I participated last year and it was humbling and an amazing learning experience…and I decided I could do more good this year by sitting it out and judging instead. Definitely looking forward to diving into these.
So: What to expect!
I will try my best to review everything in this thread. Games or general musings that I think might appeal to my Tumblr followers, I’ll review there - so those will probably be either games I really like/think are doing something very interesting; I am probably not going to be posting negative reviews over there unless the game being reviewed is doing something badly in a supremely interesting way that’s worth talking about. If that makes any sense.
I’ll be playing these in the order of my personal randomizer and as I said will try my best to play every one of them. I may however give up on those that I just can’t connect with at all or that become too frustrating etc. and will note as much in the review.
Um a couple other notes on reviews:
I will probably not be rating them with a numerical score in the review itself (obviously I’ll be rating them to judge). I just don’t find scores informative and they’re easy to fixate on. I’ll try to give feedback instead that might be helpful both for the game maker and for people thinking of playing the game.
I am still kind of a newbie to parser games and am not great with puzzles. I’ll give it a try, but last year’s experience taught me I’m much more likely to finish a game with a good walk-through. Even then, I tend to prefer narrative games to puzzle-heavy/gamey games.
As last year, I will probably only be playing games in my browser (not downloading) so that may affect the games that I play.
And, ok. I’m off to play me some IF! Will update with reviews as the come
-_- I wrote a really long review and my browser ate it. This is what I get for writing the review in the forum window instead of in notepad. Lesson learned.
First game on my rando-list:
Riot by Taylor Johnson
Synopsis/Game Play with Spoilers:
You play as Parker, a newbie working on a riot control team. You’re a scared rookie, and the riot seems like a bad one. It’s not clear who’s rioting, or why, and we never get any idea of the conflict beyond the borders of the riot itself. You get separated early on from your group and accidentally kill one of the rioters. Later, you meet some people - a kid on a bike, a random dude, a young girl, a news crew. You feel guilty about the person you killed and in the end go back and handcuff yourself to the body in an alleyway for…reasons?
I really like the cover art and the blurb - it piqued my interests and I was definitely excited to crack into this one. It didn’t live up to my expectations, though. The writing is rough - there are multiple grammatical errors that became distracting (you’re/your mixups, errant commas, awkward phrasing) and it combines a mixture of script-style dialogue with regular narration. The end result is something that feels very “rough draft” - a lot of potential, but it felt more like I was reading the notes or outline than the finished product. I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters and was lacking engagement with what should have been a very emotional story.
I didn’t really “get” the ending. I played through the game twice and got the same result; the story doesn’t really change much and there’s no real branching no matter what you choose. It’s very fatalistic, which may be a meta-statement on the game’s theme but doesn’t feel fully implemented enough for that to shine through if it’s the case.
Second game on my list is…Ariadne in Aeaea by Victor Ojuel
I remember Pilgrimage from last year, and struggling with it a bit. Let’s see how I fare with this author this year!
Rambling musings while playing:
[spoiler]I like the writing in this. Sometimes this style doesn’t appeal to me, but I think it works here. I ran into some problems with the goat; I had to consult the walk-through at that point after trying several things that didn’t work. Realized I missed some stuff in the hut, so I went back there and took the bread. Was annoyed that I couldn’t take the discarded clothes on the rack. I got stuck again after talking to Phaedra - I didn’t think to give her the brooch before she walked off.
So at that point I got frustrated, and then I kind of wanted to give up (because it was starting to feel a little tedious) but I also wanted to keep going (because I wanted to see what would happen). I mostly followed the walk-through and started skimming after that. I finally gave up after getting the jug from whats-her-name and not being sure where to go to change clothes.
*Deep in though, (should be thought)
road snakes descends towards (probably pick one or the other)[/spoiler]
Overall: You play as Ariadne, a priestess-in-training, who is prone to drinking too much and sleeping with shepherd boys. You wake up after one such encounter and attempt to go about your day, doing things like retrieving your tunic from a goat and getting favors from the other priestesses.
