was a logic through which to decide, but I certainly didn’t find any. That’s not great; then there’s the fight which is just waiting for the computer to play the Russian roulette for you. The author knew that was an especially bad idea, but left it in anyway, and just had an option to turn off the randomness. Which is a solution, but not a good one.
The constantly restarting was a drag, and the mechanics really could’ve been thought through a bit more; as it is, it seemed like maybe the author really just want to put something out there for the Comp and rushed it, and that’s unfortunate. Hopefully they’re more familiar with twine now and their next game they can put more consideration and time into it.
Best thing: The title![/spoiler]
I played everything in this post before October 3rd.