Kara's IFComp 2021 reviews

I have never judged in the IFComp before, so I’m probably going to get things hopelessly wrong.
I thought I’d write brief reviews of the games I play
So I’m going to start with:

Grandma Bethlinda's Remarkable Egg

I had high hopes for this one, since I loved figuring out what all the gadgets and gizmos did in Grandma Bethlinda’s Variety Box. But interacting with the egg just felt like I was yelling commands at Alexa/Siri with the game suggesting words I might like to try, hoping something would happen.
I figured out early on that I would be just doing random things and waiting until the “lockpick” command would become available, and somehow the egg would do something to pick the lock, and that’s exactly what happened.
I tried figuring out some of the extra content, but then I really did just feel like I was just typing random words, hoping for the best.

On the bright side, I didn’t encounter many bugs. There was probably one with the internal steam cleaning thingy, where I managed to get it to 100% but nothing happened. But that could’ve been just me.
Everything else worked as it should as far as I can tell.

Maybe the next whatsit from the wonderful Grandma Bethlinda will be more my thing.

Good luck to all the participants.


I was confused by that at first too. It turns out you need to have 100% steam at the turn when you get the message about too much/little steam. Getting 100% too early doesn’t help.


Ah, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever play it again.

1 Like

I am about 90% and nothing happens anymore…

1 Like
4x4 Archipelago

Another great game from Agnieszka Trzaska. Similar to 4x4 Galaxy. You’re in charge of a ship, and you set sail round the titular archipelago, exploring the islands, trying to complete the randomly generated quest the game assigns you at the start.
I’m far from completing my quest, but I’ve enjoyed seeing what each island has to offer, trying to get rich as well as increasing my skills.
It reminds me a lot of bbs games or even how some MUDs work. Before I played any of Agnieszka’s games, I had no idea that Twine could be this powerful.
This game should do well, I think.

I’m really bad at writing reviews. :slight_smile:

AardVarK Versus the Hype

This was fun.
I loved the premise. Teens going against the mainstream to survive from a deadly new soft drink. I could imagine this being a movie and kept expecting Bill and Ted to turn up somewhere.
It seems like there’s a bit of replay value as I’m guessing picking different options gets you different missions to complete.
I just wish the
ending wasn’t so weak. Did they win in the end? Going off the epilogue, probably not.
Also, turns out you didn’t need the items you collected.

With that said, I still enjoyed it and it should do well. Maybe flesh out the ending a bit more in a future version.

Fine Felines

A game where you get to breed cute kitties, which was my main reason for playing.
There’s more to it than cats, though. The player character is also adjusting to having fibromyalgia, and you have to find the right Ballance so you’re not overdoing things.
I feel I should be writing something more substantial than ‘yay cute kitties’, but when I played this that was the main thing my brain decided to focus on. As I’m blind I couldn’t see the pics, but going off the text descriptions, ragdolls seem utterly adorable.
I fully intend to play this again. Hopefully then I will concentrate more on the other aspects of the story.


You mention you are blind. Have you read Aaron A. Reed’s article about Shadows of Doom? It’s part of his magnificent “50 years of text games” series. 2005: Shades of Doom - by Aaron A. Reed - 50 Years of Text Games (substack.com)

The article tells the story of David Greenwood, a blind game-developer who goes very far in pushing the envelope of what games for blind people can be. It’s especially about Shades of Doom, a first person shooter that uses only sound and voiceover to describe the environment (and the monsters) to the player.

Should you ever, like David Greenwood, decide that you want something different out of a gaming experience than interactive fiction has to offer, the links in the article may be interesting.


Yes, I read that article. It was a brilliant take on it as they all have been. I’ve enjoyed every one Aaron’s put out so far.

I was a member of the Audyssey community during the early days of Shades of Doom’s development. I tested early builds and gave feedback. I remember the alpha version, which was just a tiny area with a couple of monsters just as a proof of concept.

It really was a game changer, literally. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that it was the audiogames equivalent of Adventure in how much impact it has. They were audio games before but nothing like Shades.
I’ve played quite a lot of the games that came after it, such as Super Liam, which was the first audio only side scroller, and I’m probably going to give the veil: Shadow of the Crown a go in a while.

All that said, I always end up returning back to interactive fiction. I’ve never really had fast reactions. Most of them tend to be realtime and I end up getting frustrated when I keep dying over and over again. IF doesn’t usually depend on how fast you can mash buttons, which is more my style. :slight_smile:


Wow! It must have been great to be part of such an exciting leap forward.

