I just finished playing through all 77 games in the competition. It was a lot of fun!
One difference I noticed between this year and past years is that there aren’t any horrible games. Last year had a bunch of games that were entered last-minute and rushed, or which were translated but still confusing (I know because I helped translate some and did a bad job), and a few troll games.
This year there’s nothing like that, and it made the playthrough experience much more enjoyable.
The diversity in Twine games and related systems is amazing. There were several such games that had multiple illustrations, inventories, large maps with exploration, etc. while there were also atmospheric story games with really good narrative techniques, etc. etc.
Last year there were a lot of big, polished limited parser games. This year, there are still one or two, but there are a lot more small, focused parser games employing tricks like multiple viewpoints or unreliable narrator, together with several big, non-limited parser games.
There are a lot of mystery games. There were at least 4 mystery games in 2016, including 3 of the top 4 games, and that seemed like a lot. This year has at least 6 (Border Reivers, Dungeon Detective, Erstwhile, Grimnoir, Murder at the Manor, Six Silver Bullets). As a fan of murder mysteries, this is great.
There were also a lot of ghosts in games. Six games featured ghosts, and the total comes to 13 if you include demons, hallucinations, dream-beings, astral projections, vampires, sentient zombies and Bogeymen.
There was a diversity in systems. Games include Texture (drag and drop), Intudia (a multiple choice format), ADRIFT, Quest, Inform (with and without Vorple), Unity, Scratch (originally a children’s tool for learning programming), AXMA (like Russian Twine), many custom parser games, Desmos (educational software), Glyffe (navigating text like a character walking around an RPG world), and Choicescript. No TADS this year.
Games seem longer this year, too. Of the 10 games labelled ‘15 minutes or less’, many took the full 15 minutes, and the 16 (!) games labeled either 2 hours or longer than 2 hours tended to take me at least two hours to beat.
Each IFComp is like a music album. Last year had the most outstanding singles of any ‘album’ I’ve seen, but this year is a much stronger album overall. If all the IF in the world was deleted and I could only save the games from one IFComp, I’d pick this one because of its generally high quality. Everyone did amazing work.
For all the reviewers, thank you for reviewing, and I hope you can continue!