FIFP Round 2, Divisions 1 and 2 (Voting/Fan Choice Commentary)

Welcome to the first half of the second round of the Free IF Playoffs! (See here for details and ground rules.)

With the first round complete, the pace of the tournament will be increasing. This post is for second round matchups in Divisions 1 and 2. All matches are based on Round 1 results.


Match 33: Lost Pig vs. Superluminal Vagrant Twin

  • Lost Pig
  • Superluminal Vagrant Twin
0 voters

Match 34: The Impossible Bottle vs. Junior Arithmancer

  • The Impossible Bottle
  • Junior Arithmancer
0 voters

Match 35: Midnight. Swordfight. vs. The Wizard Sniffer

  • Midnight. Swordfight.
  • The Wizard Sniffer
0 voters

Match 36: Of Their Shadows Deep vs. And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One

  • Of Their Shadows Deep
  • And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One
0 voters


Match 37: The Gostak vs. Coloratura

  • The Gostak
  • Coloratura
0 voters

Match 38: Worldsmith vs. According to Cain

  • Worldsmith
  • According to Cain
0 voters

Match 39: Turandot vs. Eat Me

  • Turandot
  • Eat Me
0 voters

Match 40: Counterfeit Monkey vs. Blue Lacuna

  • Counterfeit Monkey
  • Blue Lacuna
0 voters

Vote in the matchups above, join the FIFP Fans group, and discuss your selections and impressions on this thread. Voting will close and Round 2 for Divisions 3 and 4 will begin in one week.


I have to say that if you had told me three years ago that I’d be on the marquee with @bjbest60 in something like this, I’d have crossed the street to avoid your crazy. I told Otis it’s like getting a speaking role in a Meryl Streep movie, and that’s true. And Then You Come… is one of my favorite games in the last few years.


I’m not going to do a big analysis of these games since I did before, but I want to point out some features of the matchups for people deciding what to play:

Superluminal Vagrant Twin vs Lost Pig
These are two beginner-friendly and relatively short but deeply-implemented parser games. Superluminal Vagrant Twin is mostly menu-based and has a sci-fi setting while Lost Pig uses traditional-style puzzles.

The Impossible Bottle vs Junior Arithmancer
These are two cerebral games, at their core centered around tricky puzzles, but both have a warm heart with funny characters and clever worldbuilding. Both are relatively short (for this competition) at a couple of hours. Impossible Bottle is set in a home, while Junior Arithmancer is a collegiate game.

Wizard Sniffer vs Midnight. Swordfight.
This is the battle of limited parser games. Both have a kind of ambiguous but detailed fantasy setting, but Midnight. Swordfight. has more of a dark and gritty but still humorous setting (perhaps ‘grotesque’ might apply here) while Wizard Sniffer is more upbeat and silly. Both feature queer representation.

Of Their Shadows Deep vs And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One

These games use puzzles and ASCII art as outward trappings for stories that are really about those we love, about hope and loss. The first game focuses more on the later years in life, while the second game is about the early years.

Coloratura vs The Gostak
These games are both about alien perspectives. In Coloratura, you are the alien, trying to understand humans who are so, so different, and which leads you to cause a lot of trouble. The Gostak is itself alien, a world full of things we don’t understand the names of, and just doing anything is a success.

According to Cain vs Worldsmith

This matchup is between two games about the alchemy and the beginning of worlds. According to Cain starts at the beginning of our (?) earth, with the use of alchemy and the humors to understand how it all started. Worldsmith has you use alchemy and the humors to create new worlds, before sprawling out into a larger story.

Eat Me vs Turandot

These are two lavish and showy games, with rich and descriptive writing and (in my opinion, though I’m probably not using the words right) a Rococo feel. They both might be said to be studies of sin, pushed to excess: Eat Me, of gluttony, and Turandot, of lust.

