Ectocomp reviews

(Mostly very brief, because the games are too, and because I should really be finishing off IF Comp reviews instead.)

BlacknessThe problem with this is that no cheesy hospital horror can compare to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, so I just spent all my time reading the lines in Garth’s voice. Otherwise, this is about what I’d expect of an Ectocomp entry: it’s functional, the writing’s fine, there’s one trivial puzzle, the horror is pretty much A RANDOM SPOOKY THING ATTACKS.

You Are A Blob![spoiler]More satire on Twine! Roughly, ‘because Twine doesn’t feature a world-model or consistent actions, and because Twine games are often fragmentary and surreal, you don’t get an adequate idea of what the story’s about and player agency is often effectively arbitrary.’

Or, to put it another way, ‘you couldn’t do The Gostak as a CYOA’. To be fair, it’s not as though we make games like The Gostak very often. But it does point to a general underlying principle of IF: that interaction should give you a grasp on the world, that this is crucial to understanding and inhabiting it. This isn’t really a parser/CYOA distinction: lots of CYOA games arrange their choices to reflect some consistent mechanic by which their game works. (In Katawa Shoujo, you consider every choice in terms of which girls will find which actions attractive. In most Choicescript games, you weigh your choices in terms of the stats you’ve already developed and which ones you want to develop further.) Rather, it’s a distinction between games with more consistent structure (which typically means substantial state-tracking) and games with less.[/spoiler]

BoogleThis is a dating-site parody about how Big Data is insidious and ‘personalisation’ is, in practice, really just a matter of trying to force you into a tidy demographic. It doesn’t work awfully well as persuasive satire, because when people aren’t troubled by big data, it’s not generally because they’re unaware that the data-gathering stuff exists, it’s that they don’t think it’s likely that it might be used against them. The answer here is ‘Google will try to date you and then make you dress up in a creepy dress and then stab you’, which isn’t very convincing.

Chemistry & Physics[spoiler]Seems like a winner. Plausible attackers are more scary than bugaboos or random-ass serial killers, and there’s some good, detail-oriented setting work here.

It seems as though it’s transposing a standard kind of trad adventure-gamey puzzle into a CYOA format; but the problems with this puzzle don’t have much to do with interaction method. The CYOA format doesn’t deal with the problem of not being sure about one important detail of a puzzle; I knew I had to set up an explosion to catch Murdery Ex, but I didn’t get that this was simultaneously meant to get the door open, so I only found the right spot by process of elimination. For a while I was wondering whether fire was a dead-end and I should try to explore a pressure trigger, since the text mentions that as another way that explosive can be set off.[/spoiler]

Crater Creek, 2113
Hill of Souls[spoiler]Two games by the same author. I wasn’t able to finish either. They’re both strong on atmosphere, but part of that atmospheric effect is a surreal, indefinite sense of who you are, how the world is put together, and what your goals are. This is not an inherently bad effect to try to accomplish, but making it work is kind of an advanced challenge. Because in order for the player to take part in a game to any meaningful extent, they have to have an idea of what they should be doing. I figured out one thing that I could do in Crater Creek, but other than that I was pretty much entirely stumped. So there’s some lovely imagery here, but more work’s needed on making the interaction work as interaction.

Also, naming choices pedantry! Aiden is a really generational name, one that was very rare until twenty years or so ago, but since then has absolutely exploded. My basic assumption is that anybody named Aiden/Aidan is young - probably born after 1994 or so. So, to my ear, this makes it an odd choice for a name from an otherworldly setting: it’s a bit like going into a high-fantasy kingdom and finding that the women there are all named Jessica, Jennifer or Heather.[/spoiler]

Dead Pavane for a PrincessThere’s a hell of a tone-shift between calling your game Dead Pavane for a Princess and mentioning zombies in the first sentence. Zombies are not classy! Zombies are the cheeseburger-and-Tang of horror. And that’s pretty much the entirety of the game’s schtick: you are Maurice Ravel fleeing from zombie Claude Debussy. Apart from this, it’s a pretty straightforward exercise, but points for being weirder than I expected.

Ice House of HorrorsThis is a game about being a fish that has been caught by a fisherman and is trying to escape; given that, it’s about what you’d expect. (My main response to it was wishing that I still lived in a place where I could catch rockfish. Seriously, game, I am hungry now.) The moral is that you should gill your fish properly, because otherwise they will flap around in a disturbing manner and then spoil more quickly once they’re dead.

