Mike Russo's ParserComp 2022 Reviews

Lantern, by Sylfir

A couple days ago as of this writing, Sylfir’s games vanished from itch, without so far as I know any explanation. I’ve seen speculation that this was an attempt to withdraw Lantern from ParserComp, which I suppose is plausible though in that case I’m not sure why they got rid of all their other games, as well as their account information, too. Given the game’s current unavailability, and the uncertainty about why that is and whether it will ever be available again, it’s perhaps inappropriate to write anything about it. But as I said in another thread, if we listened to Virgil the Aeneid would have been destroyed in antiquity, and despite Kafka’s posthumous autographopyromanic wishes the consensus is in favor of reading and engaging with his previously-unpublished stuff. Those are maybe too-exalted reference points, but Kafka at least didn’t have much of a predecease reputation; it mostly came later, based on the work. Anyway to square the circle, I resolved the check out the game, but only review it if I had positive things to say.

Given that you’re reading this, of course, it’s clear that I did. Lantern is a bit rough, and I must confess I played it almost entirely with the trackpad rather than using its parser, but it’s creative and has some charm. It’s part of the escape-the-room (well, three rooms) mini-genre, with the uncharacterized player character dropped into locked oubliette without explanation and forced to rely on their wits to solve a series of contrived puzzles and break free. To be clear, I’m not harping on the lack of plot or realism as flaws: they’re part of what I expect from this kind of game, and their presence helps to set player expectations accordingly. What departs from the standards of the genre, though, is that while you start out unable to see anything, that isn’t a barrier that’s quickly vanquished by the titular bringer of light: no, you’ve somehow been deprived of your sight, so you need to navigate your way through these brainteasers with your other senses.

This is a conceit that’s actually ideally suited for IF, I think, since depriving the player of sight in a graphics-based game would be perverse and probably lead to significant interface issues. Here, though, it’s just a matter of changing how the world is described to the player, forcing them to feel around rooms to find out what’s there, listen for movement, and lick and smell to identify objects. The author doesn’t make this too taxing a process – and in fact does a nice job of updating the names of objects as you investigate them with your different senses and figure out what they are – but it’s an effective gimmick that works well with the obsessive investigation escape-the-room games typically require.

While the concept works, there are some foibles in implementation. Most obviously, there are a host of typos littering pretty much every description of a room or object, which is fairly distracting, and there are a couple of bugs (one item’s name appears to incorporate fragments of code, and I was able to simply reach through a locked closet without first finding the key). The interface can also be frustrating if you go into Lantern expecting to type your way through it. The game engine appears to be primarily choice-based, with descriptions highlighting certain clickable keywords and ending with a likewise-clickable inventory list that includes your sense organs (you can click an item once to select it, then click it on another to combine them or use a sense; double-clicking does a closer inspection of the thing). The game allows you to type commands as an alternative to using the links, but this implementation means, however, that if you’re examining an object the keywords for the other objects in a room, or those denoting your inventory and senses, usually aren’t displayed. This means that typing TOUCH TABLE, then TOUCH PAPER might fail, whereas the commands would work fine if you tried them in the opposite order. I can see this being hideously frustrating, but I switched to playing exclusively via clicking very early, and found the interface worked just fine that way.

Clicking also makes it easy to exhaust all the different action combinations, which I had to do a couple of times. There’s at least one puzzle here that defies all logic and I can’t imagine a player solving it except by lawnmowering through the possibilities on offer (using the knife on the scratches reading HELL to change it to HELLO, which summons another character to a different room). But again, I kind of expect that from these kinds of games, and the number of potential actions is sufficiently low that it’s not too onerous to power through.

So we’ve got a puzzle game with a fun gimmick, many rough edges, not much plot to speak of, and an interface that can feel like rubbing your face against a cheese grater if you try to play the game the way its entry in something called ParserComp seems to imply you should. I whiled away a pleasant enough half an hour on it, but I can’t say it moved me or made me laugh or clap with delight at its cleverness. So I suppose by some standard it’s no big deal that it’s not online anymore, and wouldn’t even be a big deal if it vanished completely with nobody ever the wiser. I’m not sure I can muster a rigorous rebuttal against that argument, but it still makes me kind of sad – and if that’s where the standard is set, I think a lot more of us than just Sylfir are in trouble. 98% of pretty much everything pretty much every one of us does is imperfect, compromised, wouldn’t stand up to even the flimsiest scrutiny – and oblivion is the destination it’s all hurtling towards. Call me sentimental, but I’m not inclined to hurry the process along.