Counterfeit Monkey vs Blue Lacuna

Both of these games could easily have made the final 4; it’s a shame that one will have to leave early. These are two games that manage to achieve many of the ideals of IF at once: extensive conversation; complex puzzles; significant effects for your choices; a large world map that evolves over time; and multiple puzzle solutions. The difference is that Counterfeit Monkey has a clever wordplay system while Blue Lacuna focuses more on nature and worldbuilding.


I finally was able to get to Midnight. Swordfight and AAAAAHHHHHH. Oh. Why have I never played this?

It’s innovative on every level. The writing is so good. It’s just that amazing. I haven’t finished yet, but I’m going to take this very slow so that I can suck every drop of its juicy marrow out. If I don’t get to anything else here I haven’t played, I don’t care as long as I stay in Groover’s world as long as I can.

If you haven’t played this yet, do so now. Right now.

Huh. For some reason when I first posted this, I thought it was up against Dr. Ludwig and the Devil. Don’t know how I got that idea, but this is edited to reflect that. It’s up against the Wizard Sniffer, which has been on my top 10 list for some time. Argh. This is going to be a very, very hard call. I may not be able to pick one. Two stellar, top-notch games and I wish I could pick them both.

Please everyone, play these two games.


Superluminal Vagrant Twin is one of the few games I’ve played all the way through twice. The first time, there were elements of surprise and discovery, as the game kept opening up, that left me in a state of starry-eyed wonder. The second time, a bit of the magic was gone, but it was still a great experience.

Lost Pig is one of those famous games that, as a parser newcomer in the early 2010s, I kept hitting my head against like a brick wall. The charm wore off rapidly when the puzzles proved insurmountable. It’s one of the few games I’ve ever abandoned due purely to frustration… but then a few years later, with more parser experience under my belt, I made my way back around, gave it another try, managed to finish it, and had a good time. I’m afraid the poor first impression made its mark, however, and I often think about how it’s not really the game’s fault; it’s simply the game’s misfortune to be famous enough that I played it “too early,” since it’s recommended everywhere. Better for parser newcomers to hold off on this one, I’d say.


Impossible Bottle vs Junior Arithmancer
Well, I loved Bottle, I already wrote about it in round 1, but now I had time for Arithmancer and it really drew me in. It does one thing - math puzzles - but so far I’m making do with single digits. I have some notes implying that I’ll have to solve harder math problems to get the full score. And hey, I’m bothering to take notes, which is another point in its favor.
It does do one other thing - some color puzzles which tie back to the math shtick by being color codes. Nice.

The writing’s surprisingly good for a game that’s basically an excuse for a load of math puzzles. As mathbrush already said, these are two heavy puzzlers and it’s fitting that they face off in round 2, but Arithmancer gets my point this round.

Which means I’m already going against my submitted predictions. Oh well.

Coloratura vs The Gostak
They may both be about alien perspectives, but one is story-heavy with neat puzzles, and one is puzzle-heavy (one big puzzle) with a mostly obfuscated story. Both very nice, but Coloratura wins my point due to writing.


Superliminal Vagrant Twin vs Lost Pig
The two games take opposite approaches to making the parser accessible:

  • Superliminal Vagrant Twin is a limited parser/world model but you can type any destination you want so it works for the sense of vastness/exploration
  • Lost Pig is very generous in what input it accepts with a great many unecessary but actions giving a characterful response.

Superluminal Vagrant Twin vs Lost Pig
This was a hard one. Pig lets you deeply explore a chunk of a a fantasy world through the eyes of Grunk, a dense orc prone to surprising leaps of logic (since he is the player character). Twin is much more shallow but gives you a crappy starship and lets you explore a galaxy with multiple factions and species - and maybe just slightly inspired by Banks’ Culture novels?

I binged Superluminal Vagrant Twin tonight. That’s a good score (and frankly, expected from one of the top 78 games on the IFDB) but Lost Pig is just a little bit sharper and gets my point.


Lost Pig vs Superluminal Vagrant Twin:

Superluminal Vagrant Twin is a good limited parser game, with some memorable lines and subtle humor. Reviews often compare it to Elite, but in terms of gameplay it’s much closer to Inside the Facility.