JackYou are a pumpkin-headed scarecrow on a rampage. It’s no worse than any number of first-time speed-IFs, but running around and killing dudes for no reason is not as entertaining in IF as it is in other game forms.

The Profile[spoiler]This has a sort of Spider & Web-type premise, with perhaps a little bit of Make It Good thrown in - if considerably less crunchy than either. You’re a police profiler, trying to recreate the circumstances of a murder. It’s not a bad idea, but I think it needed more time than was available to do it justice. For this sort of story to be interesting, more details about the crime need to emerge over the course of play - and this didn’t really happen, since the police chief tells you all the evidence you’ll ever get on the first pass. The muddy-shoes puzzle was also a bit confusing; some solutions that should have worked, like leaving the shoes on the front porch to retrieve while leaving the building, weren’t recognised, and it wasn’t fully clear why not. I think it could have taken a lot more advantage of its frame-story; at least after the first pass, it might have been more interesting to have your audience comment on your actions as you did them, rather than summarising at the end.

Anyway. This is a pretty impressive effort for a three-hour game, but it’s also got the most unrealised potential.[/spoiler]

A Slight Problem With ZombiesMy slight problem with zombies is that people keep making games about them. It’s only a slight problem, because I don’t actually have to play these games. Also, this is a CYOA of the sort where all the choices but one will kill you. For that to be entertaining, you need to write some awesome death scenes, and these are mostly ‘then the zombie eats you.’

The Cenric Family CurseThis suffered a great deal from guess-the-verb: I had some holy water, and there was an undead skeleton, and obviously the next step involved dealing with the latter with use of the former, but I couldn’t figure out how to go about it.

The Voodoo You Do[spoiler]I tend to be a bit wary of voodoo in fiction, because pop depictions are generally about as accurate as the idea that Christians worship a death-god and believe that all sins can be forgiven through ritual cannibalism. (Actually, I’d be a lot more cool with that.) This has done a modicum of research, but it’s still very much in the ‘voodoo = evil magic’ vein.

Anyway. This is going for a pretty serious, dark tone, which is challenging to pull off even when you don’t have such tough time constraints. In the event I think it needed either more richly evocative language or a bit more space for characterisation - its basic premise is ‘you want to do something horrible to your ex because she dumped you’, my basic response to that is ‘no I fucking well don’t’, and it takes some pretty sturdy motivation to overcome that. But, yeah, that’s a big-ass job for three hours.

Also, I felt it might have been stronger if it hadn’t felt the need to stick quite so explicitly to the Hendrix song.[/spoiler]

The Horrible PyramidThis is one of those games where you do something that is obviously going to turn out really badly, because it’s the only thing you can actually do. As you wear the queen’s stuff, you become more and more subsumed in a creepy mind-control thing where she thinks she’s the dead pharoah’s queen and everything is wonderful. This is less creepy than it might be, because there’s not much time to establish the protagonist before she gets creepily possessed, but and also because metagame-wise it’s super-obvious that wearing the regalia will lead to identity shenanigans. It’s all rendered in pleasantly perky and over-the-top Veedery writing - the diamond abs particularly amused me. I got a little stuck towards the end, I think because the bracelets on the skeleton weren’t mentioned in every description.

The Nessa Springs SlasherA slasher-horror thing: somewhat like Snatches, you play a series of characters, switching to a new one whenever the current one gets killed. I’m not sure whether this is meant to be winnable, either as individual scenes or as a sequence; there are some small obvious self-defence things you can do, but they don’t seem to have any effect.

Trick Or TreatThis was written by an eight-year-old, so it has a sort of Axe Cop quality where people’s motivations are all weird. I giggled a good deal at “After an hour of kissing the ground,” which is worth a bonus point or two.

WispThis looks to be one of those figure-out-the-navigation-trick not-actually-a-maze things. I didn’t figure out what the trick was.

Zombie Dating.zomThis consists of essentially one extended joke, and it didn’t really click for me. (Also, I need a very strong incentive if I’m going to put up with zombie games. I’m not sure that can be accomplished within the scope of an Ectocomp entry.)