I didn’t finish this, although I was curious to see the end - I just got bogged down about halfway through and started to feel bored. Not all of that is the creator’s fault, I don’t think; I’m still pretty new at parser games and though I didn’t as lost as I sometimes do, I found myself consulting the walk-through frequently. Unfortunately the walk-through is not easy to navigate either - it’s just a string of commands, with no context, which makes it hard to consult when you get lost while still trying to play the game regularly. I definitely have a preference for games with detailed, entertaining-in-their-own-right walk-throughs because I rely on them so much.
Anyway - the writing style here was interesting. The style was in places quite lofty but then sometimes quite casual; it was a bit of a disconnect with the subject/setting, but it kind of works in its own way. It just wasn’t quite engaging enough to overcome the tedium, for me. YMMV! If this had a differently formatted walk-through I would have definitely played to the end to see what would happen.
Next on my list…Mirror and Queen by Chandler Groover
Not gonna lie I’m kind of a big CMG fangirl, so I’m excited for this one.
That doesn’t give me much to go on, but at least I know it’ll be a quick play-through.
Musings While Playing
[spoiler]Was not expecting a parser game, for some reason. Though I’m not quite sure this exactly is a parser game. I like the layout. I kind of wish the text were more mirror-y and less text-y but maybe you can only customize so much. For some reason I can’t quite put a finger on, this game reminds me a bit of Laid Off From the Synesthesia Factory last year - something about the way the parser just invites you to free-associate and there don’t seem to be any wrong answers. That is really interesting. The writing style is a bit different than other CMG games I’ve played - not quite as tight. I don’t like it as much, but it’s still solid.
Several questions in, I do start to wonder if there’s an end, or if I’ll know when it’s ending. It’s not necessarily that I’m frustrated or want it to end, just that it’s making me uneasy not to know whether there’s a destination. The ending comes pretty unexpectedly, but it’s satisfying enough - I think I’d enjoy it on a second go-round knowing where it’s headed. I appreciate the author’s note telling me as much. I almost wonder if I wouldn’t have preferred reading the author’s note right off the bat, but maybe the discovery is delightful on its own.[/spoiler]
This is a Snow White story. You are the Queen, gazing into your magic mirror, and asking for its advice - or perhaps simply looking at your reflection and allowing your thoughts to wander to dark, dark places. There is an interpreter, but it’s essentially a parser with no wrong answers; occasionally you’ll be gently guided back on topic (if you start typing the same word over and over, or a single letter) but for the most part you can type just about anything and receive a paragraph that more or less makes sense in return. That alone is very satisfying, and although the story doesn’t so much build up in a linear format, it does seem to spiral and gain layers as your musings and reflections circle around the topic.
This one is very interesting, and well worth playing and testing out. It’s not my favorite CMG game I’ve played - I didn’t find it quite as immersive and tightly-written as some of the games I played last year - but it is doing some interesting things from a technical perspective and provides a solid fairytale adaptation alongside.
Next up on my rando-queue I have…Slicker City by Andrew Schultz
I believe this is a sequel to last year’s “The Problems Compound” which I did not really play (I skipped a lot of/most of the parser games last year).
There’s no cover art. I recall last year’s game having a sort of stick-figure cover art and that caused a lot of premature judgments on the quality of the game, so I’m guessing that’s where there’s no cover here. I wonder if it will affect how many plays it gets; I know I am less likely to be interested in a game with no cover (and yes, that makes me a shallow person).
Blurb is also brief:
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]I feel I might get more out of this if I’d played the first game, which raises perhaps some questions about entering sequels/series into IF Comp. Are we a small enough community where that makes sense? Idk.
This is a confusing paragraph. Odd things are happening with language and I’m not sure if they’re intentional or not.
