Manon tries to finish the Comp (49/75)

20th review…

The Ship by Sotiris Niarchos

Entry
Forenote: I stopped playing during Chapter 4, without reaching the 2h mark.

The Ship is a hypertext puzzle game, following two interconnected stories of captains, each looking for a specific location. The game includes different kinds of puzzles, from visual ones to more fetch-quest like, and achievements. I completed 3 chapters out of 7.

I don’t know why I had a hard time getting into the game, it has all the stuff I like: pirates, some sci-fi elements, some puzzles, some fun characters with interesting or funny backstories… Mixing genres is usually so much fun, and drawing parallels between storylines is usually intriguing and has me on the edge of my seat. But something just didn’t click with this game.

I don’t think there was one reason for why it didn’t work (for me), but more of a combination of frictions with the story or the gameplay that resulted in not enjoying as much as I thought I would have. I could see where it was going with the tropes of the characters and the similar elements between the captains, so it felt a bit frustrating.
I ended up relating quite a bit with the first captain from the start of the game.

Though there were bits of humour, I found most of the prose a bit dull and dry (more so in the sci-fi section). The dialogues were more palatable, especially with the more cookie crew members (they had some funny bits, playing the tropes and such). The pace was a bit slow, and in conversations lore-dumpy with the long paragraphs.

Still, I pushed onward, discussed with the different fun characters on board, ran around the ship to get things rolling, tried to solve the puzzles and put stuff back into order… I followed what the game wanted from me, but it still didn’t grab me. After reaching the navigation puzzle*, I stopped.
*a neat puzzle, but too many to solve at once to continue the story.

Maybe the game needs like a specific mindset/humeur to be in before starting the game? I might come back to it later on… Because there were still some good bits in there…

4 Likes

Please Sign Here by Road

Entry

Please Sign Here is a fairly linear visual novel mystery. As a coffee barista, you have been brought in for interrogation after being involved in an accident that took the life of your friend and the police finding your signature linked to other incidents. The game goes through the events of the past week, ending with you potentially naming who you think did it. There are about a dozen endings.

Out of all the things I would expect to see in Twine, a visual novel wasn’t really one of them. Usually made in RenP’y or Godot, this one was made in Harlowe, a Twine format. Even if the scaling doesn’t always work, or the positioning is not always quite right, or the music bar being distracting, just for trying to do that, kuddos to you!
Just a little note on contrast, the text sometimes blended with the background, which was a bit hard to read. A darker text background or different positioning of the image would help a ton!

The story itself might be a bit generic (oh, no! you were accused wrongly!), and the prose awkward at times, but throughout, the game managed to keep up with the suspense. When it starts to mellow out a bit, here’s a creepy sprite, or the background changes with darker tones to reflect the state. It is also made clearer with the main character slowly losing her sanity, which is already exasperated by working too much.

Though most of the story is pretty linear, you have a few choice on how you interact with your surrounding and the people entering the coffee shop. Still, your agency stays fairly limited, as the majority of the game happens in a flashback. The main choice happens at the end of the game, with most endings being fairly similar to each other (not one felt quite satisfying).

A big big plus for this entry was the illustrations for the game, especially the backgrounds. Really added to the vibe of the game. I think I liked the car scene the most.

Also found a bug on the option page (also appears in the ending)

Screenshot

image

5 Likes

Thanks so much for the review!

I think I know what you mean by it not looking like a script? Like were you expecting something where the character name would be central and the line would be beneath, left aligned? That’s certainly something I’ve seen, but it’s something I’d definitely associate with screenplays, not scripts for use in theatre (although you had me so unsure I had to google image search to sanity check :stuck_out_tongue:) As for centring the scene and act name, that’s really a coin toss from script to script, from what I know.

But I’ll definitely look at changing my code for the accessibility options later! I’m really terrible at that visual design stuff…

4 Likes

Ah, I guess this is more of what people are used to then :thinking:
Because I recall reading plays only in this format (link to Molière) when I was still studying. Maybe it’s a publisher formatting thing, I guess?
Typing Theatre play script formatting seems to be giving guidelines separating character names, actions, and spoken words… but it might be more like academic essay formatting where every uni has their own type…

Still, having some sort of linebreak or text-style (italics or colour) to differentiate speech and action would make some bits easier to read/digest.