Hello Mike.
Thanks for your review.
I realize that you have played the game before the Dracula bug was fixed. I have corrected the troublesome variable that caused the problem, and Dracula can now be killed and the game solved.
I was informed of the bug some time after having entered the competition so of course some people will have played the faulty version.
Best regards

Spoiler alert!!

As for the problem with the clock in the library. It was pointed out to me that people might be peed off a bit having to wait at the library for so long before it changed. So I came up with the idea of the clock.
When you enter the library the first time the clock strikes midnight. As you do whatever you have to do in there, time passes, and at one o’clock the library as you know it disappears. If for, whatever reason you want to go back to the earlier library, all you have to do is to >set clock to midnight, or >set clock to 12 :wink:


They’re not so acceptable anymore. There’s a clear move by many authors to tend more carefully to parser output, which I am very relieved to see. There will always be things that are not immediately intuitive to new players-- for instance, I’ve recently seen some exasperation at the command REMOVE not working for things like REMOVE RABBIT FROM HAT. REMOVE is meant to apply to things worn by the player, but this is not immediately apparent to many players, of course. I can’t see that changing, and this is probably a case of the player needing to adapt to convention.

There’s also the problem of bad-faith tinkering. If a player spends all their time trying to SNORT CHAIR or FRUSTRATE OGRE, and is then upset that these don’t work, then parser just isn’t for that person, since there is no way an author can attend to all these things.

But generally speaking, I’ve found many modern parser games to be much more player-friendly. Hooray for that.


Dorian, I would say that perhaps you should create an specific post for your game, to put on it all this interesting stuff, so everybody can find it more easily in the future, and put here a link there.

That way we can also talk about your theories without fill this thread with specific messages not related with reviews.

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I’m scared to live in a world where people do what I say. Is not the world what we all want for our children! U_U

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And there was much rejoicing! I’ll have to give October 31st another go and check out the ending.

(Thanks too for the note re the clock – I’d figured something like that was up, but I kept trying to futz with the hands rather than the clock overall. Duly noted!)

Of course, and thanks for sharing more on your approach, since I think it’s a really interesting one even if I think there were some issues this time out. There’s obviously a lot here to digest, and I saw you posted a separate thread, so I’ll write back in that one in a bit (might be a day or two since I have a pretty busy weekend).

EDIT: per your request I also added an additional spoiler warning to my review.


The Impossible Stairs, by Brian Rushton

(I beta tested this game, so this is more a short series of impressions than a full review)

If ever there was a tough act to follow, The Impossible Bottle is it. Co-winner of the 2020 IF Comp – out of a field of 103 – TIB dazzled with a space-warping gimmick for its puzzles, but was more than merely clever, adding winning characters and impeccable implementation. It also proved an excellent demonstration of author Linus Åkesson’s bespoke IF system, Dialog, allowing for interaction just as smooth and deep as anything you can manage in Inform or TADS while also letting the player get through the game without typing and just using hyperlinks instead. Anyone of sound mind would think twice before asking players to compare their game to TIB, but that’s just the situation The Impossible Stairs is in: the present author, Brian Rushton, offered to write a sequel game as a prize in that year’s Comp, Linus picked that prize, and here we are.

Wisely, TIS mostly doesn’t try to one-up TIB; it’s a smaller game, and while it too has a gimmick (that’s actually a rather elegant complement to that of the former game, messing with time while TIB messed with space), said gimmick is comparatively straightforward, and the scope of the game, and difficulty of the puzzles, are both much more modest this time out. That’s definitely not a bad thing – there’s nothing here like that &^% dinosaur from TIB, for one thing, and this is still a satisfying slice of game, probably taking an hour or so to solve and offering at least one or two aha moments as you figure out how to use the strange properties of the titular staircase to resolve the trickier conundrums.

Still, there is one area where it’s at least competitive with TIB, and dare I say it, maybe even one-ups the original, which is the cast of characters. Both games are family affairs, casting you as a daughter doing chores before a party. TIB’s Emma is a child of six, and her interactions with her loving but distracted parents – and kinda-jerky older brother – are sweet but don’t draw from too rich of an emotional palette given her youth. TIS’s CJ, though, is an adult (well, mostly), and gets to interact with a broader set of relatives, including her father, grandmother, a cousin, and an uncle, in the course of checking the items off her (well-implemented) to-do list. These conversations are also spread over several different time periods, with characters aging, changing personalities and circumstances or even sometimes passing away as the decades progress. The game’s definitely not a downer, don’t get me wrong, and while the menu-driven dialogue is well-written it isn’t an elaborate focus of gameplay like in an Emily Short game – but still, there’s a surprising poignancy to seeing these kind, well-meaning people at different stages of their lives, and learn to hold on to their memories once some family members are no longer there.


Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge, by Dee Cooke

(I beta tested this game, so this is more a short series of impressions than a full review)

One of my favorite games of last year was Christopher Merriner’s ParserComp entry The Faeries of Haelstowne, and Adventuron game set in an English backwater where supernatural doings are transpiring. Comes now Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge, and I’m happy to report that IF’s hottest mini-trend, “great ParserComp entries in Adventuron with an implausibly-named British village in their title” has continued into its second year.

Okay, the resemblance is mostly superficial, and plotwise the two games don’t actually have much in common – this is set in the present day, with an appealing teenage protagonist who’s investigating some strange goings-on that have a family connection. If anything, though, THH goes even further than Haelstowne did to make the sometimes-finicky Adventuron parser feel just about as smooth as the far more mature Inform or TADS ones, and it boasts engaging prose that’s incredibly clean (even in the version I beta tested, I didn’t detect a single errant typo in this largish game).

Much of what I enjoyed about the game was delving into the mystery of what exactly was going on with the disappearance of the protagonist’s aunt – that’s a stereotypical setup, but the truth of what’s going on boasts some creative zigs and zags, and the game does a great job of presenting different pieces of the puzzle through varying means, including but not limited to well-written letters and diaries. The structure is well judged to support this slow unlayering of the onion, too: much of the game revolves around unlocking different rooms in your aunt’s kinda-spooky house, but you also travel to a handful of other locations which helps change of the vibe, and time passes as significant plot points are reached, giving the story time to breathe. The puzzles are likewise there more to help pace things out and provide a sense of engagement than to melt the brain – you’ll have seen most of them before – but they’re generally well done, solidly clued, and satisfying to solve; the release version also has integrated hints.

There’s a late-game turn that’s not exactly a plot twist, nor even a shift in genre – I guess I’d call it a tweak to the vibe? (For those who’ve played the game: I’m of course talking about the Alice in Wonderland style surrealism in the field sequence and the endgame). I could see it being somewhat polarizing since it isn’t especially heavily telegraphed in the first two-thirds of the game. Still, I enjoyed it; the early parts of the game clearly establish that there’s some unexplained strangeness that’s been hovering over the town and the protagonist’s family, and it’s satisfying to encounter said strangeness and instead of it just being ghosts of Cthulhu or whatever, it’s actually still really strange!

Regardless, THH is a really fun time, with good writing, characters, story, puzzles, and implementation; I have a hard time picturing the IF fan who wouldn’t dig this one. Definitely recommended, and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled next ParserComp for any game set in like Chipping Sodbury, or some Welsh town without vowels, in hopes of a three-peat.


Many thanks for the great review! (I would also like to see more Adventuron English supernatural village games!)


We do seem to have cornered the market in this particular sub-genre.

You can have Chipping Sodbury next time, as long as I can have Spital-in-the-Street. Ok?




This sounds like the theme for an upcoming comp. For anyone short of a village name, I’d recommend The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff, both by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.

EDIT: Ah, there’s a third book in the series: Afterliff by John Lloyd and John Canter.


Why not Wains Cotting, a “little Dorset village”? https://tinyurl.com/wains-cotting

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Coincidentally I played Dee’s Morris a little while ago. And then sent it to my pal Nick to play too. We are both big Hitchhikers fans. We both agreed after playing that it was very Adamsian :smile: @dee_cooke


You Won’t Get Her Back, by Andrew Schultz

(I beta tested this game, so this is more a series of impressions than a full review – and full disclosure, I don’t even get to the game until paragraph six, so it’s not even short)

I’ve enjoyed seeing other folks sharing their histories with chess as part of their reviews of You Won’t Get Her Back, so here goes with mine. As a nerdy kid, I was course into chess: before the internet and the long tail all nerdy kids were pretty much into the same five things, plus whatever you randomly stumbled across in thrift store-used bins or bootleg tapes from a friend with relatives in Japan. And so since chess was part of the package, so I was in the chess club in middle school.

This basically just meant that during lunch periods, I’d play chess against other kids, and occasionally Mr. Young, the teacher who ran chess club. He was a short, powerfully-built ex-player for the Israeli national soccer team – with some level of celebrity, we kids were dimly aware, though now that Wikipedia is a thing I can confirm he was definitely the real deal – who now coached sports classes in a suburban New York school. In retrospect, he was straight out of a Philip Roth novel, though that wasn’t one of my main reference points as a 12 year old. Anyway every once in a while he’d play against one of us, and he didn’t hold back in the slightest, chortling with demoniacal glee as he slashed a queen into the back ranks or wove an ineluctable web of pawns to pin down a free-floating rook.

There was one time, though, when I was playing him, and playing the game of my life – I mean I don’t remember it in any detail, but I must have been, because I actually made it to the endgame with him, and in better position. What I do remember is that I had a bishop in reserve, that once I got it out from behind a yet-unmoved pawn, I’d be able to set up long-range checks that would let me clean up his remaining pieces, probably advance that pawn, and finally, finally win against Mr. Young.

Then he giggled, and somehow took the pawn with one of his that was next to it, putting my king in check while he off-handedly told me about the en passant rule. That was pretty much the last time I enjoyed a game of chess – something about the idea that there was this secret, hidden rule to the game that nobody had ever bothered to explain to me, just lurking until it was sprung like a trap to deny me this one moment of glory, profoundly offended my sense of fair play

Years later, I became a lawyer, an irony that I’m only now noticing.

If this has anything to do with You Won’t Get Her Back – and it doesn’t, that was just an incredibly self-indulgent lead-in, sorry Andrew – I repeat, if I were to try to reverse-engineer some relevance to the actual game I’m theoretically reviewing, it would be to say that I came to it with a predisposition to dislike gimmicks in chess, and it must be confessed that this chess puzzle in parser form has even more of a gimmick to it than the author’s previous games in this genre. Those – Fourbyfourian Quarryin’ and Fivebyfivia Delenda Est (best title of 2021) – involved placing different pieces on a shrunk-down chess board to set up a favorable endgame scenario. Here, we’ve got a straight chess puzzle, like you read in the newspaper, with the player’s actions actually moving the pieces and the opponent moving their pieces in turn – and it all hinges on pawn promotion. Despite that predisposition, though, I really dug YWGHB.

Partially this is due to the narrative content of the game, because it’s not just a dry exercise in piece manipulation. The setup involves the white player being down to just one pawn and their king (the player character), partially because the king couldn’t bear to see any harm come to his wife (the queen) and played too conservatively. Black has their king and a rook, so definitely has the advantage, but of course there’s a chance to succeed, as your king sets his sights on getting his pawn to the enemy’s back rank and promoting it to bring back his queen (thus the title). The writing takes this situation seriously, which I found surprisingly effective – I was definitely motivated to win not just because I wanted to solve the puzzle, but because I wanted to reunite these lovers cruelly torn apart by war.

Still, the game is 99% chess, and the other takeaway from the above story is that I haven’t played the game even semi-seriously in 30 years, so I pretty much suck at it. As a result, my progress through YWGHB primarily involved trial-and-error bashing as I got to the right solution after trying pretty much every incorrect one I could think of. Thankfully, even this rock-stupid way to play is still satisfying, because much as you accumulate knowledge through your failures, you also get a bit of fun ending text describing how you’ve fouled things up, and also get an achievement for your trouble. I’d like to tell you that I’m annoyed by achievement mechanics and how ridiculous it is that we’ve gamified our games. But I’m not made of stone, achievements are fun, and there are a ton of them here so even if winning felt beyond my grasp much of the time, I could at least try to lose in ever-more-exotic ways.

I won’t say too much about the solution, except that it does involve a really cool aha moment, so I can see why Schultz was motivated to implement this puzzle, specifically, in IF – plus it doesn’t require too much chess knowledge to hit on the answer, and the game does a good job of providing a few nudges after the obvious moves fail. There’s also an included walkthrough if the going gets too tough, alongside the author’s characteristically-extensive help and meta commands to orient the player (I realize I also haven’t yet mentioned that the chessboard is fully implemented in ASCII art).

I suppose there are expert chess players for whom YWGHB will be too lightweight to be enjoyable, as they just buzz-saw through the puzzle with their superior knowledge. Similarly, as someone’s first introduction to chess, it’s likely too punishing, with that damned rook jumping on the slightest misstep and resetting things back to the beginning – one critique might be that stalemate doesn’t feel much better than a loss, which may be true in the land of chess puzzles but maybe makes less sense given the conceit that this game is a war between countries, where the difference matters a lot. For folks with some experience of chess but who don’t solve the thing as soon as they look at it, though, I think this is a satisfying puzzle to chew on, with really robust implementation and some nice narrative grace notes.