But! There is a verb list, and I really appreciate that. I’m also happy that the walk-through has a bit more information in it than just a set of commands, so it’s a bit easier to follow/keep my place in it. It does get harder to follow if you start free-exploring, though; I took a wrong turn early on (leaving the Change Chump before I’d gotten a paper) and then had a heck of a time trying to get back to where I could solve the puzzle in the walk-through. I ended up restarting and just following the walk-through verbatim to get to the end, which of course is not ideal.
I’m struggling a bit to follow the story. I don’t know how much of that is the sequel-ness…how much is the density of the wordplay and the brain power it takes to envision what all these things are…and how much is my own poor mental acuity today. But passages like:
Frequently just left me going “…huh?” and wondering if I’d missed something. YMMV because I really may just be not firing on all cylinders today.
Also, a small bug: When I’m looking at the bottle, solution, and jars, when it asks me if I want to drop something I’m holding and I say yes/no, the game scrolls me back up to the beginning. I’m playing in-browser on Google Chrome if that helps.[/spoiler]
So the premise of the game is based on word play, wherein normal phrases are flipped around and given new, literal meanings. You run into people like the Change Chump and the Baiter Master, and interact with things like the Protector Pocket and visit destinations like the Cadet Space and Sense Common. It’s whimsical and a bit silly and the type of thing that someone would find either charming or tedious depending on how they feel about word-play. I’m the kind of reader who always looks for subtexts/assumes things are meaningful, which I think in this case left me feeling very confused.
Next up, we’ve got Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire - Chapter 2: Journey to Hell by Marco Vallarino.
Another sequel to a game from last year - what are the odds? - and I did at least attempt the first chapter thought I don’t believe I finished it. Hopefully I fare better this time!
Not sure what’s going on with the cover art. I don’t have any strong feelings about it either way. Delving in.
Thoughts while playing:
[spoiler]I actually very much approve of and am grateful for the prologuey exposition at the beginning. Thanks for laying out my expectations. Also, thank you for the very detailed instructions. My newb heart appreciates them, truly.
Also, I have the feeling that this translation is a bit cleaner? I may be mis-remembering, but I was thinking there was some syntactical oddness in last year’s game that I’m not encountering here.
Anyway, right off the bat (ha, ha) I’m feeling pretty clever because I immediately entered the swamp and thought, “ooh, I can shape shift and fly over this quicksand!” Also the game’s doing a great job of guiding my dumb newb self toward the right choices when I do something wrong. The hint system, the suggestions it gives when performing actions - super super helpful. The only thing that would have helped me more (spoiled though I am) would be a map; but the directions are clear enough to get me where I need to go.
But the writing is solid, and this just feels like a fun straightforward game-y adventure, which is actually quite refreshing.
I got killed by a demon, after much exploring. I’ll try this one again to get a proper ending. This has been thoroughly enjoyable.[/spoiler]
You play as Martin Voigt, an ancient vampire who has a full arsenal of fun vampire abilities including the power to shapeshift. These come in handy on your adventures, which send you exploring an intriguing and perilous landscape. I don’t know how long this game takes to play when you are a more competent player than I am, but I suspect there is a lot of content here - maybe more than 2 hours. And I feel like that’s a good thing, because this - even the little I played before reaching my first untimely end - was thoroughly enjoyable. It felt polished and was engaging and I intend to come back through and play it multiple times - to see if I can win, and to see how many other entertaining ways I can lose.
Next up: Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus by Marco Vallarino
First two sequels next to each other, now two games by the same developer next to each other…what wily hijinks are you up to, rando-shuffle?
Well, anyway. I am utterly charmed by the cover art. Demented-looking possibly undead Pacman, yessir sign me up. The blurb promises a good time - trapped in a video game museum and fighting off zombies? Totally down.