2 Likes

Hu, weird. Yeah, it does seem very inconsistent, from what I’ve seen. All I know is that I’ve spent a while being confused about who’s speaking while reading plays, so maybe copying that particular aspect wasn’t the best call for readability :stuck_out_tongue:

3 Likes

6 posts were split to a new topic: Formatting Plays

Virtue by Oliver Revolta

Entry

Virtue is a short-ish linear entry, where you follow Gloria, a newly middle-class woman on a self-righteous path to prove her standing in her new community. It is meant as a satire about the origin story of a conservative member of parliament in Britain.
It should be noted that while the blurb sort of spoils the gist of the game, the original content warnings are not clear enough on the actual content of the entry. Please note that there are mention of an assault of a child, as well as xenophobic comments in the game. It was genuinely upsetting to read through some parts, unwarned.

Honestly, I am incredibly conflicted about this entry, because it is clear what the author was trying to make fun of, but the results is undermined by issues (see last point). A shame the ending is spoiled in the blurb, it would have made the revelation stronger…

On the surface, the entry does a decent job at make a jab at those conservative pundits, how they got where they are now, how conservative talking points are sometimes hypocritical, or downright dangerous, or how comically easy people can fall into extremism. It touches on what you’d expect, and makes clear who you are supposed to like or not.

But when you dig deeper, the entry feels a bit shallow. While meant to be off-putting and shocking, the text barely dives into the tory-ism and more extreme talking points. I was expecting Gloria’s decent into her “moralistic” path to be more explicit in both her views and her spoken words, but she barely go further than what you’d see a light “Karen” do*. She is much too restraint to make the satire work in that regard (even with the British “politeness” coming into play).
*sorry for all the decent Karens out there…

Speaking of Gloria, it is obvious from the start she is not meant to be liked. She is a vapid busy-body woman who has nothing better to do than keep up with appearances. Like your usual stereotypical middle-class stay-at-home mother, she berates her husband to no end, disregard her daughter (which I felt she even envied), and, in some sort of Oedipal concept, puts her son on a small pedestal… that is when she actually pay attention to her family. She seems more interested in her little dog than anyone else. To further the point of how sad and empty this woman’s live actually is, the game shows a clear lack of hobbies and passion by the end of the game.

With Gloria putting so much importance in appearance and status, coupled with her lack of personal life, it is no wonder she’d end up where she did. And it works for the game! Who doesn’t like a comically evil (or maybe stupid) character.

Finally, a bit of the elephant in the room. [See point below]

Mention of assault moving forward

The whole tragic backstory of Gloria having been assaulted in her childhood, used later on as an angle for moral and sexual purity, was not just uncomfortable to read (especially the implication that it helped pushing her down that path), but downright unnecessary and unimaginative. There are enough content out there using the rape trope as a backstory, and coupled with the “self-indulgence” satire, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The whole ‘you’re dirty’ angle played almost for laugh is genuinely upsetting, as the need of wanting to be clean is an actual trauma response following an assault. The carelessness in this, especially when the content warnings are lacking in that regard, really sours the game.

And there were other directions the author could have taken to use the whole clean/dirty bit. Gloria came from council houses, aka poverty, aka was a dirty poor. But now, she lives in a middle class house. She is not dirty anymore, she is a proper not-poor person. She has worth. She turns her back on where she comes from because that’s shameful and dirty, and she is a proud and clean woman.

And that’s it. No need for the cheap assault trick. Instead of undermining the point of the satire, it pushes the hypocrisy angle of conservative points.

9 Likes

Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to review the game! It was definitely a challenge but I’m learning a lot on what to improve on for next time!

4 Likes

Dr Ludwig and the Devil by SV Linwood

Entry

Dr Ludwig and the Devil is a small parser game, where Dr Ludwig recounts a time where he made a deal with the Devil, and find a way to keep his soul. The parser is fairly beginner friendly, including an external walkthrough and in-game hints. I used the walkthrough to solve some puzzles.

