Mika's Manifesto - some IFComp 2023 Reviews

Review: Barcarolle in Yellow by @Victor_Ojuel

At some point in life I got somehow hooked on Italy, the beautiful country, the art, the old ruins, the scenery and the Italian language. So, having noticed that there is now an entry in the IFComp that is set in Venice, I just had to try this game out and attempt to write this short review.

Right in the beginning, some title texts are presented cleverly in the middle of the on-going game, which creates a nice start-of-a-movie -like effect.

At many locations in the game, the atmosphere is just excellent, achieved by just a few well selected words and short descriptions of the characters and the weather.

As for complexity, I managed to fail many times, either due to my lack of intelligence or sometimes because of not finding the exact command for the parser to understand. So, as a small improvement suggestion, adding just some more synonyms for the parser to understand might make the game a bit more fluent for the player at times.

Still, the hint system worked quite well, and was also funny in a subtle way. And also, thinking about some old school parser based games, if the parser could not understand a given command, it might say “Unknown noun”, etc, but in this game this aspect was also turned around, and was given as a warning or a command for the player to to finally get her act together. Nice touch!

There is sometimes - and no doubt this is deliberate and well thought out - a sense of being on some meta layer or level of all the acting and filmmaking going on. Whether you are in the reality or in the script, the line between the two can get ambiguous.

Despite some typos here and there, overall I found this game to be an impressive and immersive experience, with some expert quality work in the textual representation, the in-depth knowledge about the giallo genre and the description of Venice and the districts.

The way the story carried forward hovered somewhere between reality and film script, so the game itself, as the flow of it was modified and driven by the way the player played it, actually wrote a unique script for that game session.

Having just seen the excellent new film, Fallen leaves, by the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, there was something in this game that made me again realize how a unique style carried out with grace and consistency can make all the difference in the experience, whether it’s a book, a browser-based interactive fiction game or a full blown movie.

I really enjoyed and appreciated the overall quality of Barcarolle in Yellow and the excellent experience it provided.

If my vote counts, I would grade it 9/10.


Review: One King to Loot them All by Onno Brouwer (@Lancelot)

I am the Barbarian. I am the King. I can feel the muscles ripple beneath my skin. Looking at the mirror, I see the loincloth hanging low on my hips and I feel untamed. Give me a Titanothere, a Water Troll, a Succubus or a Wraith to SMITE. I will strike upon them with great vengeance and furious anger. I’m an unstoppable force, ready to make my enemies suffer, to protect the innocent and to rule my Kingdom with swift justice.

This feels soooo yammy! The One King to Loot Them All puts me right back in time; when we had a group of guys roleplaying Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

How can one of the very first scenes at the river bank feel so immersive and full of atmosphere, even when the game itself states that the whole setup is not very original? I have no clue as to how and why, but continue my quest eagerly and with captivation. Perhaps it’s the artistic and fluent writing style, that contains so many elements familiar to any roleplayer.

This is the very first Single Choice style game I’ve played, and at first it seems like a limitation. Feeling so powerful, I would like to roam my Kingdom freely, meeting mages and sages & NPCs and immersing in various quests fit for a True Hero. But, quite quickly the flow of the story captures me, and the task becomes that of finding the right action to select for each turn. It’s surprisingly hard to get your mind to understand, for example, what can actually be achieved by just the LOOT command.

One King to Loot Them All offers a refreshing step into the world of dungeons and dragons, with also a new kind of approach as to the game mechanism. Not being very familiar with Inform 7, I cannot even imagine how, for example, the rewritten UNDO command has been implemented. But it does not sound like an easy task to accomplish, so that the story logic will not collapse one way or another.

If I could make one suggestion, the title of the game might be a more elegant one, just a bit shorter and perhaps more fitting, for example: The One King.

I had so many fun & scary and interesting moments playing this game, and I cannot but admire the excellent writing style, the interesting scenes in this fantasy world, and the refreshing game mechanism.

Thank you for this experience, I will look at the mirror now and see how my loincloth is hanging today.


Hi Mika,

My gosh I have to redouble my efforts in writing cool intros, how very much like the spirit of the game :smiley: . I love the works by Robert E Howard which were my prime inspiration, so I hope their spirit endures in what I put out here for the world to see and experience. The most direct story elements (and literally lifted from the “phoenix on the sword” short story) are, well, the phoenix on the sword, the sage character, and the combat with the demon.

There are numerous other influences, maybe I should write an article about how my game came to be but that will be for post comp. The river crossing I can no doubt trace back to Charon and the river Styx for example. At least that is the atmosphere I was trying to portray. My take is first impressions are important, and I wanted to create the strongest first impression I could think of.

Thank you very much for playing and reviewing my game!


Review: A Thing of Wretchedness by @AKheon

I feel wretched. Having just played A Thing of Wretchedness, I absolutely loved it, but then again, ended up a bit frustrated at the same time.

Without really spoiling anything, it’s safe to say that there were many cleverly designed things to like: the slightly spooky atmosphere (excellent), the mystery of it all, what has happened, how and why. What is this wretched thing anyway?

And also the question: how to retrieve a certain item, when you do know exactly where it is, but you have no idea how to get hold of it. These were quality features that got me hooked :+1:

But then, about the randomness. I think I understand the idea behind this; to increase replay value, and to introduce unpredictability. Despite quite a few trials, perhaps just being unlucky in my game sessions, I still haven’t been able to achieve the branch in the story I’ve been looking for.

Well, having said that, I might have to give this game another try. Just one more time. And perhaps just another after that.

Because there are so many finely crafted, unsettling and scary elements in it’s creepy heart, that it has now captured me, and just won’t let go.

So, perhaps it tells something of the skills of the author, that I’m starting to - slowly but steadily - feel like a thing of wretchedness.


Review: Last Vestiges by @thesleuthacademy

Wow, a mystery case, a detective story, how intriguing :wink:

From the very beginning, the Last Vestiges reminds me of playing the text adventure Sherlock (by Beam Software) on a ZX Spectrum, literally decades ago. In that game, you could examine objects, talk to people, give them orders (for example, you could say to Watson: “follow me” etc. and the guy obeyed). There was even a working railway system to use for travelling to the countryside to investigate crime scenes. To squeeze all that functionality in the ZX 48KB tiny memory seemed miraculous at the time.

So, my brain was kind of pre-wired to get all that open world experience again, but soon realized that this is really a single-room investigation.

You can go out the oak door, but will be yelled immediately to return!

As for the puzzles, they were quite interesting, if not very realistic in a way. The grid was especially fun, and at first seemed quite difficult and over my head, but eventually did not require too much thinking…

Having now written one game in Adventuron, and also having investigated a bit around Inform and PunyInform, it is clear that the parser in this game is quite a competent one. But still, some more work on synonyms etc might have been required to make the experience even a bit smoother for the player.

Gathering clues, asking questions and solving puzzles worked in a gradual manner for me, so that at some point I just suddenly realized what must have happened. So, I was lucky enough to get the “final exam” correct :slight_smile:

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Last Vestiges a lot. I would have liked it even more, if there would have been some more content, a few more locations and characters & interaction going on in the world.

But of course, this has been a design decision from the very beginning, to create a fascinating single-room investigation scene.

In that respect I’d say this game succeeded just perfectly. I’d give it a score of 8/10, just because of my own pre-wired (& unrealistic) brain that expected so much more content. Perhaps a longer “sequel” next year? :wink:

Thank you for this interesting and thrilling experience!


Thank you Mika, for your feedback and review. :slight_smile: Glad you enjoyed it! There should be a post-Comp release incorporating all the feedback reviewed. As for the next “sequel”… stay tuned :wink: