Participate in the 2015 Interactive Fiction Top 50!

#21

What it does, it is unparalleled at. No less likely than Aisle or the Ascot, really 8)

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(matt w) #22

And its influence can’t be denied. How many other games have had so many direct imitators?

(Scribbles to add Cloak of Darkness to his list.)

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#23

My list is a mix of the old and the pretty new, but not the really new - unless it was in an IFComp. My list also has little from the middle, just because the middle area is what I have played the least of.

There are probably more old games that I like, but which I acknowledge are of historical interest rather than Top 50 worthy now. By the unnameable criteria I’m using, I definitely don’t think a ‘Wizard and the Princess’ can cut it. But I do think some Scott Adams games cut it. Their puzzles also continue to stand up, unlike Sierra’s, the latter largely defining what we now think of as classically unfair.

What I do realise is consistent about my list is that I’d be happy to open any one of these games right now (I mean RIGHT NOW) and play it again. Maybe that’s my deepest down criteria.

Alphabetical order:

Adventureland

I don’t know if you noticed Jason Dyer’s recent review of Adventureland. He mentioned:

‘This is going to sound like a bizarre statement to anyone who has played a Scott Adams game, but Adventureland is the first game in my chronological series that has felt modern.’

(bluerenga.wordpress.com/2015/01 … land-1979/)

And he’s saying that about the very first Scott Adams game.

Adventureland has always felt elemental to me. (Of course, having ‘adventure’ in the title helps.) It’s clear and fun and really dense with the way the puzzles overlap. While the difficulty-favouring might prefer Zork or Colossal Cave in their elemental slot, I prefer this.

Some find so few words in a game intolerable. If you acknowledge that Adams’s games convey an attitude (which they definitely do) I think you also have to acknowledge that their words have an aesthetic which is conveying it. I am more interested in what that aesthetic does than the fact that it’s incapable of many things. His games may be the rawest demonstration of ‘words + your imagination + puzzles = a particular type of engagement’, and IF folk are always on about the power of words, and sometimes about the other things.

Andromeda Awakening

I feel that for the typical range of what parser IF does well, sci-fi and fantasy are its best matches. Compared to Awakening, Apocalypse was smoother and won a comp, where this first one generated a strange kind of controversy over its difficulties - but then got updated significantly in response.

In retrospect, the first one left a greater impression on me. It’s that thing of exploring a truly alien world that parser IF does so well, and solving novel puzzles with a degree of abstraction, and that this world conveyed a lot of history and possibilities. This is my benchmark for a classically styled sci-fi parser game with more modern-feeling content.

Andromeda Dreaming

The achievement of Andromeda Dreaming is that it stands on something really solid (Andromeda Awakening) and manages to add an incredible amount to it in a short, mostly linear game that punches well above its weight in many respects. I’m unaware of another game with similar circumstances.

Because I’m mostly uninterested in short or speed games, this one stands out for me in the ‘short’ camp. Also for this reason, I’m aware it’s unlikely to make most people’s choice for a top 50.

Aotearoa

One of the first games I played from modern times, this made me think, ‘Wow, this is how these games could be treating players and these are some of the new things they can do.’ That’s on top of it being a really good game in its own right, and I don’t really separate the two. Actually, I believe in their integration, so this game’s attitude was where I started when I made Six.

Coloratura

It’s both conspicuously gamey and a visceral exploration of different characters’ emotions. Someone said they haven’t come back to it. I haven’t come back to it either, but that’s not criteria suited to every game for me. There are lots of great books I haven’t read more than once, nor felt the need to until a lot of time had passed.

Kerkerkruip

I still feel weird calling Kerkerkruip IF. Not in any sense that it’s not what IF is today, but just having to use those words ‘interactive fiction’ for this case. Kerk is like the ultimate combat text adventure, and one of the most addictive games ever.

One Eye Open

One of the best horror games of recent times. Really playable, and informed by all the developments in console horror gaming.

Strange Odyssey

This is my favourite Scott Adams adventure. The great dangerousness of outer space to humans summed up in 16kB, and benefitting and making sense from the memory limitations and hostility. A form and content marriage.