Rambling Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]This is a translation, like Vallarino’s other works, so I’m anticipating some potentially odd linguistic issues, but I seem to be running into regular typos instead. I’ll point them out as I notice them:
“coin-op is the Troyan horse” (think you mean Trojan)
“the big all which hosts,” (guessing that should be “big hall”)
“the visor which allowa you” (“allows”)
“Sadly, you think they don’t make the nice and robust gadget of the old times anymore.” (that’s just really awkward phrasing)
“You give the lollipop to Paddy, that takes it and slowly starts to lick it.” (I think you mean ‘who’; also that’s kind of awkwardly phrased too)
Ok I just blew up a zombies head with a dynamite-filled pong ball. That’s awesome. Also why was that ball filled with dynamite that’s super dangerous I was carrying that thing around.
Is that a reference to the other game lol awesome.
Paddy I don’t think you are taking this very seriously.
WTF Metalmark you are into some freaky shit.
Anyway - I really appreciate how well the game describes my locations and makes options available to me. There’s not the same robust hint system as in Darkiss, but I always know where I am and how to get to the next place which I really do appreciate. I haven’t gotten lost or stuck and that is actually a really special thing to me because as previously noted I am a newb. Every time I successfully complete a puzzle or do the right thing I feel really smart, and since I know I am not in fact that clever, I suspect good game design. However, some of the options feel random - like the cartridge and the doll defusing zombies. I wish maybe there had been more hints given about that, because they seem like solutions you’d come upon by trial-and-error? But maybe that’s normal for the genre.
I just wish I had a slightly better idea of the characters - who are Paddy and Metalmark? How do I know them? Why am I even here? Just a bit more story to balance out what has been very enjoyable game play.
For the record, a few places I did get stuck/had to consult the walk-through:
Giving the cartridge to a zombie (although I actually gave it to a different zombie than the one in the walk-through, I’m happy that trick worked later)
Unlocking the office door (seriously it didn’t occur to me to just type “open door” I kept trying “unlock door” or “enter combination” or “use keypad” or “type 6969” I told you I’m a newb)
I died the first time with a score of 30 after killing the zombie in the Otherworld. Oops. But I was invested at that point so I did an “undo” and kept going. First time in this comp I’ve done that
Woo! I feel smart! that was fun![/spoiler]
The game takes place in Vigamus, which is apparently a big video game museum in Rome. Thanks to a new game, zombies are infiltrating the museum, and you have to fight back using video game replica items and various other things you find lying around. It’s a lighthearted romp that never takes itself too seriously, and though a few of the puzzles seemed to have arbitrary solutions, it was straightforward enough that even a newb like me could figure it out. There’s no depth of story here, just a straightforward adventure - but sometimes that’s just fine. At its best, it reminds me a bit of Dead Rising, and how fun it was to simply run around killing zombies with any object that came to hand. I’d recommend this, especially to someone who’s new to text adventures and wants an easy, entertaining way to jump into the genre. (I’d love this even more if it had the kind of hint system you see in Darkiss).
The title made me do a double-take because I have a game called Ashes and it keeps reminding me of that. The blurb:
This does not sound like a fun game at all, but that’s ok. IF doesn’t have to be fun, and the last few games were lighthearted romps. So I’m braced for anything.
Thoughts while playing:
So this is one of those choice games where instead of choosing your actions, you choose the circumstances. Sometimes that can work really well, but I’m not entirely convinced here; I’m feeling a disconnect with these people. I can’t really do a self-insert here because they are not doing things that I would be doing or reacting in a way I would be reacting. But I don’t know enough about them to really bridge that empathy gap required to step into their shoes. Instead it feels like I’m just standing here watching, somewhat arbitrarily making a choice at the end of each passage. I don’t feel as invested as I should.
This is what it says on the tin: A man (presumably?) and his mother in the hospital, in her final days, and coming to terms with loss. It is billed as autobiographical, and it feels deeply personal, which is always a challenge to judge. It feels like a therapy exercise, maybe - something that I hope brought some peace or closure to the author, but I’m not sure this comp is the right venue for this type of expression.