Personality RightsThis is a very brief visual novel kind of thing, making prominent use of graphics and music from Creative Commons sources. It’s aiming to be a meditation upon death or something along those lines. It’s tough to tackle serious themes at the best of times, and attempting it in a tight time limit is pretty brave. But I think that the game bites off a lot more than it can chew; a lot of the writing seems mad-libbed from the images, interaction is kind of disconnected from content, and it seemed as if the story was relying upon characters that it didn’t have the space to really establish.

Headless, HaplessI think this would have been a lot better if the final twist hadn’t required such specific phrasing. I guessed the correct answer pretty early on - that I was absent-mindedly carrying the head around the whole time - but the command to check that was so narrowly phrased that, even once I figured out that I had arms, I needed to be given the explicit wording to LOOK UNDER them. Moral: if your puzzle relies on an action that doesn’t fit in smoothly with the patterns of conventional interaction, you had better give it a really robust set of synonyms. Otherwise, I liked this fairly well.

The Profile[spoiler]

I’ll double check that for my post-comp update. What’s supposed to happen is that you either (a) take off the boots on the porch, walk around back, and the recap fails due to dirty footprints in the house (the result of walking around to the back of the house with no boots on), or (b) entry from the front – no footprints, but fails the recap due to the method of entry, or © carry the boots around with you, but with no choice other than to drop them before completing the bedroom scene, which will cause recap-failing boot prints anywhere but the kitchen. I thought it was working, so it’s either broken or explained in a confusing way. [emote]:([/emote][/spoiler]

Headless, Hapless

[spoiler]

Yeah, I’ve been kicking myself about that. In my defence, three hours, etc, etc. I’m not usually that cruel! In the update X HAND and LOOK IN HAND will both work.[/spoiler]

[spoiler]All that works, I think, but my method was to start on c), open the front door and leave the boots on the porch, go back inside for the murder,then leave by the front door - I meant to pick up my boots on the way, but the game ends before you can do that. That seems like a pretty natural solution to me: people leave their boots by the front door all the time!

I also think it’d be better to make it clear that dropping the boots leaves muddy marks at the time that you drop them - and possibly to make it a bit more obvious when the boots become muddy in the first place. I still like the idea of the other cops doing a commentary track as you do stuff: “All right, so it had rained pretty hard a few hours before. If he went that way, his boots would have gotten good and muddy.”[/spoiler]

I’d also like SEARCH ME, X/SEARCH SHOULDERS/NECK - maybe not as successful solutions, but as hints that you’re on the right track.

Jack

[spoiler]

I’m definitely reworking this some post-comp. The story I was going for probably doesn’t come across as well as I had hoped as the intent was deeper than just a run and kill fest. I’m hoping to expand this quite a bit to give more back-story and a reason for doing what you do and to give other ways to reach your goals other than just plowing through like the comp version does. Thanks for the feedback.[/spoiler]

That wasn’t my take on it:

[spoiler]I thought it wasn’t “satire on Twine” so much as “goofing around without meaning to mock anything except itself.” I realize this resembles the “It’s only a game, why are you reading so much into it?” move, which is the most annoying move ever, but it comes closest to being justified with a three-hour game whose express purpose was to be really terrible in order to bolster the confidence of an eight-year-old who was submitting a game to the same comp.

Also FWIW I was able to get a grasp on the world in many ways. To do so I had to lawnmower the choice tree by trying and dying, but in a game of this length that’s a reasonable possibility.[/spoiler]

I’m Angela Shah. I submitted Hill of Souls and Crater Creek, 2113.

Thanks for the feedback. It’s my first experience with releasing games.
I ended up choosing to create surreal settings over focusing on a linear story or puzzles in a few hours, and I am glad that part worked at least.

There is a large bug in the first Crater Creek puzzle. I’m mortified. (Zero beta testers.)

The candles don’t light the first time. If he didn’t give you something, try it again.

Hill

is weirder than I expected. Keep looking at things and check inventory.

[quote="matt w"That wasn’t my take on it:

[spoiler]
I thought it wasn’t “satire on Twine” so much as “goofing around without meaning to mock anything except itself.” I realize this resembles the “It’s only a game, why are you reading so much into it?” move, which is the most annoying move ever, but it comes closest to being justified with a three-hour game whose express purpose was to be really terrible in order to bolster the confidence of an eight-year-old who was submitting a game to the same comp.

Also FWIW I was able to get a grasp on the world in many ways. To do so I had to lawnmower the choice tree by trying and dying, but in a game of this length that’s a reasonable possibility.[/spoiler]
[/quote]
It’s entirely possible that I’ve become over-alert to this general line of argument (as a result of hearing versions of it a dozen times in the last few weeks), and am overreading.

