Manon tries to finish the Comp (49/75)

Xanthippe’s Last Night with Socrates by Victor Gijsbers

Foreword: my knowledge of Socrates does not go further than the basic philosophical teachings from high-school.

Xanthippe’s Last Night with Socrates is the imagined final night between Xanthippe, Socrates’s second wife, and the philosopher - the night before his execution. Though your goal is to sleep with the man, your conversation may take a different turn… or ten.

As we know little about Socrates (and what we do is only through posthumous accounts), and even less so about Xanthippe (who is often represented in a negative light), one has quite a bit of leeway when interpreting those figures into a piece of fiction*. What comes out of this entry is a very nuanced and multi-faceted characters with fears and hopes, convictions and grudges, and a deep sense of love for the other.
*did they really spend that last night together?

The writing of the game is delightful, with a modern tone that one might not expect with the setting. Take aside, the piece seems to be walking the tightrope of implausibility, especially during discussions of consent and marital commitment, or the role-play between the two lovers turning into a philosophy lesson with the roles reversed. For most of the game, the modern tone is not quite noticeable, but overly crude tone at times breaks the illusion.

What worked for me the most was the real and vulnerable moments between husband and wife: the want to spend those last moments together, the hurtful words and maybe petty way to get an apology, the truthful confession of one’s feelings and hidden acts… The way the game turned a known and revered historical figure as just a man - with strong principles, so strong he’d choose death, but just a man still - and an unknown variable as more than a passing disregarded line into a fleshed out person.

The start made me hungry, which turned into pain and wish for Xanthippe to take some sort of revenge, to a soothing and warming discussion about love and respect… I could have taken or left the more spicy elements*.
*actually I would have welcomed an extra option at the end where you maybe just… cuddle?

I don’t know how I’m going to rate it just yet… :thinking:

Also, this was the last of the 30min entries :partying_face:


Thanks a lot for reviewing Dysfluent, I appreciate your detailed breakdown of the story and mechanics!

You bring up several interesting points (some of which I’ve definitely been thinking about and am looking forward to exploring in the postmortem), and I’m really happy to hear that some of the game’s elements were enjoyable or impactful.

I also loved reading your thoughts on the MC’s motivations and emotions, they’re very insightful! It’s cool to see how someone with a different perspective interprets these things (and in many cases you definitely “got” what I was going for).

I’d actually considered putting in a check to prevent the best/worst foods being the same but I figured it probably wasn’t necessary – it’s funny to hear it ended up happening to you!

I’ll keep your lovely feedback in mind when improving the post-comp version :blush: merci encore!


This is my boiler-plate thank you, which I need to explain because today I received two reviews (oh, how wonderful!) and this is too similar to my last comment…

Thank you so much for spending time and effort reviewing my game. I am choosing not to make any specific comments about reviews until after the comp, but I assure you that I am grateful for any and all comments, which are so useful in improving my game and future games.




CODENAME OBSCURA is a relatively simple parser with a retro-vibe, reminiscing of 80s spy movies (à-la James Bond), where you must rescue your partner in a small village in Italy, finish his mission… and save the world! The game includes in-game hints and an external walkthrough. I used the walkthrough a handful of times to solve some puzzles.

From the premise, the game screams trope spy movie, almost to a silly degree*. You must catch the big baddy that took down your partner, or at least foil his plan to maybe save the world(?). Getting to him is not an easy feat! You must clear(-ish) your name of a murder you didn’t commit, run around town buying/trading/gamble things for something else, pick up anything you can on your way, not get scared of the crows**, maybe pet a cat (or not), spy-ily find a way into the baddy’s villa to find some secrets, and “break” some things to stop him. Oh, and there’s the fighting sequence!
*a boomerang?!?!?

**are they following you???

The visuals of the game feel very retro, with 8-bit pixelated illustrations* and little colour**. The illustrations have different sizes or placement, adding a bit of depth into the mapping of the game. It was pretty neat and added to the funky vibe.
*there was the hangar one that didn’t change even after the plane was gone :: /
**a bit of contrast with the different text elements would have been neat.