The man who ran my chess club was called Mr. Knight, and I remember him being about 300 years old. I dropped out of chess club after a couple of months, having failed to win a single game.


What a compliment, thanks :smiley:


Thanks for the review, Mike! (And for your help testing–it was directly responsible for a few features I was very glad to be able to get in there.) I am quite pleased you found the time and motivation to discuss your own personal experiences with chess.

stuff about en passant

En passant does, indeed, feel “no fair” although it makes a certain amount of sense.

There’s a youtube channel with chess.com support videos, and they say “Every day we get loads of reports complaining that an opponent’s pawn ninja’d theirs, but it’s actually en passant.” Which is good for a few quick laughs, and yes, I’ve run into “white to play and win” chess problems where en passant was the right move, even though that would mean the previous move was actively and obviously egregiously bad.

Then there’s this: I've been waiting my whole life for this checkmate - YouTube (most may want to skip to 6 minutes to see the end, after the intro). It’s one of those weird jokes that can bring a surprising amount of entertainment to chess and chess puzzles.

And I think we all at any level have a horror story about endgames. One of mine was actually two weeks before I played this game. I had rook and 4 pawns versus rook and pawn against someone rated 500-600 points higher than me and let the lead slip away to a draw. (I could have lost it.) And I was an above-average club player at the time. I still remember this if I swindle an undeserved draw or win out of someone 600 points below me who has played well. So I guess both players walk away unsatisfied in that case. Chess can be cruel!

And with computers, I’m still shocked to see relatively simple possibilities I missed when I thought I saw everything. It’s just, endgames should feel simple, right? There are only so many possibilities. But there are surprises. And I wanted to try to capture that with this puzzle.

I’ll save the details for the postmortem but the TLDR is, I appreciate everyone so far who’s found something despite its limitations and potential annoyance e.g.

  1. as you mentioned if people know the position, they will blow it off
  2. if they don’t know the position, there may be a “geez what a cheap trick” feel.

Of Their Shadows Deep, by Amanda Walker

I beta tested this game. My game Sting is also listed in the author’s note as one of its inspirations, a paragraph ahead of such lesser influences as Sylvia Plath. I can assure you that I’m no way biased by this, because Jesus, I can’t go five minutes without being compared to Sylvia Plath. Like, if you asked me, “Mike, would describe Sylvia Plath’s writing as lambent, incisive, and alive to the contradictory power and vulnerability that have been freighted into the concept of the feminine,” I would of course say yes; and if you asked me, “Mike, would you describe your own writing as lambent, incisive, and alive to the contradictory power and vulnerability that have been freighted into the concept of the feminine,” I mean, I wouldn’t want to negate your interpretation, so I’d have to say yes to that too. Plus we both have a love-hate relationship with Ted Hughes, we’re basically the same person.

More seriously, the reason I usually say my responses to games I’ve beta tested aren’t reviews is less because of a fear of being biased – I generally have no problem giving polite but direct feedback even to my nearest and dearest when I think it’s justified, which as my wife will attest is a delightful character trait – and more because I don’t trust my own experience of game. Usually I’ll have tested a beta version just a few weeks before the final version is released, and it’s really hard to revisit the game and put aside the impression I had of it when it was in a less-refined form and my brain was in testing mode, which can vary quite a lot from how I’d normally approach a game.

Here, though, I think I last looked at the game in February, which is long enough that I feel like I was coming to it fresh when I just replayed it. So I’m confident in my judgment: this is a really good game, a compact jewel of a thing that only really does one thing, but that one thing is so complex, and so well-realized, that it feels quite big indeed.

On the most mundane level, this is true because the author’s implemented a bevy of helpful features that make this feel like a proper game, not simply an amateur affair. There’s very helpful help text, a small number of evocative line-drawn images, an ASCII map, hints for the puzzles – well, riddles – on offer, and a good amount of quite complex “concrete poetry”, where words take on the shape of what they describe, which must have taken an ungodly amount of work to get right (plus there’s a screen-reader mode to make this all accessible to those with visual impairments). It’s easy to dismiss this stuff as trifles, but it makes an impression, communicating that this is something the author cares about and is trying very hard to create inviting on-ramps to all sorts of players, and engage as many of their faculties as possible.

