Kit reviews IFcomp 2022

Lucid by Caliban’s Revenge

My first feeling in this game was confusion- I’ve gotten off a train, but must climb stairs to reach the train station. Where am I? A lower section of the station, of course. Then the top of the stairs should be the next floor of the station. In this example, the answer became obvious upon rereading. Other times, it feels like continuity is strained.

The writing gets better as the game goes on.
In the same passage, there is terrific metaphor: “The windows in its rear carriage are lightless, but the wet rails blow you an electric kiss as it departs.”

And redundancy: “The lights go out in the station.
They start at the far end of the platform…
Then the lights around you go out.”

Could have used lots of copyediting. “You could could” “cylcops”

“A rack is mounted on the wall filled with pamphlets the colour of medicine.”

Terrific. Then the same trick again, one passage later:

“You open a pamphlet that has the title ‘What to do in case’ in lettering the colour of trains.”

A wonderful passage when the protagonist buys a bottle of wine. Another entering a park, a “parliament of towers.” Pathologic vibe.

I reached a point where I could no longer advance- spent ten minutes going to every location, (re)interacting with characters in every possible way, died 20 or so times, and gave up. There may have been a correct sequence of actions that would lead to another section of the game; I couldn’t find it. (I checked the walkthrough and saw it suggested going to the school with the gun. I had tried this, but I did many other things first, and it’s possible one of them messed up the variables badly enough that it was no longer possible to advance.)

The writing is great and needs a little editing. The game design needs more than a little. I enjoyed the poetry of Lucid, but found returning to the same places over and over looking for a solution to be aggravating.


According to Cain by Jim Nelson

A stunning setting. A bloody and strange (and cohesive) mood hangs over every description. A crow flying above it all. The length and difficulty intimidated me, but I enjoyed my journey through According to Cain’s world immensely.

Only after an hour did I realize it would be useful to keep notes on the materials I needed and the objects I had to return to. The game’s puzzles were a bit overwhelming to me, but it will be a joy to parser veterans.

What struck me about the game was Nelson’s attention to detail and care with language. Often, descriptions of individual, seemingly insignificant objects were as instructive and imbued with emotion as those of large areas that were returned to many times, and rightly so - Nelson keeps these frequently used passages to the point so that they won’t clutter the screen with needless text each time the player returns.

The writing is rich and varied but not overly flowery. A perfect balance is struck between the ornateness needed to sell the premise and the efficiency needed to prevent fatigue in the reader.

The memories contained within objects were my favorite part of the game. Revelations were exciting not only because they advanced the plot, but because they were fascinating in themselves. These might not hit the same for those of you that weren’t raised Christian; I found the story of the game (and the combination of Biblical lore + alchemical science) absorbing, even as it presented a significant learning curve.

I played this game for over two hours (519 turns), stopping when I became sure I had broken it: I placed the cinnabar on the spoon and melted it with vulk to attempt to extract the mercury, but both the spoon and the cinnabar vanished, and I was unable to replace them*. Regardless of my mistakes, According to Cain is a triumph, an arcane and beautiful story centering an early human crime. I will save my notes and return to it.

*edit: this bug has been fixed.


Thank you for this wonderful review! I appreciate you taking the time to play my game.


It’s a testament to the game’s design and stellar writing that someone like me (who is generally not fond of parser games, & puzzles in particular) enjoyed it so much.


Atheist to the bone, and I found the Biblical background no less enthralling.

I’m a bit of a parser veteran, and I loved the puzzle-plot intertwinement. It’s great to see that you as a parser novice found pretty much the same enjoyment in playing Cain as I did. It means it’s good on all different levels.

(I tested this game) (and I did not try VULK on the spoon or cinnabar. Shame on me for not testing it. @jnelson, what’s your excuse? Bad testers))


You may want to spoiler specific details, I think @jnelson would like to keep this stuff under wraps.

I’m happy (but not surprised) to hear it has such universal appeal! To be clear, I’m not the least bit religious either, I just spent many Sundays as a child digesting details that would come in handy while exploring Nelson’s story.


Nudge taken. I was careless in my enthusiasm. Now fixed.

I loved how much human drama and emotion was poured into the lives of the first family.


Entirely my fault! Fix forthcoming.