Suspended

My other favourite Infocom game. I was terrible at this but I still played the start of it over and over, because I found it that novel and creepy and suspenseful. There’s still not a lot of competition today, either, technically, for a game where you can control six robot protagonists with different powers, personalities (so to speak) and ways of apprehending the environment.

Theatre

While other people name things like Curses as their obligatory, fine and traditional-leaning big puzzlefests, I name Theatre, which is the horror equivalent. Well, OK so Anchorhead is probably most people’s equivalent, but I found Anchorhead too hard, and I’m afraid I really detest Inform’s hint systems from that era of game. Meaning, most hard games from that era, they get in cahoots with me to destroy my own experience of them until I quit.

Theatre is of far more reasonable difficulty and is also more its own being. I really like Lovecraft, but I’m also aware I react against the favouritism of literary subject matter over other which characterises a lot of the post-commercial era.

Wishbringer

My favourite Infocom game. Powerful atmosphere, humour, menace, a normal version of the world and a flipside twisted one. And sort of tolerable difficulty. (I find/found all Infocom too difficult.)

You Will Select A Decision

Perfectly written and one of the funniest things I’ve ever read or played. And very substantial.

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#24

I have another anonymous one:

Every new list makes me genuinely excited. There’s so much I still need to play, and so much I need to replay!

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#25

I don’t know! Jigsaw has a lot of competition from other big traditional puzzlefests, so I can imagine it not making people’s top 10 or 20. (I’ll admit that I personally never played it, partly because I imagine it is a lot like Curses which is too harsh and unforgiving for my tastes. Please convince me that I should play it, if you think I should!) Slouching Towards Bedlam took 10th place in the previous top 50, so maybe it will get more votes soon, or maybe people need to be reminded about it. (Why not write a nice piece on it for SPAG?)

As far as I’m concerned, it would be great if this voting process gets people to either play games they haven’t played yet, or write about games they care about.

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(Floating Info) #26

Jigsaw is my number 8. I completed it over two weeks without resorting to any hints or walkthroughs (although I did google some of the real world stuff that appears in the game).

Honestly, Jigsaw is much more forgiving than Curses. It is still less forgiving than your average modern puzzlefest, and you will probably need to keep saves from across the game. However, unlike Curses, the game contains a lot of hints about whether you are done with everything in a particular one-time-only area. The game also has a general “feel” of its puzzles and once you’ve got the feel down the game gets a lot of easier.

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#27

Jigsaw is definitely not up there for me, but I did bring up Slouching so don’t look at me

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#28

for what it’s worth, I don’t consider it a puzzlefeast. Sure, there’re puzzles, but the point is that they don’t quite feel like puzzles. I’ve tried enjoying huge puzzlefeasts as Muldoon Legacy or Just an ordinary ballerina, but I couldn’t cope with all the gratuitous machinations, button pushing and so on. Those are puzzlefeasts for puzzlefeast sake, like the old dungeon romps collecting treasures. Nelson’s puzzles usually feel very organic to the story and setting - I believe he abides by “Crimes against mimesis”.

In Jigsaw it is about an unlikely romance as you romp through some XX century key events. Whatever it is that your love interest is trying to accomplish, it is your job to try to stop it from working. The “puzzles” mostly deal with observation and figuring out what had taken place and your role in preventing it. Some of those events are timed events and if you can’t figure it out before it ends, you’re doomed to watch a very different XXI… save often, before starting each new episode… a good deal of trial and error is nothing to be frustrated about: it is necessary so you can watch yourself the consequences of going wrong…

And it indeed does feel more forgiving than Curses. Fact is, it renders very vivid settings and a memorable chase-like romance story, so do yourself a favor and play it… BTW, be very sure to explore all the areas of the prologue and get the key items. You can’t go back there once in the central hub and some of these items are needed for a satisfactory ending. be warned :mrgreen:

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(David Whyld) #29

It’s certainly having that affect on me. I’m looking at the games listed above and wondering why on earth I’ve never tried the majority of them out. Some are games that have been out for years and years yet for some reason I still haven’t got round to playing them.

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(matt w) #30

I think that right there is what’s keeping it off a lot of people’s lists–I started playing and kept getting bounced out of the prologue by the time limit until I had to consult a walkthrough. And when I did consult the walkthrough, I did not say “Gosh, I should’ve seen that.”