This description definitely sounds like my kind of game. I’m big on superhero stories that go in unexpected directions or take new angles. The cover art isn’t getting that message across at all, though, and it seems kind of blurry? Definitely needs a different cover. Anyway! On to the game.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]Hey cool this is Choicescript right? For some reason, Choicescript games seem to lend themselves to being more text-y, more story-like, maybe because the choices are always defaulted to the end of a passage (unlike in Twine where they can spiderweb around through it)…it’s a weird subtle thing but it makes a difference. Anyway, true to form, this game is very text-y. Also exposition heavy. You basically start off playing in a prologue, and I kind of wish it were a bit less exposition-y, but I’m holding out hope that we get to more in-the-present action once the backstory has caught up.
That is an awkward sentence; I think it’s missing a comma after ASCD. Similar sentences are scattered throughout - not major grammatical errors, just some unruly syntax. For example:
Overall: So the gist of it is that there are anomalies, essentially super-powered mutants, who pose a potential threat to the rest of the world. After a personal tragedy involving those anomalies, you are recruited to join a special task force that takes care of them; but public opinion isn’t always on your side. The story, as it unfolds, is about your job and some of the moral questions that come with it. It treads similar thematic ground to Riot, which I reviewed earlier, but from different angles and some different conclusions.
I really wanted to like this, but I had a hard time getting into it. The writing needs to be tightened and livened up a bit; the story as it is unrolls in a very exposition-heavy way, more “tell” than “show,” and there’s not enough interaction to keep me engaged between the long texty bits. It just doesn’t feel like there’s a strong narrative thread tying it all together, so there was nothing really to keep me invested.
I really, really love the cover art on this one. It’s very polished and slick, and when I click the game I’m immediately brought to something of a splash screen that shows there’s a “load” feature and achievements; all of this makes me think I’m in for a pretty polished game. Let’s see.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]We’re starting en media res and I really appreciate it. I’m sucked in right away. This is a choice-based game with a hint of puzzle; you explore areas, you gather items.
I appreciate that I get to try and befriend the wolf by sharing my dinner. I am totally invested by that point, and then THIS happens and I’m like “wait what? omg what’s going to happen next”
[rant]“LET THIS PLACE STAND AS TESTAMENT: I DID NOT DIE FOR THEM. C.M.”[/rant]
brb too busy playing to make notes.[/spoiler]
You are a young girl who is cast into the wilderness to die as part of some superstitious rite of your village. They think the wolves will kill you, but that’s not quite what happens.
This reminds me a bit of Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, more in content and tone than in style. The “girl living in the forest” part, obviously, but also the recurring, evocative dreams. The way the choices are laid out also reminds me a bit of what I did when I wrote Ashes - where there may be several things to click but few chances to go back and click the others. It’s easy in choice games to just lawnmower your way through it clicking on stuff, but you have to be more thoughtful here; I haven’t reached any dead ends, but it feels like I could. It feels like this is a game with stakes, and that illusion makes all the difference.
I really, really like this. You should play this. I’ll probably write a long Tumblr review for this later after I’ve let it digest more.
Next up we’ve got Black Rock City: a choose-your-own-burnventure by Jim Munroe
I’m not sure I would have guessed this was set at Burning Man, from the cover art, but this seems like a potentially cool premise. I enjoy these move-limited games that go broad instead of deep; they can be pretty clever. Although I anticipate I might suck at it, if it’s puzzly. Let’s find out.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]Is this a homebrew system or are they doing something really weird with Twine? This click-to-drag thing is bizarre, but I bet it would run great on mobile. I might try that.
This setting is…odd. In a charming way. Like things are happening that are absurd and whimsical but not indulgently so. The writing is pretty tight and also surprisingly vivid; I love some of the imagery and turns of phrase:
I hit my first ending and have absolutely no idea what it’s supposed to mean, but I’m intrigued to want to restart and try again.
Second ending. I think I’m starting to figure this out; at least, I’m getting an inkling.
Third and fourth endings, I’m thinking maybe I don’t know anything at all.[/spoiler]
This is a tight little game, built broad rather than deep. There are only six turns, with each one presenting you two choices (and sometimes, one of those choices isn’t a real choice at all). Within that framework, however, there are quite a few interesting and evocative little stories that can play out.