If the blurb didn’t catch your eye, the introduction inside the game surely should. Mixing Drs. Faust and Frankenstein lore with a good dash of humour, Dr Ludwig and the Devil is a delightful small parser cracking laughs left and right. From the witty dialogue, to the descriptions of rooms, reading through the pages of a book or failing to act accordingly, the game just wants to make you cackle*. It is here for a good and fun time!
*also… why do you mean you can’t do magic in France >.<

There’s a lot to love about the game: the puzzles are reasonably simple, but you get plenty of help if needed (thank you for the hints!); the characters are all delightful in their own way, and have a whacky reason to be where they are; the overall shtick of the game is just fun to boot! It is entertaining and there is never a dull moment.

While I don’t have much experience in what’s to be expected or not in a parser in terms of puzzles, I found the whole mechanic with the devil pretty interesting (it was fun to order him around, hehehe). And if you mess up (which I did quite a bit), you don’t get punished for it - you just get a witty response before you’re sent on your way.

The characters are still the highlight of the game, from the mad scientist striving to attain godhood - oh but oops something keep going wrong and now I’m being chased out of my manor again - to the pitchfork mob acting like a HOA* with their contracts, every character in this game has a special flavour of wittiness and charm, with jokes to boot! Interacting with the NPCs, especially diving into plain regular conversations with them, adds a delightful layer to the game (they’re just like us, normal peeps with normal problems**).
*also… the head of the group is a illiterate legalese lover. xD

**honestly, I might side with the pitchforks after talking with them…

Fun time!

9 Likes

All the Troubles Come My Way by Sam Dunnachie

Entry

All the Troubles Come My Way is a very short game, where the goal is to find your hat in a strange place. While the game is fairly small (you are limited in ways you can get to an end), it uses a level check mechanic to let you/block you from using certain options. I found 3 endings.

ATCMW is very silly, and not apologetic about it. It knows it’s silly, and will leave you with wanting more silliness by the time it ends (which is quite abrupt, unfortunately). I mean, why not have a time-travelling cowboy go into the future and disassemble and reassemble an Ikea table? This is the kind of silly I look forward in the comps :stuck_out_tongue:

The stat-related interaction with the world around is delightful and quite funny, giving a nice flair to the overall vibe of the game. Though, it is a shame that levelling up those stats took longer than actually solving the main “issue”. I wish we could have has more outside interaction (still in the building or outside of it), and be able to use those stats more.
I should have expected the consequences of drinking yourself under the table, but it still took me by surprise.

Still a fun short time.

5 Likes

Hand Me Down by Brett Witty

Entry

Hand Me Down is a choice-based/parser mix game in three parts, with the middle one being the parser. You play as Ruby, who is visiting her father in the hospital (the Twine bits), during which she is prompted to play a project (the TADS bit) her father made. The parser bit includes an external walkthrough. While there are multiple ways to solve the parser, the story is linear, and with four ending.

I’m always interested in non-traditional IF, the projects that mix and match elements of different gameplays, and blur the lines of the parser/choice-based divide. I was especially intrigued with this entry how the parser bit was implemented into Twine, especially with code from another parser language (separate files, it turns out).

And the game introduces the inclusion of a parser bit inside the game, and why you play it, quite smartly. Out of all three acts, I felt like the opening of the game was the strongest, introducing the characters and their wants and fears, and the relations between them. It was very touching, and also heartbreaking, to see Ruby and her father interact with one another, as he wants to avoid any negative conversation with her and to focus on showing her his project, while she wants to know what’s going on with his health.

The weakest, to me, was the last bit. While the storylet mechanic was pretty well done (really worked with pushing your father to talk things out), there were some issues with that part not taking into account the actions of the previous acts or within that bit itself. For example, when calling the mother for advice, it did not take into account that I lied to her in the opening; or when she calls, disrupting the conversation, she doesn’t acknowledge you called her moments ago; or when discussing the game with your dad, you have options to pick invitations or outfits you might not have found in the game (that one felt a bit cheating).
Since it’s hard to implement different programs into one game, it made sense that the bits didn’t “talk” to each other. But it also made it noticeable when things were not fully coherent. I wonder if creating codes for actions in the previous act, to input in the last one could have helped track some choices?

