Introcomp Reviews

Since Introcomp games don’t always end up on IFDB before they’re finished, I’m putting my reviews here, and will add to the thread as I go!

Subway! by Jeff Schomay

This is another exploration of the Elm Narrative Engine, which I last saw during Spring Thing with the game

This game makes fuller use of Elm’s abilities, which in this case include some lush subway graphics with clickable interface. The text is still the main feature, however.

This game is mostly about navigating a subway maze on your way to an important meeting, and I lost by being caught by a guard. So far, it’s intriguing, and gave a sense of urgency and of complicated puzzles. I would definitely like to see this one finished.

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Dungeon Alive (can’t find author)

This game appears from its source to be hand-crafted HTML and Javascript, but I may be wrong. The final product looks nice: a pleasing UI with big, easy buttons that fade text in and out with ease, and images positioned both in buttons and in between text. It feels about as good as Harmonia, polish- and style-wise, which is very rare for a game.

The game structure feels very branchy, like a Time Cave in the Ashwell Classification System™. You also have an inventory of quirky items. The game branches so much that my two playthroughs were 5 and 11 scenes, respectively, out of 400+. By contrast, Choice of Games’ house style is to have each playthrough hit around 20-30% of the text (I think?).

A solid wall of black has descended across the world, changing the laws of nature. You select from a bunch of weird stuff like pulled teeth and money and set off on your quest.

Very interesting, and had a reeeeaaaallly long survey at the end (okay, maybe 30 questions over 3 pages), and seems to be slated towards commercial release. I would love to see this finished, but branching that hard makes it really hard to finish writing something like this. Animalia and 80 Days spring to mind as examples of finished games with this level of divergence, and both took a very long time to write according to their others. Still, I’d love to see it done one day.


Gallery Gal by Damon Wakes.

I like the previous game, Draw Nine, by this author, who I’ve recently discovered also does static fiction, and I had heard rumors of this game before it came out. The main idea is that, at any point in the story (besides the flashback), you can turn into an art gallery, ‘but only one time, and not back again.’

The author explores this in extreme detail in the scenes we have here. The truly deep implications of becoming an art gallery are far more consequential than I had ever expected.

I’d love to see this finished, but it honestly doesn’t have to be. As a piece of absurdist art, it already works well with the dead ends and the short playlength. What would a full-length version look like? I don’t really know, but the author has already shown imagination and effort in creating this much, so I’d love to play whatever the final thing is.

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Hide and Seek (don’t know author)

So this game seems like the author has some solid ideas and has started implementing, but isn’t quite sure how to make everything else work.

Things that are working well: there is a strong central narrative, interesting characters, and nice styling. The XYZZY Awards split up IF into things like story, writing, setting, NPCs, puzzles, implementation, etc. So far it’s doing well in the first four of those (and puzzles aren’t necessary).

But the implementation needs some work. One good thing that happens later on is that ‘asides’ (links that just go to a quick comment and back) are listed in-text, while actual actions that further the story are below the text with arrows pointing to them. I would recommend using that everywhere that a choice takes you to a new page, even at the beginning.

I would also recommend putting the ‘asides’ somewhere on the same page, either using link-replace or (since the author is seems good at styling) trying something like Harmonia or Abbess Otilia’s Life and Death where the comments pop up on the side.

The other area that needs work is branching. It looks like only one main branch is implemented, and the others just dead-end. It can be hard when writing a Twine game to know what kind of branching works well. Most successful choice games use a variant of the Branch and Bottleneck structure described in this excellent post, which means that your choices take you to a different story temporarily, but eventually they all flow together.

Not all games have to do that; Porpentine’s Myriad uses a Time Cave structure, and 500 Apocalypses uses a bizarre web-like structure, and both games are amazing. But if you don’t have a strong opinion about how to handle branching, branch and bottleneck seems useful.

I’m writing all this because I’d definitely like to see this finished. It includes a high school teacher who was recently divorced, which describes my current life, and maybe the sassy advice in the game would be good for me.

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Sunder, by 13hirteen a.k.a. Mighty Owlbear

I was interested to see this game after reading 13hirteen’s post about it mentioning voice acting, and after realizing that this was the same author as Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending from IFComp 2016.

I was very happy with the result. It brought me to tears at one point, and I believe that the author has managed to create something new and innovative here.

This is poetry, interactive poetry, which usually has a few problems. People scan the text to figure out what to click on next, and poetry doesn’t do well with quick scanning.

Sunder fixes this problem completely with a truly beautiful voice recording. I honestly couldn’t tell if it was an automated voice that is cutting-edge or an actual live person with excellent sound equipment and amazing diction. Either way, this game and its rhythm are truly pleasing to listen to and to read. It uses strong imagery and the poem itself is written in careful meter and with close attention to sound.

As poetry, I enjoy savoring smaller samples. The size of this game feels great already, although more advanced audio controls like the author mentioned in another post would be nice (things like replay or rewind), but on the other hand, maybe too many controls would clutter the page? The author would know best.

A longer work would also be interesting. Just because it feels complete now doesn’t mean it would feel too big later.

The story is of one person’s intense struggles, and while the specific struggle belongs only to the author, the feelings expressed concerning it are universal.

So, basically, I think it’s a good game and I like it.