The Profile

[spoiler]

Ah, yeah, I get it now. And that’s entirely my fault. I purposely kept that from happening, because I wanted the game to end immediately when exiting, afterwards. It’s actually more work to do what you tried, and no reason not to allow it. What must have failed in the recap is that the boots were left behind. I’ll just have the player auto-grab them on the way out. Shouldn’t affect anything else, assuming you go in through the back and take the boots off afterwards, so that muddy prints are in the kitchen.

The boots are muddy before the game begins. Looking at them reveals it, but yeah, point taken. I was trying to avoid too much explanation of the consequences of what the player does, though, because…

My original idea is that it wasn’t supposed to be immediately obvious that it was a play-through of a police profile. I guess that was silly thinking, given that it’s called “The Profile” and there are at least a couple pretty obvious profile-like descriptions early on. But that was the original intent. I also originally wanted the Chief to stop recapping at the first problem he finds, but felt that would be completely frustrating and call for way too much of a commitment to multiple replays, which would become increasingly un-fun. If I had just approached it for what it is, rather than trying to make it a surprise (which, obviously, it isn’t), then having commentary and NPC participation would probably have made for a better game.

Even using the loophole of pre-planning before coding starts, it’s still a nightmare trying to finish something in three hours. [emote]:)[/emote][/spoiler]

Headless, Hapless

[spoiler]It’s a tough thing to fix, I think. The more of that you support, the easier it is to win before fully exploring the area. Also, I would have expected the head to turn up just from taking inventory. I initially thought it might be right where it should be, and when X NECK said it wasn’t, I tried other body parts, including arms. I tried “search” also.

You could easily spoil the entire game just by supporting stuff that should work. But if you don’t, the actual solution seems unfair. Kind of a catch-22 I guess.

For a time, I thought maybe the game was tracking my efforts, and would put the head in the last place checked. I ended up taking all of Paul’s hints, which I thought was probably the point. In my mini-review, my take-away from it is that the game wants you to do as much exploring as possible because of a reluctance to spoil it with Paul’s hints, but ultimately, you’re supposed to do exactly that. Maybe that wasn’t it.[/spoiler]

Hey Angela. Honestly, they’re pretty good going for first releases written to a time limit - interaction is a tricky thing to wrap your head around, and not many people are any good at it without some practice involving live humans.

I was thinking that you’d only have the commentary start on the second play-through, and maybe get more detailed over subsequent playthroughs. Which would need a somewhat more sophisticated way of resetting the game, so this is definitely not a three-hour proposal any more. (And then if I was doing this, which I’m not, I’d spend most of my energies on developing the character and relationships of the comment-cops, and probably forget to actually put a game in the middle. Anyway, like I said, this is a thing with a lot more potential than you could get into three hours.)

The Profile

[spoiler]

You’re not far off from the original original idea. For this game, I pulled an idea from my “ideas.txt” (which, not too long ago, I actually posted here):

<a class=“postlink-local” href="https://intfiction.org/t/game-ideas-titles/4867/1

There’s an abundance of missed potential here, yeah. Among the reasons I chose it, though, is that it had a built-in explanation for sparse implementation, and having decided to enter it on the last day after finding out that the deadline was extended, I wanted something that was already at least partially thought out.[/spoiler]

Hi! I’m pretty new to the IF world, and though I feel I’ve picked up a lot of the lingo from my few months of lurking, feel free to correct me if I make any mistakes.
Here’s a quick round of reviews, though I’m leaving off the numerical scores. Also, I’m including major spoilers in each of the reviews, so don’t read if you haven’t played.

The Nessa Springs Slasher

[spoiler]This entertaining bite-sized horror piece took me about a half hour to play, despite only being comprised of a handful of tersely described rooms. I don’t feel that a formal commentary will do my level of engagement justice, so let’s take a look at the play-by-play:

Wow, this is clever and creepy and -
*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
WHAT!? Ok, restart.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
Hmmm…

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
I think the last ‘me’ is a wolf. Maybe I can bite him.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
Nope.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
Ok, maybe everyone needs to chip away at him little by little.
HELLS YEAH! I managed to shove a mirror shard through his foot as the kid. Hopefully this will help.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
Nope.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
There just has to be a way to use everybody.