I think I missed quite a bit from the parser bit itself. That part of the game seemed to be quite large (you have essentially 5 solutions for each box to tick), with apparently Easter eggs hidden throughout (notes of the father - I found one). Each item to get come with its personal puzzle, over 15 of them, each of varying length.
But if you don’t try to find every invitations, or costumes, or gift, or if you used the walkthrough to go through the parser, it’s fairly easy to miss the seemingly gargantuan work the father had done over the past 20 years. I shared Ruby’s sentiment of “uh… that’s it?” when I moved on to the last act, and felt bad for the father for having put so much work into something that seemed so small…
I would have loved a map to be included in the walkthrough, some of the directions were confusing…

This was a neat experiment, with a touching story. A real tearjerker.

9 Likes

My Brother; The Parasite by qrowscant

Entry

My Brother; The Parasite is a raw horror highly stylised kinetic piece, which you are a woman looking for closure after her brother’s passing. Given a second change to talk to him thanks to a parasitic procedure, this speculative piece of fiction explore family trauma and processing grief.

This game is intense. It is incredibly emotionally charged, not just from the gruesomeness of the brother’s death or the description of its corpse coming back to life, but through the hints of unprocessed past trauma (between both siblings, and their mother). The story told through minimal descriptions and bare dialogue punches your gut at every turn. What is supposed to be a tool to process grief and find closure becomes another knife plunged and twisted into the wound. It hurts, but you can’t take it out or you’d die. It hurts, but if you look away and don’t confront it, you’d never find peace.

You have a feel that something is not quite right from the beginning, but it is hard to say whether it is due to the character feeling grief or something bleaker is afoot. The visuals are graining, with most of their colours washed out; some are slightly animated, with tears falling down their face, or the slight breathing movement of the corpse, or the uninterruptable thoughts glitching in the background, or the slight changes in portraits between passages… every element on the page has a purpose - which is to keep your eye on the screen until it’s all over.

Something that struck me with this entry was how the tension built from the start. It kept building and building as you go through the game, leaving you little reprieve or a moment to catch your breath. If the game could send scent, it would try to overwhelm all your senses. And the tension starts small, with a little bit of uh, something feels weird… but becomes uncomfortable, with confronting the corpse of your loved one, confronting harsh truths… and quite bleak, with the realisations of your past, of your present, of your future… and honestly quite creepy if you think too long about about it… and then oh no, oh god, everything is going wrong, are we going to die?!?!?

Though I understand the stylistic choices made in this game, and was warned with the eyestrain in the blurb, I found the font size and low-contrast colours text (especially the greys) quite hard to read. It required a little bit of changing the size on my browser and zooming in to be able to read comfortably.
would be lovely if it was a tad more accessible.

There were also some instances were the timed text and images made me wonder whether I forgot to click on something or whether my internet wasn’t working right. I didn’t mind it when the game would use a “loading” passage to change the background, but was quite confusing with the drawer bit (I also couldn’t see the 4th object in that passage, clicked at random on the page…). Maybe a bit of a shorter length for the timed text…

Anyway, I think I’m clocking out today… I’m gonna drown myself in saccharine content to balance out.

9 Likes

Thanks so much for the review! I had scoped out a technical way to get the three parts to talk to each other, but this ended up being potentially too fiddly for users (it’s already a bit fiddly) and added a lot of complexity. It was definitely in my plans though.

Thanks again for your dedication to IF Comp reviewing!