This is surrealist, a piece of Weird Fiction, about making connections with people in the moments before a calamity in a world where everything is strange. There are fantastic machines and very odd people, and you take it all in stride with a sort of accepting dream logic. I’m not entirely sure what it all means, if meaning is what you’re supposed to get out of it; but I know how it feels, and that is evocative and earnest and weirdly beautiful. I really enjoyed this, and I get the feeling it’s the sort of experience you’ll get more and more out of with repeated play-throughs.
I absolutely would not have guessed at any of that content from the cover art, which reminds me a bit of Minecraft for reasons I can’t quite understand. Anyway - I have no idea what I’m about to get into.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]Off the bat, I am afraid what I might run into writing-wise, thanks to two possible typos in the blurb (“kims” instead of "kim’s) and “surreality” instead of “surrealism,” but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Interesting - the use of timing and delays in text takes control from me early on, asserting the game as the authority. This isn’t something I’m going to play, but something I’m going to experience. Also this reminds me, stylistically, of something I saw once in Sub-Q; I wonder if they’re the same author. I wish I could remember what that game was called. I’ll have to look it up later.
I can’t even tell if this is a typo:
But I’m pretty sure this one is:
At this point I don’t even know what’s happening but I think it’s fascinating. There are dark things going on, and so much subtext; it’s not clear what the whole picture is.
Also, whoa, this amniotic birth sequence is hurting my eyes. I mean maybe that’s the point but whoa this red screen is intense.
Ok wait so was I in an accident and got put back together as some kind of cyborg? Is that what’s going on here? (This is now reminding me a bit of SPY INTRIGUE, in a good way). Also the idea of being equipped with artificial intelligence and then being trapped in my own head with it during a system failure is terrifying.
…wait wait wait WHAT did I just stab him?! wtf is happening right now. I am so confused.
Oh thank god at least there’s some explanation at the end re: Moonland and confirmation that while the game may be a metaphor, within the game your roboticness is not metaphorical. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure until that moment.
And, inspired by Porpentine, of course it was.[/spoiler]
This was a wild ride.
You don’t play this game so much as surrender to its control; it asserts itself early on, withholding choices from you, managing the pace at which text appears, forcing you to click on things you thought you were done with and circling back over certain parts again and again in order to unravel more of the story. It’s never entirely clear what’s going on, what is metaphor and what is reality - both inside the game world and between the game and the player. The overall effect is to put you on shaky, unsettled ground, and it is brilliantly effective at that.
You are an android, one created with the capacity to love; but something has gone wrong with your programming, and you struggle to access your memories. To say much more would, I feel, be spoiling it - and would also be more conjecture than exposition as I’m not sure this is a game with a single real answer or a story with a single meaning.
This is very Porpentine-like, both in style and subject, although I found it slightly more accessible than Porpentine’s work. It also reminded me, at times, of last year’s SPY INTRIGUE by Furkle - not so much stylistically, but thematically. So that should give you an idea of whether you might enjoy it; I anticipate this game to be a divisive, with people who either love or hate it.
Black Rock City is weird and delightful. I think maybe it all comes down to the quote in the cover photo: “We see you, we hear you, we love you.” It seems to be finding and nurturing human connections under the briefest and strangest of circumstances, and I find something about that incredibly sweet.
I think I managed 7-8 endings altogether. There is just SO MUCH to try and explore…definitely worth re-visiting!
Next on my list: 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds by Abigail Corfman
This sounds hilarious and totally up my alley. I also anticipate, from the blurb, that there might be some kind of move limit, which could be either excellent or frustrating depending on what the game’s like. Also: I love, love, love the cover art. It looks very slick. I have high hopes for this.
So, diving in…
Thoughts While Playing:
That is a really excellent opening line and my interest is already piqued.
Looool ok so I’m the bait in a vampire-hunting team. Excellent.