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
WHY IS THIS FAMILY SO USELESS??? FOR CRYING OUT LOUD JOHN JUST PICK UP THE STUPID KNIFE AND STAB HIM ALREADY ARGHHHH!!!

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
I WILL NOT GIVE UP! I WILL DIE AT MY KEYBOARD FIRST!!!

*** Everyone has died. You lose. ***
…………

I’m doing every kind of thing I can imagine with this soup and this pot (because they can be interacted with separately), but nothing is worki - WAIT WAIT OKAY I STIRRED THE SOUP AND THEN SPILLED IT AS I WAS ATTACKED. MWA HA HA HA HA SUCCESSSSSSS!

*** You have won. ***
I DIIIIIIIID IT. struts Funny how the answer was to pretend like nothing was wrong as opposed to finding ways to defend yourself. Oh, I was the family dog, and not a wolf, though I think the dog would have recognized its dead owners’ bodies.

So the success of this entry lies primarily in its one basic puzzle, which is to defeat the mysterious axe-wielding figure. The gimmick – switching family members as they were killed off – was rather clever. Everyone had an important role to play to the story, creatively subverting the prevalent horror trope of meaningless disposable victims. Not only was I connected emotionally to John and his family because there was no way to save them, I still needed their help to save the day. They became wonderfully tragic heroes.

I only wish the puzzle solutions fit with the player’s goals. Yes, the family was unaware of what was about to happen, but I think there was room for a more thoughtful execution. For example, I figured out early on that spilling the soup and creating a slipping hazard was probably the way to go. Yet despite my attempts at dropping, spilling, splashing, pouring, and whatever else to dump the soup all over the floor, nothing worked until I stood there and stirred it. John was mentioned by his wife as being clumsy, so perhaps the spill could have resulted when the player tried to pick up the soup and burned his fingers in the process.

There were no glaring technical issues to speak of, with only a few grammar/typo nitpicks. The writing was simple and efficient, and it shifted gears for the better when describing the various gruesome ways to die. I would have liked a little more atmosphere in the setting, but speedcomp, so meh.[/spoiler]

Crater Creek, 2113

[spoiler]After walking back and forth for an incredibly generous amount of time, I’m giving up on this one. I managed to get a bead, and I think the bead is connected to the dreamcatcher, but none of my attempts at guessing the proper syntax worked. I even did the old try-everything-on-everything technique, but that failed me too.

From what I played, there are no bugs or real problems, only lots of nouns that lack descriptions. The writing aims to be atmospheric, and while I like some of the descriptions (the candles are particularly elegant), I just wish there is more of it. The largest transgression is that it lacks a narrative – even a small introduction would have helped. All I know is that it’s Halloween, maybe in the year 2113. There’s a giant crater from a meteor or other Horrible Space Thing that caused the apocalypse. But who am I? What is my goal? Where is the window that this Aidan guy springs from, because I can’t seem to find it? It’s possible all this is revealed later, though it would have been nice if the author established some kind of goal or motivation early on.[/spoiler]

The Hallway Phantom

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here. There’s a cursed pumpkin pie, a musical swimming pool, a weird robot, an odd obsession with the number googolplex, and an absent fourth wall. No plot, no logical puzzles, no deeper meaning, typographical errors abound, and nothing even that scary.

Personality Rights

[spoiler]What an interesting title. Let’s open up this game and AHHHHH IT’S A REN’PY GAME!!! I LOVE THESE!!!

Ren’py aside, I liked this brief exploration on coming to terms with your own death. The writing was quirky yet thought-provoking, with a couple of touching moments tucked in nicely. The pictures, though not necessarily related to the script, conveyed the appropriate emotion. The music track fit the tone, but the lyrics tended to break my concentration when trying to read, so I ended up turning it off.

There may be an arbitrary bonus for using the word susurration, which will always remind me of China Mieville, which is always a good thing.[/spoiler]

You are a Blob!

Glub glubba blob. Glub blah blah other glubs. Glub lika lika Ba-Boom Ba-Boom bestbest cuz wub wub wub wub wubwubwubwubwubwub ha ha ha ha ha <3

Dead Pavane for a Princess

[spoiler]Now don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely delighted that a zombie game where you play as Impressionist composer Maurice Ravel exists in the world (which, by the way, should really be played while listening to its homage piece Pavane for a Dead Princess (piano, not orchestration), because it really does provide additional emotional weight). It’s just sad that it had to end so quickly.