3 Likes

I lied. I did one more at the end. And chose probably the worse one I could have for myself ;-;

Hawkstone by Handsome McStranger

Entry

Hawkstone is a retro-type parser adventure, using old-school RPG elements to drive the puzzles, and a Scott Adam-style of gameplay (not all locations are listed in the directions and puzzles can be obtuse). The game includes a walkthrough listing the required commands and order of actions*, and a built-in help system (pay in-game currency to get it).
*I messed up wanting to go my own way and skipped some steps

To say this was not the kind of game I am good at is an understatement. It combines a confusing worldmap (with weird locations) and difficult to almost impossible puzzles (hit the wrong butterfly and meet an early end). I did try to give it my best shot, but after finding myself stuck, I exclusively followed the walkthrough - save for not wanting to drop loot (but that’s me playing RPG).

So Hawkstone is essentially an RPG exploration game. You get items, break some stuff, give stuff to people, maybe sell some items maybe buy some, attack harmless butterfly, and go round and round you go around the map. Do some actions and maybe level up and your skills, or get a random dice roll for extra stats. If you finish enough puzzles, you get to the end (I didn’t).

There’s not much direction given to you (aside from the start text telling you in case of stuck, look at stuff) and you have to rely on guess work (or just be like me and follow the walkthrough) and thinking of silly ways to solve things. The combat system is pretty fun (though it would be nice if there had been more opportunities to use it), and the game as a swanky stat/inventory system. There is quite a bit of humour in the text, especially in the reaction of actions, and if you manage to run the game without any glitches, it’s pretty cool looking too!

But darn, you need to be a level 9999 experienced parser to do this adventure on your own… even a sword is not enough.

If someone manages to actually complete the game without the walkthrough, they need to be given a prize or something…
It makes me feel a bit better than @mathbrush had to use the walkthrough too :stuck_out_tongue:

9 Likes

I’d have liked to give it a go but couldn’t get it fired up on my Mac…

Thank you for playing my game :slight_smile:

I don’t want to make excuses. You should judge it on the experience you had. There was going to be a lot more characters giving clue-giving dialogue and a more useful help system.

The intention was to have three games in one, choose which path, but have to dabble a little in each to complete the game.

I just ran out of time to implement all the things I intended.

The innocent butterfly, however, was purposefully overpowered, leading players to discover a part of the game they’d normally think they were supposed to avoid. And what could be funnier than fragile underdog butterfly kicking a bully’s ass.

I agree the puzzle to escape that situation was a bit lame and it will be better when I’m completely done with it.

There was a lot of unlisted features to discover, too. I’m wondering if I should have mentioned the world map.

Did you mean you found / used it and it wasn’t helpful?

Anyhow, I thank you for the review and will keep you in mind as I continue to improve it.

3 Likes

I think we all run into that issue :joy: I know I did last year. But it does make sense to know what was planned and looking back on what there is (which was quite a bit of running in circles).

And it worked quite nicely, imo. It does play on the tropes of RPG, with those enemies you reaaaallly shouldn’t try to fight when you start out (or like, the chicken in Zelda). It brought an interesting puzzle with the Limbo (it was just too hard to get out without the walkthrough).

You probably should :wink: I had no idea there was one (did you need to put all the map fragments together? I don’t think I found them all anyway).

Good luck with the improvements!

3 Likes

Finished yesterday with a funky parser, starting today with an even funkier!

Artful Deceit, by James O’Reilly and Dian Mills O’Reilly

Entry

Artful Deceit is an old school parser, made for the Commodore 64 machine (or a C64 emulator), where you are a detective hired to solve a murder, one the victim had been expecting. As the game has specific commands, reading the manual is highly recommended before starting the game.
I managed to find some clues on my own, before using the walkthrough (thank you for including it! and the maps too!). The game crashed* about 2/3rd through the game.
*not sure if it was because of the emulator or the game itself.

I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to parsers, and my frame of reference on what is or should be in an old-school parser rest essentially on what other people say about certain games. There are old-school and old-school parsers… like the ones who will only run on 8-bit machines that haven’t been around since the 90s. This was the first time I dared to try out a game like this.

Even with an emulator, this was honestly an experience just loading the game and faffing about. There’s something quite charming about those retro-style games (even the cluckiness of it or the loading of the command added to it), a style you can emulate visually with the likes of Adventuron nowadays. But it feels different with games like this one - sort of keeping some traditional alive in a way.