Most of the game is relatively smooth, though I did find some friction with certain commands: insert instead of use, or having to use adjectives instead of the noun*, or not having synonyms for certain verbs (pet/pat/stroke; climb/climb over; turn/move…). There were moments where the game reloaded the page, removing important information a bit too quickly (for passwords), while it wouldn’t automatically for actions like opening/unlocking a door or digging. It would also have been nice to have the translation of Italian phrases in-game/passage (please keep them, they added a lot of charm), to avoid missing information (Adventuron doesn’t allow copy-paste…).
This is not the game’s fault but just me being an idiot, but I keep examining items before picking it up… and there were a lot in this game xD

The puzzles were a-plenty and quite diverse, but I still struggled a tiny bit with some, especially the box in the bedroom, the safe password, and the computer one. The rest involved quite a bit of running around*… I think I liked best the changing your costume ones the most (reminded me a bit of Agent 47).
*this was a bit annoying, but by the time you enter the villa, no more frustration


Hi Manon (@manonamora),

Thank you very much for playing Codename Obscura!

I’m glad you think the retro vibe was somewhat ok. That vibe was exactly what I was aiming for with this game, to echo the style of the early games of the 80s.

For the next bug fix version, I’ll take a look at those commands to make it a bit smoother. Thank you for the feedback!

The Italian language is there for the atmosphere, there is no real requirement to understand any of those phrases for completing the game. But I understand your point, the translations could have been somehow included in the dialogs and texts whenever needed, to make it more accessible for the player… Anyway, there actually already is a complete translation of all those Italian phrases, but it is in the walkthrough, in case someone is interested in those details :wink:

Oh my, this is a naaaasty bug that I have somehow managed to miss, but will fix it for the next version, thank you for pointing this out too!

Thanks again for playing and reviewing Codename Obscura. I hope it eventually turned out to be at least some fun, and not too painful :wink:


Citizen Makane by The Reverend

Because of the super NSFW nature of the entry, it will be hidden behind spoilers.

Citizen Makane is an adult deckbuilding RPG, based on mythos of The Incredible Erotic Adventures of Stiffy Makane, in a game-within-a-game type. The goal of the game is to help around the town, by completing different tasks and helping the scientific research, to escape the the “game”. There are 3 endings, the usual RPG good/meh/bad (I did not reach the end yet). The game includes a walkthrough, which I used once or twice.

The game starts strong with its prologue/tutorial, made to spoof and critique the infamous original Makane game, before turning into some sort of sci-fi Venus utopia, where you are essentially the last man on Earth, following the Gender Wars. As the focus of research, to see whether the re-introduction of man would be positive enough, you need to increase the good-will of the town by completing tasks. Certain puzzles requiring a certain level, you have to bump ugly with women on the street to gain exp, formatted as a card combat system.

The writing is incredibly witty, and over-the-top horny, so much so it becomes absurdly funny. Every detail of the game is thought out. From the BDE-wink to the absurd book titles, the writing doesn’t shy away to make jokes when it can. But it doesn’t just play on the joke, but thrusts into it as far as it can.

Though the game is essentially horny central*, the worldbuilding behind it is surprisingly thought out. Just attending a lecture about the History of the past 300, which as a player you missed, and learning about the Gender Wars and its consequences (essentially: pretty good for women, not so for men); or listening-in on a conversation at a café about the fears of the “Stiffy’s study”; or learning about the went-back-to-trading economy, but also maybe not really? It is honestly more layered than it first appears to be.
*gonna fuck them all!

It is also quite interesting to see how NPCs look at the player. The player is shamed when he cannot live to expectations, or pitied - never quite enough in this women-only society, which has achieved incredible technological advancement. There is a hint of tragedy, where the lone man is essentially used by the women around, either for research purpose, prestige, or novelty. Few try to connect with him on a personal level (aside from that AI/robot, which hints at an emotional climax, but I didn’t get to that yet). At the same time, it is quite a funny commentary on other pornographic game (like the one based on this), where the women are essentially just used for the pleasure of men and discarded often without a second thought.

The game is quite deep.