I’m not very familiar with Inform (yet!), so I can’t say whether the length was justifiable within the given three hour time limit. However, the game is VERY polished, and my guess is this level of polish takes time. For example, every single command I typed into the parser accomplished something (searching for verbs is my biggest pet peeve of the genre)! The question is, does that warrant a high score?[/spoiler]

Trick Or Treat

[spoiler]Okay, this is the story by the eight year old. The goal of the game is to find a costume and then go trick or treating with your friends. I played through every option, though I’m pretty sure I made the best choices in my first play-through. I chose the pumpkin costume, then went to a dark house and earned myself a giant bag of candy and a sugar rush. Clearly Addie and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to the proper way to celebrate Halloween. High marks.

What I love most about this game is how genuine it is. The terrible endings aren’t getting eaten by a monster or enduring some other violent end. No, they instead involve having a miserable Halloween by not getting any candy, or being embarrassed by your costume, or damaging your friendships in some way, or getting poison ivy, or missing Halloween entirely. This is real scary kid stuff! I was instantly brought back to the year all my friends were being different color crayons for Halloween, and I just HAD to be a crayon too, and I ESPECIALLY HAD to have a COOL color, like blood red, but my mom made me plain old regular red, and I probably gave her the silent treatment and dirty looks for two whole hours out of spite before I completely forgot and had a great Halloween.

Trick or Treat would OBVIOUSLY be a 10, but I have to deduct points and give it a (redacted) for dad’s (ab)use of Comic Sans. It would be a SHAME for Addie to grow up not knowing the HORROR that is Comic Sans, so I encourage you to enjoy a brief educational video: http://youtu.be/ep-K_Xvq2zY[/spoiler]

Faithful Companion

[spoiler]In this short but high quality puzzler, your sole task is to put a ghost to rest inside a crypt. The ghost appears quickly and, after some playing around and probably restarting a few times, you’ll discover that the ghost is echoing every action you do, exactly two moves behind. Getting past the first door isn’t too difficult, and the second door gave me that glorious aha! moment once I figured out what I needed to do. The third room required that I undo what I did in the second room and work WITH the ghost instead of AGAINST it. Fantastic.

The writing was exquisite and all the descriptions and commands were polished. The length was very appropriate. I was even a bit frightened by the ghost in the beginning until I understood what was going on.

I think that there’s opportunity for emotion by adding a touch more backstory, and possibly giving the ghost a little more personality in its descriptions. In fact, having to use the word ‘its’ is pretty telling about how much I know about the ghost. It was more mindless robot than human, an obstacle to winning as opposed to a soul needing to be put to rest. The simple addition of gender would have made a huge difference in humanizing the ghost.[/spoiler]

Hill of Souls

[spoiler]This is a second entry by Angela who also did Crater Creek, and I encountered some of the same problems. All I managed to accomplish was putting the scrap and the candle on the altar and creating the blue light. So again, I’m stepping away from this one incomplete.

I did like this better than her other entry, probably because the writing was more successful in being atmospheric. But like Crater Creek, I still want a goal, and I found myself once again trying things on things, unsure what I’m supposed to do. I appreciate the extra touches with the failure messages and the nice descriptions of each object I searched, but there should be more to nudge me in the right direction.[/spoiler]

Blackness

[spoiler]Hospitals late at night will never not be creepy. Blackness succeeds in bringing this creepiness to a very short game, where the goal is to mop the floors without dying. The one main puzzle wasn’t very difficult, and the twist was a tad disappointing, like seeing the zipper in the back of the rubber monster suit. I tend to prefer monsters that are real without explanation than ones that aren’t real and attempt to provide one.

A small digression, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine:

[i]>i
You are carrying:
an uniform (being worn)
a key
a mop

unlock door
What do you want to unlock the closet door with?[/i]

If there’s no publicly available code that allows for automatic unlocking if you have the right key, then someone should make one. And if there’s already one out there, it should be shouted from the rooftops because clearly not enough people are using it.

