I want to ask everybody: What is a (more or less) unpopular IF game, that is strongly underestimated in your opinion? Everybody name just 1 or maximum 2 please (or else the thread would probably explode from suggestions).
If you feel irritated or uncomfortable with the word “unpopular” let me reword it: An IF game that doesn’t get much attention.
I’ll take the liberty of quoting my own review (which in retrospect leans too hard into the critiques, I think):
for all its warts and somewhat forbidding aspect, Queenlash is a monumental effort that very much deserves to be read.
But it’s only got four ratings, which feels like a shame given what a major work it is. Sure, it’s pretty dense, especially if you I try to play it in one sitting like I did, but the language is viral and alive, the themes are grabby, and the use of history (it’s about Cleopatra VII, sorta) deeply intelligent and actually quite fun.
This question is a little slippery, because whether a game received more or less attention than it deserved is… debatable? This is true in both how much attention that you perceived a game received, which is oftentimes ambiguous, total reviews are a rough ruler at best, and in how much attention you feel the game deserved, which is obviously subjective.
Someone could suggest a game that finished 4th at that year’s IFComp with a half dozen solid reviews, an objectively well-appreciated game, but in their estimation should have won the entire comp, and was thus underrated. Conversely, someone else could suggest a widely panned game receiving a near dead last ranking at that year’s IFComp, and suggest that, while still fairly universally reviled, that the game was unfairly and overly harshly critiqued and it had more redeeming qualities than was appreciated at the time. Both of these would meet the assignment asked here, although in very different ways.
I point this out, because I could see a debate on whether or not a game was appreciated at the time, and how much, as well as the respective merits of the game, especially if we start comparing the various suggestions to each other, which may not be appropriate.
So, all this stuff is in-good-fun opinion, yes? No need to be “right” or “wrong” about something fundamentally up to personal taste, right? I proceed on those two assumptions.
I feel En Garde by Jack Welsh did some pretty interesting things and is more approachable and intuitive to non-parser players than many other parser games. The story climaxes abruptly and could have done with some extension, but the underlying game and mechanics are very satisfying. A nice example of how Vorple can play directly into how a game functions as opposed to just window dressing. This game was translated from French, and won 14th at that year’s IFComp. I suspect it may be better regarded among the French community, but that’s just intuition, I have nothing to back that up.
Yws, it’s debatable. I want personal opinions. But the case you mentioned wouldn’t count as unpopular for me.
That’s fine, but you asked for underrated games that don’t get too much attention. Noticed relative to what? Underrated compared to what? If you wish to narrow this down to “unpopular” games only, you may need to define, in your opinion and strictly for the purposes of this topic, what should count as unpopular. Otherwise, you’re likely to receive numerous replies that don’t fit your needs.
Everything is relative, as every single IF game made after 1995 is wildly unpopular overall.
Well, in that case, it would count as underrated and getting not enough attention, so it would fit. And relative to your own impression, I would say.
Edit: But general IF would be a bad example. But it would fit.
Edit 2: I had the idea for this topic while reading Ryan Veeder’s homepage and that everybody loves Taco Fiction. So I thought about gems that are somehow out of the spotlight. And it is perfectly ok if authors name a game of their own here.
My subjective opinion, which is subjective. I do not arrive at this opinion via an algorithm!
While it is not poorly rated, I think that The Game Formerly Known as Hidden Nazi Mode is more interesting than its reception (especially in the years since its release) suggests.
I’ll go with Tryst of Fate, because it was pretty good, a longer puzzle game set in the wild west, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about it.
In terms of just looking at the IFDB ratings, I think Infocom’s Deadline, situated near the bottom of the Infocom pile, may be undervalued. It’s one of my favorite works of IF, Infocom or otherwise, ever.
Besides its formal innovations, there’s just a lot to think about in terms of class, mental illness, etc. The setting, story, and characters are really rich for a 1982 game.
The Anachronist by Peter Levine has kind of been forgotten, which is a shame.
Arthur by Bob Bates is definitely unknown but I personally think it’s really good.
Hollywood Hijinx is much less known than most other Infocom titles, but I think it’s pretty fun!
Perhaps not as forgotten as some other works, but whenever people talk about Porpentine’s body of work, usually howling dogs or With Those We Love Alive or perhaps Their Angelical Understanding comes up.
Those are all enjoyable in their own right, but my favourite title from her is Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism. It’s billed as a ‘vespo-sapphic pesticidepunk UV romance thriller,’ and it certainly lives up to the electric promise. I really like the compound-eye like effect on some of the choice text. To me, it’s some of her best work.
I played Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits) before I even knew what IFComp was, and now I’m surprised to see how low it ranked (27th place—which is really quite good for a year with so many games, but my affection for it had me thinking it would have been higher). I can’t remember how I stumbled across it, but it must have been a rare fluke because I don’t recall seeing it mentioned anywhere since. But at the time, at least, as a complete newcomer to the IF scene (way back in February of this year), I was completely delighted by it.
All the games from Cryptex Jam 2021. This is a series of 12 games written for a puzzle hunt, so they may not be everybody’s cup of tea. They are very hard and gradually get harder, as is common for puzzle hunts. They were played by thousands of people outside the IF community and introduced many of those people to text adventures. Some of those people have since become authors themselves. The games are brilliant, but they are ignored by the IF community.
I’d like to second the Cryptex Jam games. They get very difficult, but they’re very well put together.
When I bumped into Large Machine (Jon Ingold, 2001), years ago, I was surprised that it didn’t seem to have got more attention. (Although I may not have been very plugged into the scene when it was released.)
(Inevitably, it’s become linked in my mind with Bad Machine (Dan Shiovitz, 1998).)
I’m not sure I’d call it ‘underrated’, or even recommend it particularly, but I definitely found it memorable. The phrase “It’s a perfectly ordinary pum.” has persisted in the idiolect of the people I tried it with in like 2008.
(I do have to wonder whether @aschultz has tried it.)
(That said, I seem to recall someone referencing it recently. I thought it was in 50 Years of Text Games, but it doesn’t seem to be that from a quick text search.)