(Slaid? slew? have slain? OMFG that made me lol. I love this.)
whoa! ther’es sound! that is actually really creepy.
I love that “set the building on fire” is an option. This game has now made me bust up laughing out loud twice. If my husband were awake right now he’d be giving me funny looks.
But, okay. So I’m taking items. This is puzzle-y, in a good way - the kind of choice game that could work just as well in parser format. I like that choices I can’t make are grayed-out – it gives me a good hint as to what I should be doing next. It’s a little spoiler-y, but I don’t mind; I suck at puzzles, so I’ll take all the help I can get.
But, aw. I kind of killed the vampire on accident - I plugged in the UV sanitizer, but I didn’t expect it to work so quickly and effectively. However! at the end I see that it tells me ALL of the ways (16 of them in fact) to kill the vampire, which makes it really motivating to go back and try some more. I ALSO learn that there are unlockables, one of which is a true ending. WELL. I have to try and get to that! idk if I can manage that in the 2-hour period though, so maybe I’ll leave that for myself later.
(ok so I played it a second time and OH MY GOD the vampire uses pick-up-artist tactics of course he does brb lol’ing forever)[/spoiler]
This is insanely fun.
You play as Lucy, part of a vampire-hunting trio who take down “leeches” in the city. But while your partners have fancy weapons and skills, your job is to act as bait, luring out the vamps. That’s all well and good until you end up at a McDonalds on your own, facing a vampire - with no weapons at hand and no backup. Fortunately, you are resourceful, and there are many potential weapons at your disposal.
This is a puzzle-y Twine game based around picking up and manipulating objects in order to create weapons. There are multiple (16, in fact) ways to kill the vampire, and if you collect all of them you’ll unlock the true ending. You can also fail at your task and die. Fortunately, there is a sort of built-in hint system: When you face choices, you see greyed-out options for things you cannot do, which gives you an idea of what items you should attempt to gather. That helped me from getting stuck and gave me a better idea of the scope of the game.
The writing is lighthearted, full of voice and personality, and is very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There’s also a fair bit of world-building that exists around the edges, giving hints that it’s far bigger than the limited scope of your encounter. I like that.
Night House: It looks different in the dark. by Bitter Karella
This sounds right up my alley - horror themes, kid POV, definitely intrigued. Cover art is a bit bland and not doing it for me, but I’m intrigued to see what I have in store.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]Ooh, interesting interface - I’ve got an inventory and a compass. Also, rain sounds. This is already more polished than I was expecting from the cover art.
(it’s literally a dark and stormy night. heh. I don’t mind, but it does amuse me)
Oh, interesting, a combination of choice and parser elements it looks like. I don’t think I’ve seen that before? Ok so it looks like the way it works is I can either click OR use commands? I maybe won’t have to use both? We’ll find out. But ohh! a map! that is so helpful! Did this person set out to make a game just for me because it kind of feels like they did. ilu person.
Whoa I can zoom in and out on the map. And that inventory menu on the side makes it clear what all of the items are and what I can do with them - no guess the verb here.
[rant]Oh my god did I just find my parent’s sex toys and/or porn.[/rant] looooooool.
Ok so I will say that the format encourages me to kind of motor through it - taking everything I can grab, looking at everything I can look at. Gameplay is feeling very procedural just because I can’t stop myself from wanting to click everything. Maybe that’s how these games are meant to be played. I can’t speak to whether or not it’s a flaw, I’m still enamored with the ease of the design.
That made me lol.
(this is after I took the batteries out of the “wand”)
Also a small typo:
[rant]The only message you can dicipher clearly doesn’t explain much: are you enjoying your game. Beneath that, you can barely make out part of a second message: come downstairs[/rant]
Sometimes the game is a little laggy when I input commands (or click on them), like it freezes up. It froze up like that once in the sister’s room and several times down in the basement. It does eventually catch up, but it takes a bit. I am playing in browser so that may be why.