Less secretive: The bug mentioned in Kit’s review has been corrected and a fixed version uploaded to the comp site.


Under the Bridge by Samantha Khan

Environmental & stylish Twine yarn that can be played and replayed quickly. Typo on cover page worried me a little but this is a game a lot of care went into.

Love the illustrations and audio. The Twine text effects made sections difficult to read at times, particularly when they were blurred. I achieved four endings. It’s a simple game lacking some polish, but thoughtfully constructed and engrossing. Worth the time to play.


Thankyou Kit, I really appreciate the review :slight_smile:

Especially as you seem to have given the game a real chance after getting stuck. I’m sorry the walkthrough didn’t help- I can’t imagine that was a bug though, it’s possible you missed the additional link that appears when you have the gun? The text is otherwise identical so easily missed.

This was my first attempt at making an IF since I was 12, so I’m very relieved you got any enjoyment out of it at all. Your comments about the writing are very kind. Thanks again :slight_smile:


I certainly might have missed something, apologies for assuming it was a bug. I enjoyed the story immensely, and I eagerly await your next game. Many authors drop drafts in the forum here for advice and editing from others, that might be useful to you (I know it has been for me!).


Thankyou yeah that’s something to think about for the future :slight_smile:

One Final Pitbull Song (at the End of the World) by Paige Morgan

Incongruous yet oddly pleasing, like Pitbull playing a show at the Kodiak, AK Walmart. Irreverent as a “dale" at a funeral. Far-future science fiction imbued with post-Y2K nostalgia. A game with fewer choices-per-word than any IF I’ve played.

Excessive party fouls. Stream-of-consciousness type writing feels sort of artless in parts. Often quite funny. Often unsure whether supposed to be funny, which is something that happens to me a lot. Odd combination of slapdash & brilliant worldbuilding - some aspects are introduced as if by voiceover, and others seamlessly woven into the plot. Some feel Y2K-era cheezburger random, which is appropriate, and others are high-concept and elevated. The action didn’t really hit for me. Felt choppy. Characters allow themselves analytical or facetious reactions to ongoing life-threatening situations, which I think is a feature of the action comedy genre but also a theme intended by the author. Parts felt inspired and long sections were basically unbearable, often because of the discrepancy between my emotions and the emotions of the characters.

Personal taste will play the biggest role in whether you enjoy this game. For me, it vacillated between hilarity, violence, fascinating far-future speculation, and tedium. I’m impressed by the scope, the effort, and the ideas behind it, but sitting down and playing it through once has exhausted me. My objective feedback is that it should have been about half the length, but that it is a rollicking adventure that will appeal hugely to certain people. Golden banana contender for sure. Nicely done, Paige.


Thanks for the review — genuinely appreciate it! I’m glad I could waste your time, because we never get it back.

Here’s a shorter version of that comment if you prefer:



The Lottery Ticket by Dorian Passer & Anton Chekhov

A meta-adaption of Chekhov’s short story dealing with the cruelty of inventions that dissatisfy people with their lives (or the foolhardiness of those who are so easily dissatisfied). I’ve never been so interested in what a game looks like under the hood. Interaction is minimal but I felt present in the character’s thoughts, as promised, which could indicate a sophisticated system or a stroke of luck. I’m inclined to believe the former, but could probably brute force some sort of answer if I were inclined to spoil the magic (I’m not).

Passer’s got a style that contrasts nicely with Chekhov’s darkly humorous & pessimistic narration. Some of the older story’s themes (like cooking) resurface, but I do think the contrast is more of the point. I tend to prefer longer games, and this one is short, but in its 15-minute or so runtime it told its story clearly and successfully recontextualized Chekhov, no mean feat.


A Chinese Room by Milo van Mesdag
Note: While stricken with a nasty flu, I played this game for a total of about four hours & then immediately reviewed it. If I say anything foolish here, imagine it’s the virus speaking.

Spoilers here are for early in the game, but I’ve nevertheless blurred them for folks who want to play the game with totally fresh eyes.

