Doug Egan comp 2020 reviews

I’m posting IF comp 2020 reviews at my blog Doug’s World. Today I posted reviews for “Sheep Crossing” and “Stuff of Legend”

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Today posted reviews for “Magpie Takes the Train” and “Pinecone” at Doug’s World. Maybe more later in the day.

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Last night I posted review for “Captain Graybeards Plunder”, and today I believe I may be the first person to post a review for “Happyland”. What a delight “Happyland” is, if you’re into the classic style of parser based detective fiction. Both at Doug’s World

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I just finished playing the “Knot Series” by several authors.

There’s really nothing I can say about this that won’t be a spoiler, so I’ll spoiler tag the rest of my review, and may wait until later in the competition to post this on my blog.

Just revealing the actual titles and authors of these entries in the 2020 competition would itself be a spoiler, since that’s the bottleneck step in the puzzle. Once you figure which games belong to the set, it’s just a matter of reading and exploring the games carefully to find the trail of breadcrumbs leading to the solution. The clues, when they appear, are highlighted pretty clearly as clues.

I’m glad I played, but I imagine this could be a contender for the Golden Banana of discord. But which game would you award it to? The game is practically written in a fictional language, much in the tradition of Jabberwocky or Gostak. Even more distracting than that is a pattern of flashing irregularly timed text that spools the screen in several scenes. With enough patience, a player can read and understand the amusing stories that appear throughout the game. But will the average player have that much patience?

Unique puzzle.

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I’ve posted a review of “You Couldn’t Have Done That” at my Blog.

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Posted Review for “Lovely Assistant

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The following review has also been posted to my blog.

“Dr Ego and the egg of Man-Toomba” by Special Agent. Based on the irregularly capitalized title and pseudonymous author, I wasn’t expecting much. Yet even in the opening scene my expectations were improved. The PC is an explorer searching the jungles of Papua New Guinea for the fabled MacGuffin “Egg of Man-Toomba”. The player can skip the first scene (a trip up-river) by typing “wait”. Yet I found so much detail implemented in the tiny canoe and the player’s possessions that the boat ride was over before I had run out of things to do. The game calls to mind the characters and setting of “Indiana Jones”. Indeed, the final puzzle (replacing a treasure with another of the same weight) is directly borrowed from the opening scene of the first film.

The world modelling is deep enough that a player can immerse themselves in examining details, even while they may be temporarily stalled on a puzzle. I was able to solve all the puzzles without hints (except for one, where I overlooked an obvious side exit) and finished the game in just under two hours. I reached a “win” state with only six of nine points, suggesting there may be a few optional puzzles I missed.

If there is one point where this above average entry might elevate itself to the top of the competition, it would be with better characterization of the protagonist. I tried to play as a callous European colonialist but wasn’t getting enough feedback to suggest this was the characterization intended. Who, then, is this PC? A sensitive ethnobotanist? An academic wonk? An agent of greedy foreign collectors? But this is a minor critique.

My favorite puzzle involved trading goods for services with a native wood carver.

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“The Wayward Story” by Christmo Ibarra. This is a parser story which may have been inspired by Adam Cadre’s classic game “Photopia”. The shifting narrative perspectives, changing screen colors, puzzle-lite mechanics, and gauzy dream like style are all qualities shared in common with “Photopia”. I respected “Photopia” for its novelty when it was released. But mind you, it’s not in my personal list of top twenty five games of all times. So I report these similarities as a neutral observation.

“Wayward Story” differs from “Photopia” in its tone and cohesiveness. “Wayward Story” reads like a piece of spontaneous prose, a style of writing which helps the author get their words on the page, but which can be difficult for the reader. As best I can understand the story, it is about choices to be in a relationship or to be alone, and the risk it takes to begin a relationship. But the central location is a surreal fantasy landscape that does little to develop that theme, hence the weak cohesion.

Photopia varies in its tone; from a light account of child’s bedtime story, to the stark description of a traffic accident. “Wayward Story” is more uniform in tone, consistently dark and full of curse words even in vignettes which should be treated as more uplifting (the “white background” vignettes, if you’re playing in full color mode).

I had no trouble navigating the lite-puzzles in “Wayward Story”. Experienced players won’t even see them as puzzles. There was only once I looked at the walk through, not for an elusive command but to see how much of the story I had remaining. The world model is not fully implemented, so one doesn’t encounter red herrings or distractions. I look forward to reading other reviews, to see what added symbolism other readers may have identified.

I’ll add this to my blog, eventually.

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“Entangled” by Dark Star. Always a fan time travel yarns and parser games, I was looking forward to this one. Not bad, but time travel doesn’t actually play a role in any of the puzzles. The player has been sent back to the 1980s and now has to figure out how to return to the present. Most of the puzzles relate to finding the time travel device, then finding the pieces to fix it.

The map is fairly sprawling (36 locations) and I began to wish the author had included a map. But after some play I figured my way around the rust belt town, and began to meet its denizens. There are quite a few other characters with whom to interact, and the game mercifully suggests conversation topics (although some of the topics necessary to advance the game must be figured out by the player).

World modelling is adequate. I never felt “stuck”. However the game aims for a wide map more than it does for depth of location, leaving it sometimes feeling lonely and barren. Maybe that’s deliberate for the 80s rustbelt setting. I finished with a “win” state in under two hours, but only 30 out of 50 points, so there will still be things to find on a replay.

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There is actually a map included with the download.

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