I’ve already summarized Lost Pig in a previous thread, so this time I’ll focus on the areas where it stands out compared to Superluminal Vagrant Twin.

Lost Pig takes a classic parser formula (find an item, use it to solve a puzzle, get a new item) and implements it in a limited area following realistic (or at least intuitive) rules. The puzzles don’t immediately tell you which items are required to solve them, leaving you to make those connections yourself.

Both NPCs are much more deeply characterized than those in SVT, with dozens of responses to various actions done in their presence. The gnome gets a lot of press (and undoubtedly was harder to implement), but the pig is also really funny. Grunk himself practically counts as a third NPC, with a unique voice and range of responses.

Final Verdict: Lost Pig.


I voted for Superluminal—I just played it for the first time today, and initially planned to play in short chunks in between doing other things. Instead, I got completely absorbed and couldn’t stop until I’d both completed the main objective and gotten all the achievements! I loved the feeling of exploration and discovery; it always felt exciting when someone casually mentioned the name of a new-to-me planet, or when I found something for sale that I knew someone else wanted. I’m also just a sucker for metroidvania-style IF.


Wizard Sniffer had me laughing out loud for a solid hour. There was just something freeing about being a pig smarter than the two humans who “owned” me. Puzzles were fair and it was hard to get stuck for long.

Speaking of pigs, Lost Pig also was funny, Burning the forest didn’t work but had me giggling with glee. Love games that implement hilarious results for incorrect solutions.

All of these games are great :+1:


So I voted. That was hard. All these games are awesome. Here’s some thoughts.

Superluminal Vagrant Twin vs Lost Pig
So. Lost Pig. I recall I loved Lost Pig when I first played it, and I really enjoyed SVT. Playing them again, I’m enjoying Lost Pig - The narrative voice of Grunk. The perfectly implemented and pitched puzzles. SVT, I’m also still enjoying. I like a trade and explore game. It feels deep. I’m discovering new stuff I’d forgotten about. I could play this for hours, and have. On the whole though, hmmmm, and this is so subjective, I like Grunk best.

The Impossible Bottle vs. Junior Arithmancer
The year ‘Impossible Bottle’ came out for IFcomp…er…2020?.. I was developing a game that I totally failed to finish in time for the comp. And it was probably for the best. Because it was about a little girl in her house, who, through magic, can do stuff that alters the state of the space. Impossible Bottle is a cracking game - glad I wasn’t up against it. The problem space - the dependencies between the doll house and real world is outstandingly well implemented. As Mike Spivey said in his review - this rabbit hole goes deep. I think if I was going to pull it up on something, I thought the narrative around it - familial interactions and reactions is a little light.

Junior Arithmancer, in its way, has just as clever a problem space. The act of wrangling the numbers with my spells makes me feel clever. I reviewed this game during the IFcomp it was part of. As I recall, it was in my top games of that year. Like Impossible though, while there is a narrative around the puzzle space, it is a little light.

This is a tough one. I like both of these games very much. For me, Arithmancer just edges it.

Midnight Swordfight vs. The Wizard Sniffer
Oof. Yet another close one. I actually thought this was going to be relatively easy. I really like Chandler Groover’s writing - the voice he uses, this rich, evocative (I want to say Gothic-y, Romantic) narrative, and the multiple endings, gradual uncovering of deeper and deeper elements in Midnight, coupled with the sheer quality of the writing, makes it almost irresistible.

But. I’m now replaying Wizard Sniffer. Hah. I kind of forgot how funny it is. How clever the gameplay elements are. How the author gates and controls the game through a consistently implement puzzle mechanism. How the game’s voice is so consistently maintained.

So it’s super close. And yet, for goodness sake, in Midnight, I can wear a pig carcass and fly to the moon. How can that not win?

Of Their Shadows Deep vs. And Then You Come…
The central premise of Shadows Deep worried me at first. I am not good at riddles. I confess - I did need to use the well-implemented hints a couple of times. But this work is beautiful. I use the word advisedly. the strength of the prose, the narrative drive, the evocative ascii imagery - just everything delivers on an aesthetic wholeness that I love.