Some little stuff I picked up
  • error on the walkthrough → After talking to the mayor the first time, you need to go west, not east
  • when meeting the dead the first time, “talk to dean” doesn’t work
  • "The professor continues. "In th ← quote at the start
  • one-one-one sessions

How was this your first published game… :exploding_head:
(I’ll def be coming back and finishing it later… )


Thank you for the review (and your findings)! :slight_smile:


Xanthippe’s Last Night with Socrates

I thought about this, realised it was a really good idea, and added it in the new version of the game that I just released. :slight_smile: (Apart from fixing a few typos, this is actually the only change in that new version.)


Thanks for the review. Its really awesome to get so many detailed reviews. I would have never imagined.
As I am interested in the details of your critics, I would love to know whether you became fixated in the psychiatric ward, as that is clearly a dark moment. Can you name anything from the dark side, that you feel is missing?


It’s been a few weeks, but I think I did?
Even if it’s supposed to be a dark moment, the formatting of the page and the tone of the overall text kind of dampens the darkness (if that make sense?).

Maybe thinks like losing your job because you spiralled for days and didn’t leave your house, or how your relationship with your family/partner? changes (iirc there was a card about friends but not really about family), or that you maybe didn’t take care of yourself (eat/shower/etc…), or maybe they hurt (physically) someone without realising, or staying in bed for days because you’ve lost any kind of motivation, or the doctor not believing you’re sick, or the medication makes you feel worse/nothing…
(that’s all I could think on the top of my head)


Thanks, certainly job and family deserve to be mentioned. Maybe someday i will make a longer version and include it.

1 Like

I’m sure you’re not shocked to hear I adored your very charming review. Could I possibly put you in the game credits? And, what name would you like me to use?


If you wish to, I’d be delighted :slight_smile:
(manonamora will do :wink: )


Wow… this is like 2 months after my last review… :grimacing:
Here to more insomniac reviews!
also, all the entry links of the previous reviews are now broken…, but they are all on the IFDB.

Meritocracy by Ronynn ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ


Meritocracy is a fairly linear story, where you play as a first-year university student taking their first class in a Philosophy course, whose subject is based on the topic of Argumentations and the concept of merit. You also come across a strangely relevant debate outside of class…

From the premise, you’d expect an epic discussion about merit - the good, the bad, and the eh - throwing arguments back at your professor, doing the absolute most to get your points across, and coming on top (or failing miserably, because you’re just a student). You may even expect a wide-branching path, with choice at each corner, to counter your professor’s points… where one wrong choice could lead to your embarrassing defeat…

What you get, however, is a more… muddled and railroad-y approach on that promise. More of a philosophy lecture packaged into a simple interactive form than an player agency-driven gameplay. The promised “battle of wits” is nowhere to be found - as the professor mainly lectures and you listen, or you answer his prompted question before he just leaves the room. The closest thing to an argumented debate I found in the game happened between two unnamed NPC, neither of which require the MC’s help - even then, it is more framed as an example of the lecture*. Finally, as you have little space to convince anyone of your idea(s), you end up just trying to convince yourself of your “choices”.
*the MC even points out they could interject at the start and question the orator, but doesn’t which :confused: is a shame! It would have made for a fun debate gameplay!

When it even comes to discussing the concept of meritocracy, which is sandwiched between a lecture on ad hominem fallacy and a weird tangent about the Trolley Problem, I found myself wandering where the depth of the philosophical thoughts were. The topic is approached on a very surface level (ooh meritocracy bad because too much expectations and it’s unfair, oooh actually it’s good because more creative drive and the alternative is unfair) without much discussing the intricacies of it all (e.g. muddled by a person’s status/education/wealth/identity/etc…). Which is a shame, as one could question whether meritocracy truly exists considering certain class advantages some have over others OR whether it can truly be fair (how is merit defined? who defines it?).

