I played all the EctoComp games on Halloween when they came out. I probably should’ve written down my impressions earlier, but I was too busy wasting my time in different threads around here. Also, I was working on another project. But mainly wasting time.
Speed IF isn’t something I feel I can really analyze properly. Sometimes the result isn’t too pretty, and you can’t blame the author. Writing a game in three hours is not an easy task. But sometimes people manage to create something great. Lime Ergot was written for last year’s EctoComp and it’s one of my favorite games.
I’m not writing real reviews. Just a few comments. Don’t take me too seriously.
These are for La Petite Mort. I’ll do Le Grand Guignol later.
The Ghost Ship by Jonathan Snyder
[spoiler]I like ghost ships, but I can’t remember playing many games that have them. There was one in Wind Waker and one in Dark Souls II and one in Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko (which is a terrible, terrible game that I love in an almost masochistic way), but that’s all I can bring to mind. It’s a good idea to have one in a text adventure, and even though this game is small, it still manages to paint a nice little ghost ship in the space it has.
The compass directions are glitchy. Going “east” sometimes makes you go “west.” This is definitely a bug, and yet I thought it enhanced the story. Why should directions make sense on a ghost ship? The idea could be developed further, on purpose, in a longer game. (Also, I always get east and west confused in text games and in reality. My brain wants them to be reversed. This game seemed to be sympathizing with me, albeit inadvertently.)[/spoiler]
Home/Sick by Felicity Banks
[spoiler]The amount of text in this game boggles my mind. I could never, ever write this much in three hours. It takes not only writing skill but also typing skill to do something like this, and you’ve got to be driven. For sheer mass, this is extremely impressive.
As a story, it doesn’t really work for me, but how could it? This must have been written at breakneck speed, ideas smashing down onto the page as soon as they popped into the author’s head. It’s the sort of thing that you’d write for exactly that reason, to get all these ideas out, and then you go back and refine them later. Of course there is no “later” in La Petite Mort. Even though this story is all over the map, it still works as a glimpse into the creative process.[/spoiler]
Halloween Dance by MathBrush
[spoiler]Although this is an explicit tech demo for a conversation system, it’s still got a fun enough story. Nothing too unexpected, but entertaining for the five minutes it takes to play.
I can’t entirely see the benefit to the conversation system though. You have conversation topics in your inventory, and you can SAY them TO different characters. What this does is limit the dialogue while still giving the player some freedom about what to say. But it seems pretty similar to menu-based conversation. The only difference is that the menu is in your inventory rather than a pop-up list that appears when you initiate a discussion.
This is a difference. It takes one less turn to begin a conversation since you don’t need the menu to pop up. But it’s a subtle distinction. If there are larger implications about what this can do, I haven’t caught on yet.[/spoiler]
Open That Vein by Yours Truly
[spoiler]This isn’t a review. It’s a mini-postmortem. This game is too slight to require a full-length postmortem.
I stuck to the EctoComp three-hour limit rather more extremely than EctoComp requires, since I didn’t think about this game for more than thirty minutes before writing it. The idea came to me in the shower, I wrote most of it in my head in the shower, I made some coffee, and then I typed everything into a text file. Then I plopped the text into Inform.
I consider this game to be dynamic fiction. It’s mostly linear, but it requires input from the player to advance into deeper layers. You can’t just click a link. You have to type what you’re going to do, which involves a little more commitment.
I like the parser aesthetic. How text scrolls out. The blinking curser. Needing to type. I feel like these elements can be used to tell different kinds of stories than traditional text adventures. Whether this game succeeded is… another matter.[/spoiler]
Food, Drink, Girls by Roboman
[spoiler]I don’t think English is the author’s native language. There are many odd things about the prose in this game, and sometimes the story feels stalker-creepy due to the way sentences are phrased. I have no problem with stalker-creepy, but I’m not sure if that was the intent here. Mainly the game is just a slice-of-life snapshot about partying on Halloween and drinking too much.
I can’t say I was a fan, but it’s still an accomplishment to deliver a finished Twine game with a branching narrative in three hours. Especially if English really wasn’t the author’s native language![/spoiler]
The Physiognomist’s Office by Christina Nordlander
[spoiler]Physiognomy is great, isn’t it? Screwball science with many social issues tied into it and lots of nasty little medical appliances for a doctor to brandish in a horror story.
That said, this game is very subtle. It’s so subtle that, once I had finished, I thought that I’d missed… well, the whole plot! Nothing frightening actually happens in the physiognomist’s office. You’re just there until you escape. Since you do escape, I assume that you’re being held against your will, but this isn’t made clear. And while physiognomists might have held some patients against their will, this isn’t exactly what I think of as standard practice.
I do appreciate that this game has gone the subtle route. It’s nice to see horror that’s not all blood and guts – that has no blood or guts! It’s more like a classic ghost story in that sense, where the horror is very understated. You feel that something is wrong but you can never quite put your finger on it. A post-comp release could flesh things out more without losing that aspect.[/spoiler]
The Oldest Hangover on Earth by Marius Müller
[spoiler]Very clever, this one. I like mummies. I like the premise that being a revived mummy is like having a terrible hangover. This game has quite a few puzzles for being coded in three hours, and even though the cluing could be better, more synonyms could be added, etc., the puzzles themselves are solid! You’ve got your main goal, to escape back into society, and you’ve got little sub-goals that you need to solve to regain your strength and identity to make the main goal happen.
As for the ending… well, that left a sour note. Suddenly the whole game becomes a punchline about 9/11. It didn’t work for me, and I think you could cut that part out and the game would be stronger for the omission.[/spoiler]
The Story of the Shinoboo by Adri Mills
[spoiler]One of the first things I tried in this game was “carve pumpkin,” and it worked.
I’ve played The Legend of the Missing Hat before, and this game features the same four tiny ninjas running around on cute little missions (at least I think they’re the same). The object here is to wear a costume and collect candy and that’s about it. Everything is minimally described, but to compensate for its sparse prose the game runs very smoothly. I didn’t find any bugs, and in a speed competition that’s nothing to shrug at!
This is one of those games where I can look at it and say, “All right, these are its goals, and it definitely met those goals,” and yet it’s not for me. It seems like it would be quite good for children to teach them how to interact with a parser interface.[/spoiler]
Heezy Park by Andrew Schultz
[spoiler]This is the second Andrew Schultz game I’ve played, and I have to say, I think I might be turning into a bit of an Andrew Schultz fan.
The game only has one main puzzle, involving the MegaSol display, and even though I figured it out, I still think it was obscure. It’s just a guess, but it seems like the MegaSol’s grid-like letters are an indication that the player should map the route they ran through Heezy Park. Presumably their route would produce a three-letter word like the ones on MegaSol.
Maybe this is wrong. I didn’t map the game. Instead I got the answer by thinking, “What could I say that’s related to the words MegaSol is printing?” But if there really is no purpose to the grid, then it was a confusing element to include.
Well, I’m being negative here after saying I might be an Andrew Schultz fan. Okay, so MegaSol could’ve been clearer, but otherwise I thought the game was a good little snappy vignette. I’m almost tempted to call this dynamic fiction. It’s extremely linear, but by having to run around through Heezy Park yourself, you’re actually getting the experience that’s described in the text.
I also think Schultz is a good writer. He’s got a talent for casual prose that just rolls right out. I gather from reading reviews for his other games that he’s mainly focused on puzzles, but I think he could write a narrative-driven game if he wanted. Perhaps he has and I just need to go play it![/spoiler]