Then again, most of the above can apply to ‘Come to a House’ - the prose is balder, tighter, a little more prosaic - but that’s the voice that works for this game. The power of the game is in the, I guess I’d call it ‘moment of perfect recognition’ - the ability to recognise and relate to the nostalgia, emotional heft and experience represented in the narrative.

For me, this is a draw. Both of these games succeed absolutely on their own terms.

Coloratura vs. The Gostak
This matchup was the only relatively easy choice for me. Coloratura is a brilliant little game - it’s unique, extremely clever, well written and beautifully implemented. The ability of the game to put us inside the head of this alien and view the world in a totally different way is outrageously cool.

Gostak is also a brilliant game. It’s amazingly well done. But. As anyone who knows me knows - this is a type of game that I really struggle with. I can’t get anywhere without help. I’m trying to work from the English dictionary that David so kindly developed. Even then I’m getting stuck. Sigh. I appreciate Gostak, but I don’t love it.

Obvs. Coloratura takes this one.

Turandot vs Eat Me
Well, now then, this is a deeply unfair matchup. On the voter, not the game that is. Eat Me was one of only 2 games I gave a 10 to in 2017 IFcomp (the other was Wizzard Sniffer). Turandot is one of only 2 games I gave a 10 to in 2019 IF comp (Zozzled being the other).

Both of these games are outstanding in their own way. The imaginative, rich and evocative language of Eat Me. Turandot’s writing is just as rich, but in a different way. In then end, it comes down to moments. While the narrative heft of Turandot is awesome, there are so many moments in Eat Me.

Eat Me takes it, but my, that was close.

Counterfeit Monkey vs. Blue Lacuna
This is proper. This is a fantasy match-up. Mike Tyson vs Muhammed Ali sort of thing? Who’d win? Who’s the GOAT?

What else can I say about these games that hasn’t been said. It comes down to which I like more. They’re both huge. They’re both outstandingly well implemented and written. The stakes are high. Do I prefer the wordplay and complex puzzle systems of Counterfeit, or do I prefer the more narrative driven story-based Lacuna?

For me, it’s Blue Lacuna. There. I’ve said it.


Updated metrics on fan commentary…

Top 5 most cheering fans (excluding myself and mathbrush’s reviews):

virtuadept	36
McTavish	14
FLACRabbit	11
Hellzon		10
rabbit		6

Top 6 most cheered-for eliminated works:

Suveh Nux								7
City of Secrets							4
4x4 Archipelago							3
Chlorophyll								3
Harmonia								3
Will Not Let Me Go						3

Cheers per division:

Division 1		51
Division 2		37
Division 3		14
Division 4		27

EDIT: Also, the second interview with @AmandaB has been posted.


There’ve been lots of matches where I haven’t played both games, but this one’s finally given two matches that I can have an opinion on.

Turandot vs Eat Me
Because of the way I am, I keep a list of all the IF games I’ve played ranked by how much I like them, so I can dip into it when the Top 50 rolls around. Turandot and Eat Me are both in the top 20, and they’re right next to each other in the rankings.

I love Turandot. It was my pick to win IFComp 2019. The writing is just so much fun, tackling the, uh, imperfections of the original source material head on, adding tons of great jokes, and riffing on the extectations of interactive fiction and the Choicescript format (what it does with the Stats page is an easy trick but I’m still a sucker for it).

The writing in Eat Me is fun in almost the exact opposite way - rich, sumptuous descriptions combined with a compelling narrative voice that’s enjoying the action far too much. It’s a testament to the writing and gameplay that this game about food people in a food castle is one of the most disturbing and gory stories I’ve ever seen.

I have Eat Me just above Turandot in my rankings, and that’s the way I’ve gone this time too. But I consider them to be two of the very best IFs ever (that I’ve played), and it’s tragic that one of them has to go this early.