Granted, the topic itself is quite complex to begin with (and also somewhat ironic considering the IFComp is sometimes framed as a meritocratic competition), but the point does not manage to quite land either, which ever side you take on the debate. And often, the debate is not won with rational arguments…

One potential cause for this may be found in the writing of the game.
The pacing is not quite there, dragging a bit too much at time - with the fairly long and superfluous introduction taking precious time/attention from the reader, or the fixation on the surrounding, which does not really amount to anything - and glossing over moments which should probably have been pushed further - the whole debate between you and the professor essentially.
Though the writing wants to be somewhat humorous (it felt at time it was trying to make fun of it all?), the frequent repetitions and sloppy prose both undermines this element, the setting of the game (university) and the MC’s characteristics (you are a student of higher learning with intellectual capabilities*).
*but also… I’ve graded prose like this from uni students so… ¯/_(ツ)_/¯

Speaking of the MC, it is made abundantly clear it is a distinct person with drive and wants and needs*… but also very much of a Mary Sue. The MC is just so good at debate, they can take on the professor on the first class BUT they are so bad at finding their class. They seem like those pretentious high school students who think they know everything, even better than experts. It’s exhausting…
*I don’t really get the point at the start about the MC not being customisable? It feels a bit off-putting and unrelated to the topic itself?

The concept of meritocracy isn’t the easiest topic to grapple with, and the thought of turning it into a debate-like gameplay to explore its definition(s) or philosophical schools of thoughts was a good framing for it. It’s a shame it could not quite deliver to what it had promised…


Creative Cooking by dott. Piergiorgio


Creative Cooking is a relatively short parser, with minimal puzzles, set in a fantasy world. Your goal is to gather ingredients to complete the different dishes planned for the dinner with your friends. The game files include a walkthrough.

The game warns out ahead of time it is a sneak peek at a much larger WIP to be released in a few years. And it is the sneakiest of peeks. A short, homey, and low-stake peek into a fantastical world. There is both little and quite a bit inside this game, which makes reviewing a bit perplexing… it is both under- and over-cooked.

First, there is little in terms of gameplay. Unlike the title and blurb implies, there is no actual cooking in this game (to my grand disappointment ;-;), though you are tasked to gather ingredients for the dishes you plan to whip up. This fetch quest takes you around your little quaint town, where you either need to talk to some NPC to get an ingredient, or pick it up yourself. Get all of them, go home, and… you’re done. Depending on your movements, you may be done in 20min or so (which is fine, we don’t need just epic stories with masterful puzzles!)… or explore a bit more, and you’ll double/triple that time.

But that exploration was pretty limited, due to the very few interactive elements coded. Each “room” comes with a lengthy description, often shining light on a handful of elements standing in that spot… though only a dozen or so items (from the 25 rooms) can actually be examined. You have a secret underground closet, but can’t snoop inside. There’s a bench in the park, but you can’t sit on it. Mentions of plants, but won’t learn more about them either. I think I spent more of my time running around the game trying to interact with things… unnecessarily because there’s nothing to do with them. And for the amounts of rooms available, it’s a bit disappointing…
As well, then you do have an action coded, there is often only one way to do it, which may not even be mentioned in the About section of the game. I had to open the walkthrough to find that solution, because it was kind of obtuse you needed to throw it.

On the other hand, it’s clear the author put a lot of time into shaping up the world of this game/teaser. As mentioned before, the room descriptions are fairly lengthy (for a parser), revealing quite a bit about the town, or introducing fantasy concept (yay for new made-up words). Yet, the library room is the clearest example of that, with the different tomes available, providing exposition for the world and what might be to come. It is the real teaser about the universe of this whole WIP project…
But it’s easy to miss, since the main puzzle doesn’t require it.

I do wonder if the time spent on the whole worldbuilding and those details could have been maybe spent on the more puzzle/interactive aspect of this teaser. Still, there is an endearing aspect to this entry, short as it was, even if the implementation didn’t quite follow what you’d expect of the parser recipe. Yet, it made for an intriguing amuse-bouche…


The Paper Magician by Soojung Choi


The Paper Magician is an interactive game centred around a singular puzzle. In it, you play an unnamed PC, a test subject, whose knowledge goes little further than the four grey walls around them and the books provided by the other scientists. That is until you meet a magical cat who helps you escape.

I’m a sucker for speculative fiction, especially when it has some fantastical elements attached to it! And boy, did this game scratched that itch!

I’m a sucker for speculative fiction, especially when it has some fantastical elements attached to it! And boy, did this game scratched that itch!