I’ve mashed my share of buttons in my childhood, but it’s only when I discovered IF that I felt at home with a computer game. The slow pace has a great deal to do with that, as well as the whole part where you actually, you know, read the game/story.


Yes. It’s great to sit back and take it all in, even the bits where you’d be frantically button mashing trying to escape or whatever.

My Gender Is a Fish

I would be lying if I said the title didn’t put me off at first. As a trans woman I’ve seen too many nasty tweets etc on the lines of ‘I identify as an Apache Attack Helicopter’. Saying that, I no nothing about the author. Maybe they have also seen quite enough of those horrible posts too, and I’m, sure if it was malicious I bet it wouldn’t be allowed in the comp anyway. So I played it after reading a couple of reviews.
To me, it’s about exploring who you are, letting go of those boxes we like to shove folk in and finding yourself, whoever that might be, in a beautiful, whimsical way.
It was like playing those playground games where you pick a colour, a number and your favourite animal and that says you’re x y or z.

And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One

I loved the concept. You start off playing text adventures on a computer, then discover that all the characters are self-aware, like Wreck It Ralph or Free Guy. They all know each other and can slip between programs. If you complete quests for them they will help you keep in contact with your friend who’s moving away.
To me, the strangest thing is that you can take items out of the games into the player character’s real world, and vice versa. You can give the sweatshirt you were wearing to someone you meet in one of the games. And it’s not commented on, like this is a regular thing that happens all the time. The player character seems to be able to physically enter the games on the computer as well somehow. I’m probably not making much sense now. You’ll just have to play it to see what I’m trying to say, or someone could explain it better than I can.
It’s weird and metta, probably not the most original story, but I liked it anyway.
I think I spotted typos in parts where there shouldn’t be any as well, but can’t remember where.

brave bear

, You play as a sentient teddy bear, and you start off on your owner’s bed. This took me right back to David Dyte’s ‘A Bear’s Night Out’, one of the first IF games I played over 20 years ago. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I bumped into a couple of friendly moose.
But that’s where the similarities end. The owner’s moving, there’s hardly anything in the room and there’s a phantom blocking the door. Oh there’s a friendly elephant nightlight on the wall.
I suppose you could call it ‘A Bear’s Fright Out’ but you’re a brave bear and nothing will terrify you.

I found this game frustrating at first as getting past the phantom meant playing guess the verb. I gave in after a few rounds of that and looked at the walkthrough. I wouldn’t have thought of using the correct verb as violence isn’t usually the answer.
With that out of the way, you’re free to explore some of the rest of the house to find more friends who will help you gain more confidence to defeat the rest of the obstacles in your way.

The other puzzles seemed easier.

Over all, I’m not sure what to make of it. It seems to be about confronting your fears but the ending suggested otherwise. I just felt a bit confused.

I was surprised to see it was written in Inform 6. You don’t see many of those these days.


Actually there’s been an upswing in Inform 6 activity recently. One reason is the advent of a library called Punyinform that helps people use Inform 6 to easily write for a ton of 8-bit platforms as well as the Z-Machine. The other reason is, uh, I forget! I think there was some useful technical update or overhaul.



Ah yeah I remember seeing stuff about Punyinform now you mention it.

I submitted some of my votes last week, so I thought I’d do another review.

Dr Horror's House of Terror

I’m not a horror fan, but I played this one anyway since it was listed as ‘comic horror’, and I’m glad I did. It was funny, but also had some important things to say about the film industry.
yes there are some quite gruesome moments, mostly involving the various ways you dispatch the guards. The one with the cremation oven I thought was the worst. Wasn’t that a Friends episode? Anyway, couldn’t I have just had a drink with her and explain things?
The puzzles were a mixed bag for me. Some I figured out on my own but others I needed hints for, and it took me a bit to realise that I would need things from other studios to solve the one I was currently working on.
As far as I could tell, I didn’t encounter any bugs, and only one typo. In studio 4, when you’re hiding from the guard it says ‘Fortunately, it looks like her mind is only half on his job’.
I didn’t win the final battle, but I plan to try again if there’s a post comp release. I hope there is as it was brilliant.


Now voting has closed, I just want to say good luck to everyone that entered, and I hope you found my reviews such as they are helpful in some way.