The Impossible Bottle vs Junior Arithmancer
Impossible Bottle is a really sweet story and a deserving IFComp winner. It’s got one centrepiece puzzle which I have to say fooled me, but which I admired after the fact - it’s so devious, but at the same time so head-slappingly obvious. The bit with the dinosaur is also very good.

But I cannot resist the siren call of a good maths puzzle, and I really really enjoyed unpicking Junior Arithmancer. It felt very good to work out what the colours meant. It’s one of those games like Threediopolis where I want to forget how it works so I can enjoy solving it again.

Another one where I could go either way. I went with Junior Arithmancer in the end.


Midnight. Swordfight vs. The Wizard Sniffer

  • Oh look, it’s the second and third pig-themed game in this division. Pity Sub Rosa got eliminated.
  • I binged both this evening. That’s how captivating they both are.
  • I keep getting Chandler Groover and Ryan Veeder mixed up. I know it’s the names, but I though Veeder was the one with a stronger taste for the grotesque. And then I played Swordfight. Not so much.
    • I’ve played Grooverland. I should know better.
  • Both games play with escalation.
    • It’s kind of easy to “win” Swordfight, but then the game gently informs you that there’s more. Oh boy, there’s more.
    • Sniffer starts out with you leading the typical incompetent knight and slightly more sensible squire around. And when you’ve got the hang of that, it throws in more and more twists on that formula.

Wizard Sniffer wins, but it’s not an easy choice.


Quick poll (join FIFP Fans to participate):

Which best describes your preference in IF?
  • It’s all about the story.
  • Story is more important, but puzzles count.
  • It’s best when there’s a balance between story and puzzles.
  • Puzzles are more important, but story counts.
  • It’s all about the puzzles.
0 voters

Quick poll (join FIFP Fans to participate):

Which commercial game(s) would you most like to have seen competing in the tournament?
  • 80 Days
  • Hadean Lands
  • Open Sorcery
  • Trinity
  • Planetfall
  • Sorcery! 2
  • Sunless Sea
  • A Study in Steampunk
  • Wayhaven Chronicles: Book One
  • Eric the Unready
  • A Mind Forever Voyaging
  • Choice of Robots
  • Tally Ho
  • Enchanter
0 voters
1 Like

I voted for The Gostak in its race—it’s one of my favorite works of IF, such a unique and memorable experience. Challenging in the best way; completely overwhelming at first, but once I’d worked at it long enough to start to understand Gostakian, it felt magical. The world (my dim conception of it, anyway) and the language felt delightfully Seussian, and finishing the game after initially not understanding a single word of its unique vocab was so satisfying. One of the most fun IF-playing experiences I’ve had!


Worldsmith vs According to Cain

Worldsmith at first looks like Parser Spore, with a good deal of Dwarf Fortress-esque madlibbed descriptions of lifeforms.
I played the worldbuilder game to “completion”, worrying about the time limit all along - there’s a timer you can check, and it seems to tick down with each move. Most games would have stopped there.
Except this one doesn’t, because it’s a formerly commercial game that apparently expands to a regular puzzle game at this point.

According to Cain has a lot of superficial similarities with Worldsmith. It gives you alchemical ingredients named after the four humors, and a giant book for you to look up things in. When I looked up a few too many things, the game gently told me I should press on with the main objective. Cute.
Some bug prevented me from saving, so I needed to binge the whole game in one sitting, but it was worth it for the writing. I’m vaguely reminded of Babel, if that makes sense - that other Biblical game where you collect memories.
The puzzles are just hard enough that I got to feel smart without being stumped for most of the game. And the last puzzle is pure poetry.
Amusingly, Dwarf Fortress comes to the rescue again. True DF nerds know what cinnabar is an ore of.

I want more Worldsmith, but my point goes to According to Cain.
(Aand that’s another one where I go against my own predictions.)


That’s time! Last hours scoring has resolved all ties, so no coin flips are needed. So many close ones this time!

EDIT: There were no upset victories this segment, so no new interviews are scheduled. We’re still expecting responses from J. J. Guest soon, though, and mathbrush has agreed to a delayed interview later in the tournament.

The final standings and match summaries have been posted.