Homeland by Jason Self

This is a parser game, and I’ve attached a transcript for it.

In this short game, you hear odd noises from your neighbor. Wandering over, you discover a bizarre machine.

This is just the opening scene, so it’s hard to know how it will play out in the long run (I imagine something like A Night at the Museum Forever but with journeys through space instead of time). This scene has some interesting puzzles dealing with the machine, but I felt like it needs to be tested more. The main action is hard to guess, and some parts aren’t fully explained (for instance, the machine teleports you automatically unless you have the poker. This makes sense if you know the solution to the puzzle, but if you don’t yet, which most players don’t, it seems nonsensical.).

I think this could be the beginning to a fun story as long as it is thoroughly tested and spell checked. I would absolutely play the main game.

homelandrunthrough.txt (920 Bytes)

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Imprisoned by Richard Otter

In this game, you play a young woman who has been kidnapped by a manipulative and dangerous man. You must try to escape while simultaneously not falling afoul of ‘the rules’.

This is a fairly unique premise and the mechanics work well in IF. Storywise, it relies heavily on traditional gender tropes like the Damsel in Distress.

The game does one thing that I didn’t quite like mechanically. Many choices that you make are overridden, a sort of “You think you do that, but actually you do ‘this’.” Similarly, conversation is strongly hinted at (just WAITing will have the kidnapper say things like “I thought you wanted to ask me something”).

I’m not sure what the next phase of the game will be like, but this opening has strong puzzles and a good play feel.

imprisonedrun.txt (22.5 KB)

The Devil’s Music by Harkness Munt.

This short parser game has really nailed the atmosphere. You seem to be some unclean being cast from hell wandering around looking for a soul that belongs to you. There are sigils and herons and it’s honestly amazing in that way.

Not much is implemented yet. I may not have solved everything that’s already implemented. There’s some impressive programming work involving two perspectives in the same room. If the writing keeps up, this will be a great game. I

devils.txt (21.2 KB)

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Memorosa by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

This game is a good use of the Introcomp competition format. It’s the first chapter of a game that will likely turn out to be very long and with a lot of resources used. The introcomp feedback could help inform the rest of this game.

The game feels novel-like, both in the sense that the prose is complex with an intricate narrative, and in the sense that there aren’t too many choices.

Story-wise, you are a memonaut, someone who visits memories, it seems. You use technology in a repurposed future version of the Musee D’Orsay, and the current leadership is doing things that you may not approve of.

Gameplay-wise, this is a custom twine game with very nice styling and graphics that has one ‘proceed’ link per page and, as far as I can tell, only flavor links otherwise, i.e. links that can’t change the story. If the links are in fact changing the story, I don’t see that being advertised well here. If the blue hyperlinks in the text do have an effect on the game, I’d suggest having a choice early on where it’s clear that your decision matters.

This is a story I’d definitely like to see, but I’m somewhat skeptical of the choice format when this could be made quite well as an illustrated non-interactive text. For me to want to see this complete as a game, I’d hope for more use of the interactive element. (Not necessarily branching, but at least delayed effects, where a choice you make at one point in the story has an effect much later on).

Overall, a very nice intro.

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Neurocracy by Joannes

This game reminds me in many ways of the SCP wiki, where horror stories are told through scientific documents.

Here, the story is told through a version of the Wikipedia home page with most blue links available as hover-over asides and a small, extra number of pages available to actually click on. This hover-over ability and the visual distinction in the two kind of links (one is a broken line, one solid) is excellent styling, and overall the code behind this is very well done.

Story-wise, this suffers from the same thing many SCP authors (including me) suffer from: the battle between verisimilitude and story.

In short, the story is extremely realistic, with some of the pages dedicated to discussing exactly how a prion infects its vectors and the economic impact of the whole event and so on.

It’s tempting to write huge chunks of this kind of stuff because a) it’s fun to research, and b) it feels like you’re making the work more realistic, and c) you as an author believe that more realistic work is more enjoyable.

But c) isn’t really true. As the best authors on SCP wiki discovered (not me), you should leave out must of the ‘real’ stuff and only keep things that directly advance the story or characterization.

In the IF world, Adam Cadre has said that every piece of text a player discovers should be a reward. There’s a lot of text here that’s not a reward.

I would prefer the text to take the same approach as the UI. The author did an amazing job of simplifying Wikipedia’s maze of pages into a tightly-controlled and well-signaled collection of links. It’s not realistic, but it’s better than realistic, a sort of condensed reality. If the story were likewise condensed, it would improve the narrative.

Overall, though, I read everything anyway because I liked the story.


Steamed Hams, But It’s a Twine Game by Damon Wakes

Okay, Damon has two games in this comp, and his other one is one of my favorites, so I don’t mind being open here.

What the heck? What is this? Is this literally just steamed hams as a twine game???

Sure, there’s some branching to other options, even one illustrated one, but it mostly seems like clips of the Simpsons episode hooked together. The legality here is questionable, and the whole premise is odd.

Which is why I find it delightfully kooky and fun. Of course it’s fun, because it’s a fun Simpson’s episode, but the idea is also fun. Should it be completed? I don’t think so. It’d probably get more attention and then get taken down. But it’s a joke game, and I like the joke.

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