A Chinese Room feels old, but covers contemporary events in politics, law, and moral philosophy. I think the vintage flavor is a result of European spellings & grammar conventions, default Twine visuals, and the writing style, which is very precise. This style meshes well with the internalities of the two protagonists, who are each being forced (or asked emphatically) to perform certain tasks. In my playthrough, neither showed much emotion, although there were options to do so. These choices didn’t feel as ‘in character’ to me, so I avoided them.

What we have here is a sort of political morality tale, dry and long but very rarely boring (I played both sections as a single player & found Caroline’s story especially engrossing). In fact, I found the dryness refreshing after spending the last few days reading a weird experimental novel. A Chinese Room is stylistically and mechanically as simple as can be, but its choices are logically demanding; a trait I associate more with parser games than Twine.

Caroline and Leon are two perspectives on the aftermath of a conflict: Caroline is the wife of a hopeful politician, and Leon is an interrogator at a government black site. As Caroline, you interact with your preoccupied husband and two children, and eventually you take a job “guiding” a European economist who has been sent by the IMF to understand and negotiate with the country’s new government. As Leon, you interview political prisoners and decide their fate, although what you think best may not always happen.

To me, Caroline felt fully realized in a way Leon was not. The ambiguity of Caroline’s decisions made her story something I could fully invest myself in, while it seemed clear what the “right” option was for Leon the majority of the time.

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but the conflict seems to be a thinly-veiled depiction of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Chinese Room occurs as the dust settles on a nation that has been absorbed into another.

van Mesdag describes the game as a “non-supernatural, non-technological horror” that is “based on the types of power structures, societal positions and psychological states that exist within the real world.” It felt closer to the drama or thriller genres than horror to me, but both descriptors are deeply inadequate and feel almost offensive given the gravity of the topics discussed. The game is horrifying but not scary, and van Mesdag doesn’t actually seem interested in terrifying his players - rather forcing them to confront legal and moral questions (secondarily; these don’t seem particularly debatable to me) and political questions (primarily; these do, and both protagonists are conflicted: a quality that makes it easier for the player to move in whatever direction they choose).

The game is polished, engaging, and thoughtful. It’s impossible for a two-hour text-based game to conjure wartime politics, sociology, morality, and ideology in full complexity, but A Chinese Room skillfully states its case and leaves a meaningful impact.

As much as One Last Pitbull Song (at the End of the World), A Chinese Room will be to the taste of some and not others. van Mesdag’s game will delight players with an interest in this unique intersection of politics & morality and repel those who enjoy only more impressionistic & poetic stories. However, based on its current number of reviews, it’s safe to say a fair number of people who have avoided A Chinese Room so far because of its length and subject matter will find that it’s a deceptively captivating tale. Enough so to keep a drowsy flu-inflicted ADHD-sufferer from wandering away for several hours.

edit: I neglected to mention the two-player option, which I didn’t try but I suppose based on my knowledge of the 1-player version would greatly enhance the game from all angles (except mechanics; it will be difficult to arrange). If you do get the chance, I think this is likely how the game is meant to be played.


Thanks so much for the review Kit! As beautifully balanced and thought through as I knew any review from you would be. Also the (lowercase) van (uppercase) Mesdag made me stupidly happy.

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The Archivist and the Revolution by Autumn Chen

“The past does not exist. Only the present is real.”
But the past is painfully present, here. Today’s conditions are the result of the revolution. Those living around you, and those no longer living, are the result of the revolution. What you wear and eat, how you walk and speak, the job you work and the apartment in which you live. Everything is long after stasis, after the end of stasis into some new hell.

A gut punch of a game, and a strange experience for me in particular because many of its concerns are my own current obsessions. For that reason, I’m not going to go into huge depth here. Suffice to say The Archivist and the Revolution is brilliant, desperately sad, mechanically detailed and set in a stunningly realized world that comes to life in suicidally unpleasant ways. A portrait of a trapped person on melting canvas.


I’m closing off here - these will be my only public reviews. Deepest thanks to the authors of this year’s comp for their hard work, and to the other judges (whose thoughtful reviews have helped and inspired me).

I do want to highlight Esther’s by Brad and Alleson Buchanan, which I intended to play a second time alongside a relative in the target audience but was never able to arrange. I played it near the beginning of the comp and found it to be basically perfect for what it is; an adorable and polished game that provides a great entry for children into the interactive fiction world.


Thanks Kit!

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