I also didn’t like how getting out of the closet was unintentionally the hardest puzzle of the game. I could enter closet to get in, but exit, leave, out didn’t work. The right answer turned out to be north, but there were no directional indications that I could see.[/spoiler]

The Horrible Pyramid

[spoiler]I was excited to play this, given the author is a Name I Recognize. You play an archaeologist of some sort exploring a pyramid, which contrary to the horrible title, I didn’t find too horrible. There were a few puzzles to solve in order to collect all the jewelry. I appreciate that I didn’t have any trouble with the commands when solving puzzles.

The core concept of the game is that as you wear different pieces of jewelry, you gradually transform into a reincarnation of the Egyptian queen. The changing descriptions are a lot of fun and had me in giggles. An example below after each new piece of jewelry:

[i]Wheel Chamber
This room is unremarkable but for the presence of a large wooden wheel mounted in one wall.

Wheel Chamber
There is a big wooden wheel sticking out of the wall for some reason.

Wheel Chamber
For reasons you can definitely guess and in fact have already guessed, a wooden wheel is stuck in the walls and in fact is definitely stuck in the wall.

Wheel Chamber
Here in this room is where the wooden wheel that leads to adventure and death can be found, but it is of no importance to an immortal bride of Magic Incarnate such as yourself.[/i]

I wish there was a separate ending for not succumbing to the temptation of wearing of jewelry while managing to leave with all the pieces. Also, the stone slab door says it’s to the northeast when it’s really to the southeast. Other than that, a nice solid game.[/spoiler]

The Profile

[spoiler]In this puzzler, you play a cop reenacting the murder of an old woman exactly as described in a police report, except (as far as I know) you don’t know what the police report says until the end of the game. I did get stumped for a bit on adding a description of myself to the report, and thought it had to do with turning the porch light on so the neighbor could see me, but the solution turned out to be much much simpler (though a bit fourth wall-ish, even for a reenactment). I’ll also add I had no trouble with the boots!

The writing was terse yet effective, though objects like the stove and fridge should have been left out entirely or given descriptions of their own. Including them with the description “It’s not important” seems like a waste of precious minutes. I also ran into a couple of these moments:

[i]>smash window
You don’t need to use the word “smash”.

break window
Using your elbow, you smash the window.[/i]

I really wanted to sympathize with at least one of the characters. There’s not enough interaction with the cops to connect with them, and it’s even harder to connect with the killer. The victim was probably the easiest to sympathize with, but even then she seemed more like a plot point than a person whose life was viciously taken away. The quilting room was a nice touch that told us a little about the woman, but the photographs were a wasted opportunity:

>x photographs
Photos of people you don’t know. They’re difficult to see, but unimportant.
[/spoiler]

Jack

[spoiler]Poor Jack. All he wants is – actually, we’re not too sure what he wants, but all the townsfolk seem to want to kill him. So what is a pumpkin-headed scarecrow to do? Kill everyone he encounters, of course.

A Play-As-The-Monster game, though Jack does start out a sympathetic monster. Until I wanted to distract a man with a hubcap I picked up, as the game clearly hinted I should do. You know, make some noise and sneak by.

[i]The Edge of Town
As you come up on the edge of town, you see some movement ahead. You crouch in the shadows not wanting to be seen. Soon you see the movement again and you can just make out someone patrolling back and forth across the road. There is no way to get around him without being seen. Perhaps you could distract him somehow.

throw hubcap
You stand up quickly and your movement draws the attention of the young man. You quickly throw the hubcap in his direction. The hubcap flies quickly through the dark night and before he can even react, it strikes him square across his forehead immediately dropping him to the ground.

x man
The man appears to be just a teenager. A young teen by the looks of it. Embedded in his head is the hubcap you just threw.[/i]

Welp. Okay then, time to murder people. At which point, I was no longer engaged by Jack’s story. The ending let me know there was some kind of curse, and the town deserved the dead kids from the weight of some kind of past sins. But without any additional explanation, why should I care?[/spoiler]

Fish Dreams

[spoiler]Fish Dreams is another Play-As-The-Monster game, where you catch glimpses people’s memories when you eat them. Despite being a parser game, the interactivity is very limited. There’s only one room, and your only choice of actions are to examine, open the box, and eat the dead bodies. Why would you not make this a hypertext game? It’s perfectly suited for that format, and the additional CSS styling options could have really added to the mood. (Contrast this with the author’s other entry, Chemistry and Physics, which was a Twine game that could have easily been a parser game!)