Told from the POV of the PC, the game starts with a fairly lengthy introduction, going through the thoughts and experiences of the PC stuck in the test room since they woke up. With no memories prior to their awakening (suspicious!), the PC describes their life in that room, what is around them, what they do, what they feel, what they hope…
It takes a while - until the introduction of the cat - for the story to move on, allowing both the PC and the player more agency and to tackle the main obstacle (escape!). Until then, the story is pretty linear, almost kinetic, with the few and far between choices adding little variation to the screen.

In the second beat, you are able to roam around the 8 available testing rooms, go through documents left behind, and attempt to enter codes to unlock a door and escape. Fail to enter the correct code, and the scientists are averted of your little escapade outside of your room, grabbing you and sending your right back in there.

In and of itself, the puzzle (entering the correct codes) is fairly straight forward. Each password is accompanied with a question related to a bit of information found in the documents. The downside of those textboxes is that they don’t just require the correct string of word(s), it also needs to be formatted the correct way (capitalised). While the first is slightly annoying, as the phrasing of the documents gives some questions a bunch of options for answers, the latter is pretty frustrating - not all words are capitalised…
This adds A Lot of friction to the game, since getting the answer wrong sends you back to your cell.

Another bit that made it more difficult than it should was navigating the little complex. Even with only 8 rooms, the way their locations were defined was a bit confusing - especially when the description mentions opposite walls, but the directions are next to each other ( East - South). Drawing a map will help, especially to remember where each code need to be inserted (in case you fail).

Finally, if you manage to enter the correct codes in the correct places, you will trigger the final third of the game: your escape.
The ending sequence is a bit bittersweet, returning to the more kinetic approach, similar to the introductory part. The events are played out before your eyes, without much interaction required from the player, de-escalating greatly the tension built during the puzzle. But it is also very lovely, and sweet, giving a proper send-off to the story with its resolution.

And yet, I did leave the game wishing for a bit more. Maybe more interactivity in the first part, or another puzzle or two trying to escape the compound (maybe it’s much larger than those 8 rooms), or have more agency in the final confrontation with the scientist (maybe giving them their just desserts.

Still, it was a neat little game. I enjoyed the premise of it quite a bit.

Also, this is a good example of playing a game after the comp is sometimes tricky. Other reviews have mentioned a walkthrough, which… is nowhere. Well, I assume it was uploaded on the IFComp website, but that bit is not visible anymore.
As always +1 for cats.


Yeah, this is harder! Those extras should typically be available on the IF Archive, though it takes some clicking through the directory structure (here’s that walkthrough if it’s still useful).


Magor Investigates… by Larry Horsfield


Magor Investigates… is a relatively short linear parser, where you play Magor, the court’s sorcerer. Though the game is part of a series and a larger universe, it is not required to have played other instalments to complete this game (relevant information is provided in-game). In this entry, you are tasked by the king to work some genealogy magic and find whether the monarch has some relations to another crowned head. While there is no walkthrough, a comprehensive hint system is implemented.

This was a quaint and low-stake little game. With the return of the King after a difficult quest, you are given the simple (though maybe tedious task) to trace back your monarch’s lineage and hopefully find a connection to another royal family. But oh, no! the Archivist is down with a bad stomach ache and can’t let you browse to your heart’s content. Good news! Being a sorcerer, you have an extensive library, which includes a tome on remedies. Fix up the concoction, nurse the archivist, go back to your main task, and report back to the King. End Credits!

From the premise, and the length advertised on the IFComp website at an hour and a half, I… expected more. Even though I loved the cozy and low stake vibes of the game (with a non-existent difficulty, and super well hinted actions), I was done within a third of the expected time, having completed the 9 out of 10 tasks.
The discussions with other NPC are triggered after an action, which you (the player) do not control/cannot change (you can’t ask people questions). This is a bit of a shame, because those discussions are at times lengthy (had to scroll back up at multiple occasions), and could have been broken into multiple actions.
As for the investigation, only one action is require before the task is complete. And even if the game includes many room, the engine does not let you explore much of it, as it tries to railroad you into one specific path.

Another gripe I had with this game was the visual aspect. I am all for funky and bright interfaces, but the use of this particular palette with the Comic Sans font was quite painful to the eye. And when you have long block of texts on the screen, it is not really comfortable to read. For this aspect, I was kinda glad the game was fairly short.