That’s just the mortar holding the thing together, though. To stick with the architectural metaphor, there’s also the façade. Prose in parser-based games is so often workmanlike, pressed into service of many masters at once; I can count on the fingers of one hand the authors who can achieve real literary effect under these constraints without landing the player in a hopeless muddle. Well, add Amanda Walker to that list – all the writing here is just lovely, but the landscape and wildlife descriptions are especial highlights. One early excerpt will stand in for many:

Shadows dapple and darken. A rabbit darts across the steps in front of you, its white tail bobbing briefly, and then it is gone into the undergrowth… Birds call. They flash bright against the naked branches: cardinal screams red; goldfinch blazes sun.

Still, the façade is just the façade, and we’ve yet to talk of the bricks. What ultimately makes Of Their Shadows Deep so affecting is what it’s about: aphasia, the loss of language as words are stripped from a once-vital mind. There’s a layer of fictionalization here, via the magic realism of the puzzles, but even without the author’s note at the end stating the real-world background, it feels very obvious that this is an autobiographical work. Nothing in this dilemma feels abstract; there’s real emotional weight behind everything the protagonist does, from their game-opening flight from an unbearable situation to the final return and catharsis.

Impressively, this isn’t just a frame around standard meat-and-potatoes gameplay. While you do solve such typical IF puzzles as lighting a dark area and chopping through a foredoomed door, all this is accomplished primarily through words – not in the degenerate way all IF is words, of course, but by solving riddles. Half a dozen times, you’ll be confronted with an obstacle, only to find a sheet of paper with a bit of poetry that poses a riddle. Answer it correctly, and you’ll be gifted with an instantiation of the thing you’ve guessed, allowing you to progress.

It’s easy to overlook how smart this is, because of course riddles are a traditional part of the IF repertoire, but here the point isn’t to tease the player’s brain – in fact the game’s riddles are all fairly simple, which is good because every single riddle is too easy or too hard, or both – it’s to play the theme. The primarily gameplay consists of receiving intimations and cues pointing to an object, then, once you’ve successfully carried out the act of naming, gaining mastery over the thing. There’s an elemental, Adamic resonance to this that implicitly communicates its own negation: what happens when you can’t summon the name? Does that mean losing the thing itself? Of Their Shadows Deep has an answer to that, in a lovely final puzzle that wasn’t there when I did my testing, and which ends the game in an unexpected moment of grace.

If the reader will forgive my wrapping up this review by once again talking about myself – and spoiling Sting while I’m at it – I found this last note quite moving. I don’t have the same experience Amanda writes about, of having a loved one’s mind eroded away bit by bit, but I did lose my twin sister to cancer two years ago, at the untimely age of 39 (Sting is a response to this, and the way it retroactively reconfigured pretty much every memory I have). Everyone always says people fighting through cancer are brave – and they’re right – but even by that standard, Liz was a tough, ornery patient, refusing pain meds until literally the last week of her life. By that point they needed to give her very strong stuff, and over the course of the days she spent more and more time sleeping, or staring off in a daze, her use of language mostly fled as her mind and tongue went slack.

The last night but one, before I headed to bed, I hugged her and told her that I loved her, and that I’d be the one sitting up with her tomorrow night (we were taking turns to make sure someone was there, just in case… nobody completed the thought). I’d done this before, and she mostly wasn’t able to respond – but this time, with difficulty, she got her arms around me too, and was able to grunt something incomprehensible, then did so again, just about the only sounds she’d made that day.

I’m aware that sounds like a horrible story when I tell it, but maybe if you’ve ever been in similar circumstances, you’ll believe me when I tell you those few seconds were the happiest I’d felt in months. Moments like that can’t change what’s going on, but in those situations, when you’ve lost so much but there’s somehow so much more still to be lost, they’re all that’s left – and that can be enough. I can’t being to imagine how to render that in prose in any real way, though – all I’ve done here is kind of describe and gesture at the experience – but I think Of Their Shadows Deep captures something of that intuition, which on top of everything else it does, is a hell of a crowning achievement.


And that, I believe, is your lot! Thanks once again to all the authors, and to @fos1 and @ChristopherMerriner for organizing – and to the other folks who’ve been writing reviews, since I’ve really enjoyed your insights too.

I’ve got a few IF Comp games queued up for testing over the next week or two, but after that, I hope you all will join me as I return once again to Cragne Manor