That being said, this is probably my favorite thus far. It’s a story about a man and a woman, their vulnerabilities, and how they walked the paths of their own destruction. The creature feasting on their dead bodies is a great metaphor for their horribly tragic lives. In fact, the game is not shy about it:

>x man
Dead humans are interesting. You’ve eaten them before. Humans change the world, and the world changes them in return, and the result is a fascinating, satisfying meal.

The game also tugged at my heartstrings a little. The only puzzle requires you to let the woman drown before opening the box in order to view her memories. Yet it was agonizing to have to do that, because I really didn’t want her to drown. It’s such a awful way to go!

I appreciate all the attention to detail, the parser’s generous interpretation of commands, the custom failure messages, the elegance of the writing, and the subtle hints. Not to mention that the author included a different memory depending on whether you let the woman fully drown in the box or open it just before she drowns.

Some people might not like the vagueness of the memories and the unanswered questions (like who pushed the body and the box off the cruise ship? And why?) But not me.[/spoiler]

@busterwrites

The Profile

[spoiler]

Yeah, that’s right. Although it may not play out that way, the first time through you’re kind of not supposed to know what’s happening.

Alternately, you can look at the mirrors in either bathroom despite it being kind of dark, although I intentionally didn’t mention them so it’s probably not all that fair of an alternate solution. Also, the downstairs bathroom isn’t even obvious because in my rush, I didn’t mention additional exits from the hallway.

Now that I’m polishing stuff for a post-comp update, I can easily add that to the grammar definition. Aside from one additional verb I added, I pretty much had to rely on Hugo defaults to get the whole thing finished in time. I’m a stickler myself for wanting to see any verb explicitly used in a description actually work when tried, so that’s a nice catch. Thanks.

In fact, there’s no interaction with the cops. It’s just a cut-scene at the end. And the killer was by design an unknown, emotionless cut-out. Granted, that’s a lot less interesting than characters you can relate to, or at a minimum at least understand a little, so point taken.

It may be worth adding a little more there, yeah. It could probably be done without complicating anything else.[/spoiler]

And thanks for posting your reviews!!

And now, a short defense of my own entry, Boogle =3

[spoiler]My intention wasn’t to write a persuasive satire, but looking at it through a different lens, perhaps I was naive to think it wouldn’t be viewed that way. The idea came from how Google offers a suggestion (Did you mean?) when you make a mistake in the search field. My response is usually NO GOOGLE YOU DON’T KNOW ME but then immediately acknowledge my mistake, and then get a little creeped out that it knew what I meant. That had me thinking, what if Google was an evil AI that narrowed results down to what it wanted you to see in order to make you it’s little play thing? Yes, there’s Big Data references as well, but that’s creepy too, right?

I’m going to pull the “not what I intended” defense, though maybe it doesn’t have much weight. I mean, if I made a game where Michele Bachmann is actually a blood-thirsty vampiress of chaos and destruction, it’d be hard for me to argue the game isn’t a political piece and I just happened to think she’s creepy looking. But if it helps, I’m personally fine with big data.[/spoiler]

Jack

[spoiler]

My intent was really for the player to feel sympathy for Jack and I think it may have worked a little bit, but then I found the time constraints bearing down on me and the easiest way (at least the easiest way that came to mind at the time) was to have Jack become a murderous monster and the ending came way to fast and unexplained as I just ran out of time.

I hope to have a post-comp release that fixes much of this. I want you to feel the sympathy for Jack so will be filling in more of the back-story and giving ways around the barriers that involve more thought and stealth instead of just brute forcing my way through with the killing. The story floating around in my head that inspired this game is much deeper (and less violent) than I was able to show in the three hours, so hopefully I can improve upon that in a future release.[/spoiler]

Thanks so much for the feedback as it is much appreciated, a speed-if may not have been the best avenue to release my first game, but it did force me to release something (which was a bit of a barrier for me itself).

@busterwrites

Trick or Treat

[spoiler]

HAHA!!! Less than half-way through that video, she calmly told me that she didn’t really want to watch any more of it.

Distinctive standard fonts are kind of hard to predict, so other choices were either too plain or too unlikely to actually be available. If you’d played in Safari, you’d have gotten plain old Geneva or Helvetica or something, as a fallback. I’ve only ever used Comic Sans for one thing before this, but that was an online game where it seemed well-suited, and it was written in 1998 probably before it started getting a bad rap (a bad rap, admittedly, I didn’t know existed).

So thanks for that. [emote]:)[/emote][/spoiler]