[rant]I can watch this Betamax finally (still worried it’s a sex tape). Phew ok not a sex tape. Also AHHH what is going on!?[/rant]
Another small bug:
(in the attic)
why does the ghost speak in small caps?
oh gdi I know I saw the games somewhere where were they…well. I got lost on the search for the dinocopter game so I consulted the walk-through, and was delighted to see that the walk-through is written the way I like them. This game really might have been custom-made just for me. Discovered that my problem was I hadn’t been asking the encyclopedia the right questions; went back to investigate that and, whoa, that’s a lot of story! There is a lot more world-building in this than I would have anticipated. This game just keeps going deeper.
Anyway checked the walk-through again (I failed to take the shift from the sewing machine so I had to circle back and get that) and now I’m up and running.
But then this happened
I mean it’s my own fault, I got sidetracked and pulled away from the computer. But there was no way to save the game in my browser without having an account on the Text Adventures site
Oh well. No time to finish it now, but I’ll come back and play another time to get to the end. I was pretty close to my two hours, anyway.[/spoiler]
As you can tell from the long-winded ramblings above, I really enjoyed myself with this. As the story suggests, you play as a child who wakes up in the middle of the night, storm raging outside, and discover that you are alone. You must explore the house to gather clues and items as to what’s going on, and quickly discover that things are not at all right - there are all manner of things going bump in the night.
What makes the game unique is its gameplay/interface, the likes of which I have not seen (although I am admittedly a newb). It’s both choice and parser based; your inventory appears on the screen, alongside a list of all available objects to interact with in a scene, and all of the interactions. There’s no guess-the-verb problems here, and there is also a map to help you navigate your way around. All told, it is probably the sleekest, most accessible parser-type puzzle/adventure game I have played in a comp thus far. It’s really, really easy to get into and makes exploring so much more fun.
The writing itself is pretty utilitarian, and I wish I had a better idea of the characters; to me they all seem like interchangeable stock archetypes, especially the PC who has no discernible personality. The tone of the game is also a bit inconsistent; it most places it is pretty lighthearted/adventure-y, but it also manages to be very dark at times. I personally would have preferred more horror and atmospheric description - especially since the map and available-item system give you a bit of leeway in describing things (since the player already knows what’s available to interact with, more flavorful text would not have been confusing).
But it was fun and engrossing, and I absolutely wanted to see it through to the end. (Note: there is a lot of meat in this game, it seems like, and your play session will time out after a few hours. Just a heads up if you start it up and walk away to run errands for awhile in the middle like I did.)
ETA: So I was reading some other reviews and see that the interface is apparently standard with Quest games? Well. That shows what a newbie I am, because it’s the first time I’ve encountered it. That’s good for me to know because it means I know what parser games to seek out for my own enjoyment! It will also affect my scoring, since many of the things that wowed me about the game are apparently common to all games made in Quest.
I am very confused by this blurb, which has thrown a lot of things my direction with no real context to help me understand what they are. I’m also not feeling the cover art, which seems a bit amateurish and genre-confused, but I’ve been surprised by games before. Let’s see what we’ve got in store.
Thoughts While Playing:
[spoiler]The “getting you up to speed” prologue answers some questions, but raises some others. The MLP-ish style of the art is also a bit distracting; it keeps making me think that I should approach this as MLP fanfic but that doesn’t actually seem to be what’s going on. I’m confused.
I have no idea how seriously to take this game, I am so confused.
I’m not really feeling very connected to the characters or feeling the stakes of the story, so I’m not very invested in actions; I feel like I’m just sort of roaming around exploring, and I’m still not feeling like I really understand the world I’m occupying.[/spoiler]
Overall: This is a game undoubtedly made with love. It’s a fully-illustrated Twine game packed full of world-building; there’s obviously been a lot of thought put into it. It just wasn’t working for me on a story level. The front-loading of backstory was disorienting, and I didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters or their quest. I feel like this has the potential to be polished into something really great, but the writing and story just isn’t quite there yet. YMMV; this may be totally up the alley of another player. I just couldn’t get into it.