Aside from the novelty of it all, which was quite a lot for me, the game itself is a corny who-dunnit murder mystery, with a bit of a cliché revelation (but in a good way, it fits the vibe). There are some neat puzzles with hinting items close by, the ANALYZE mechanic was fun (I did send the other detective on wild goose-chases…), and I was glad to find I didn’t need to read some of the clues on the tiny screen. But it wasn’t too long or too large, it was just enough to solve the mystery, and seemed large enough to not feel unsatisfied.

But old-parsers also means frustrating commands, especially when trying to interact with some elements (you need to type out the adjectives, all of them) or conversing with the suspects (I barely managed to get a response from them). It’s not always quite clear when an item can be open or not (like that painting) or why you have to take some objects to read them (but that might be an old-parser thing).
But the thing that frustrated me the most was the maze-like environment, especially in the manor. There are so many empty rooms where there is nothing to do… It was a bit disorienting at times. Even if the map helped a bit, I still think there were too many rooms…

I’m not against trying other games like this one in the future (hopefully they don’t crash on me…). This was fun and new!

7 Likes

I’ve honestly had a pretty shitty week, so I didn’t play anything until now. I’m gonna play the games that feel warm for a bit…

Bali B&B by Felicity Banks

Entry

Bali B&B is a slice-of-life management game, where you are tasked to run your grandparents’ B&B in Bali for a week. Between taking care of the guests and the house, the trials and tribulations will make you realise whether this is the life you want to live. How will you do on this test?

Slice of life games, especially the cosy ones, work like a balm on a heavy heart or mind. They make you forget about the harshness of the world and transport you into a world where you may have some things to overcome, but there is no real danger, no impending doom - worst that can happen is a disappointed NPC. BBB does just that.

Wrapped in a blanket of spice and sweets, the game makes you feel right at home, complete with the overbearing family, anxiousness of one’s life’s dreams, and the plethora of good food. The prose is quite lovely, short but saying everything and more - the secondhand embarrassment of my failures were palpable…

There is a lot to enjoy in this entry, from the delightful and diverse cast of characters, the different approaches to run the B&B (I’m happy to report I was terrible at it…), or dealing with unforeseen issues. But also: the food, the descriptions of the environment, the food, the cats… It was a good time, but also a bit too short of a time.

9 Likes

Who Iced Mayor McFreeze? by Damon L. Wakes

Entry

Who Iced Mayor McFreeze? is the second instalment of the Gumshoe series (or is this a prequel?), which I remember quite fondly, a noir-esque story where everything is candy. In this game, you must solve the disappearance of Mayor McFreeze, and piece out the mystery. I used the hints for the last puzzle.

Having played Who Shot Gum E. Bear? last year, I was excited to play another instalment of the series, putting my feet in Gumshoe’s shoes (which I don’t think she has?). WSGEB was full of saccharine fun and pulp-y detective tropes, which I looked forward to find in this new entry. In that regard, WIMMF didn’t disappoint.

From the dame barging almost suspiciously into your office, to the dreary caramely rain, the goons locking you in a dangerous place and dang the body of the missing person right in front of you… the game happily takes on those tropes again, humorously throwing it back into that world full of anthropomorphic candies.
Also… the smell and taste commands are still hilarious!!

Compared to last year (sorry, hard not to compare), the main investigation is less obvious. The main clue is not shoved in your eyes at every turn in the first room (though the game introduction should hint enough at an ending), and you cannot circumvent the game’s puzzle to reach the end. You actually have to go around and investigate - so you don’t feel cheated when you reach the ending.

Though, while last year was throwing hints at every turn, this entry was much more reserved with it. The descriptions of the environment, items or people are more bare (which is a bit of a shame imo). It was not always clear what should or could be done (lots of trial and errors, the hint/waklthrough were nice).

I was a tad disappointed with the ending. While it felt a bit expected, I would have loved to be able to ask questions or accuse (or call back up) during that part. The conversations bits in WDGEB were very fun, and I think it could have made the final act a bit stronger with it.

Still laughed my butt off :stuck_out_tongue:

5 Likes