It was a cute short game, otherwise.

I don’t know if this was a bug, but trying to pour the tea inside the mug was a struuugle. Trying pour tea in mug or other synonym would not register…


Shanidar, Safe Return by Cecilia Dougherty


Shanidar, Safe Return is an interactive fiction piece where you follow a group of Neanderthal/Cro-Magnons first fleeing for safety, than travelling to the distant land of Shanidar. The story is set from the start, though your reading will depend on which link you click.

This was quite the peculiar entry. Not just because of its subject - while there are many IF games going back in history, very few end up that far - but the way the story is told. It flips between different POV or groups of characters depending on the link clicked, sometimes even going back and forth between present and (close) past. The passages, sippets of side-stories connected through the overarching story, tells the escape of Haizea and her group, their temporary settlement in the Bear Cave, and their travel towards the promised land.

The story follows a staggering 19 characters, including you (23 if you count the mentioned NPCs), which can be quite confusing. Even with the list of characters opened on another screen, the going back and forth was sometimes quite a bit, especially when the game is not quite consistent with the naming of the characters, and because it introduced characters almost constantly. Though, I appreciated the fact the game allows you to start the act over to connect more dots, and maybe even find new snippets.

With those snippets and the fairly concise prose, the piece reminded me of those documentaries trying to “reconstruct” how humans lived back then. Unlike those representations, Shanidar does a lovely job at humanising both spieces, through the descriptions of customs and relations between the characters.

This was pretty different, and I’m not sure I managed to connect with it as much as I would have with a more traditional way of storytelling. The lack of actual meaningful choice (opportunities to have some are plenty here) relegates the player more as a reader-first than an active participant.


Last Vestiges by thesleuthacademy

Note: I played the post-comp version on itch.

Last Vestige is a fairly short parser, built as a mix of an escape room and mystery solving. You play some sort of detective, called up on a case, to find the hows and the whys of a strange death. The game includes hints in-game and an external walkthrough.

Called up on a Sunday to check out a crime scene, you end up in a single room with a handful of furniture pieces and clearly no sign of entry or struggle… or body for that matter (taken away by the police already). You can roam around the room, snoop and interact with the stuff, or ask questions to Inspector Knapp and the landlord - though they may not be as helpful as you may want. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ mystery on their day off?

The game calls itself part escape room, part detective mystery. I thought the ‘escape room’ part was on point, the solving the mystery part less so…

As soon as you arrive on the scene, you are “stuck” inside those walls, with Inspector Knapp calling you back inside every time you try to leave (that was funny). To “escape” it, you need to find the item the police has yet to discover: a hidden item, locked behind a multitude of keys and passwords.

Like you’d expect from an escape room, you need to interact with object to find information or and element that will help you interact with another object, which in turn… repeat until you uncovered everything. I struggled with the piano puzzle (had to look that one up because I only know the Do-Ré-Mi…), but I thought the nonogram was a neat one! I did try to “solve” that one on the wall instead of the correct device however…

Through snooping around the room, you may be able to link things together and solve the overall mystery (what truly happened in the room). Better remember to write things down, because you will complete the game with a test!

I honestly failed pretty hard, especially the ‘how’. I picked the completely wrong option, because of that one little detail I hadn’t uncovered when probing the NPCs on the victim’s condition. I didn’t make the link between the victim’s health and their demise. There were even options on that final test I was surprised by, since they didn’t come up during my playthrough…

Some mystery will require some prior knowledge on a subject to solve it, this one is medical conditions. While there are hints in the game, I think there should maybe have been a few more items to bring the player to the right path (like a piece of clothing for the victim’s condition or notes of a doctor…).

As the final note of the game indicate, this game was create for educational purposes. I think this was telling on how the game was formatted, both in terms of what is available to interact, the hints and information provided by the NPC/action responses, and the test at the end. If I were a student in this class, I’d probably have quite a bit of fun figuring out the whole thing (and maybe not struggle as much as I did at the end…).

Overall, it was enjoyable. I’d try another mystery/escape room from this author.