[spoiler]The undescribed exit was a real killer–in more modern IF I usually expect to have a room description tell me where I can go, whereas in this one if you don’t use a hint in one room to deduce that going a certain direction in an adjacent room will be productive, you can’t progress at all. To some extent this is a question of expectations–I-0 had something similar (which I think was more of a pure try-every-direction-everywhere puzzle) though that only locked you out of one branch, not of the whole game.

I’m not sure if I found all of the hidden items on my own–I thought opening the piano bench was reasonably well clued, or maybe it’s that I’ve known enough piano benches to know that they open, but I can’t remember if I looked under it; it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing I’d do. And sketching the bird… I can only assume that eventually you get to a point where it becomes clear that you should’ve been sketching birds from the beginning, and you have to restart? That seems very old-school.[/spoiler]

From what I’ve played since then it seems as though subsequent scenes might be a lot more accessible to the modern player. But the prologue is a high bar to clear. (I wonder if that’s common in games of that period–I had a similar experience with Christminster.

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(Peter Piers) #31

That’s so interesting to read… I had a similar prologue-stuck experience but completely different. I got all the hidden items, but I failed to advance because my image of the lightsource was completely wrong; I simply did not know what that item actually was, and thought I did. Naturally, one of its properties was thus hidden to me.

The hidden exit… even on my very first ever playthrough I found that exit very naturally, it was the first puzzle I solved in Jigsaw and I solved it within the first six or seven moves. It’s amaszing how mileage can vary.

I don’t think you need all the sketches to win the game, but I’m somewhat hazy on this?..

EDIT - Yeah, the walkthrough says you need to sketch at least four animals to get a prize. Possibly if you sketch them all you get the super-duper ending, but at least you’re not completely locked out of the ending if you miss the bird.

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#32

bwahaha

that hidden exit is not so hidden. It’s somewhat sugested from the description of a nearby room. I believe it’s almost literally stumbled upon when you try a wrong exit from it. Indeed, first “puzzle” solved. Had no problem with the light once I had the proper item. But I didn’t find 2 key items from the prologue snd started over before continuing.

In any case, true to its time travel theme, this is a game to keep coming back to.

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#33

I have received a new anonymous list!

Thanks to our anonymous voter. :slight_smile:

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(Caleb Wilson) #34

Here are mine. I give style and atmosphere much more importance than polish–If I remember the setting and story and characters even years later, by that point bugs and unimplemented scenery don’t bother me at all.

Deadline Enchanter – Showed me that a game doesn’t have to play by the rules. This should have seemed broken and yet it is hard to forget.
Fallacy of Dawn – I love the setting and characters.
For a Change – My favorite opening lines. This type of surreality is still very rare in IF.
Little Blue Men – A good build-up. Most creepy.
Photopia – Was my favorite IF for many years.
Pytho’s Mask – Vivid and intriguing setting.
Robin & Orchid – A pure joy to wander around in and experience this world.
Savoir-Faire – Great setting and magic system which instantly evokes whole novels in my mind. Worthy of a historical fantasy novel.
Shade – Creepy, seemed to break IF out of its shell of separate rooms and static objects.
Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom – Parodic, but also really fun.
Varicella – My favorite cast of characters in IF. Worthy of an HBO show.
Weird City Interloper – A wonderful and bizarre setting, all in (implied) dialogue.
With Those We Love Alive – Perfect mix of theme and action and emotion.

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#35

Caleb, did you play Matt Fendahleen’s August? “Unpolished but memorable” pretty much nails it, as I recall.

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(Caleb Wilson) #36

Matt Fendahleen! Yup, I remember liking that one. I was hoping to see more games from him.

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#37

Counterfeit Monkey:
A mechanic that I thought could never be implemented satisfyingly. But my goodness was I wrong. The world is so amazingly constructed, the tone is just right, and it is a constant joy to revisit.

The Baron:
I vividly remember playing The Baron and Photopia a few years ago. It was about the time I’d started to get into IF. I was appalingly ill and had taken a few days off school. In between the schnozzle blasts and dreary slumber I thought I’d play some IF to lift the spirits. Although they certainly didn’t make me any happier (I couldn’t have chosen worse games for that, right?), I was astounded by them both. They fascinated me, shocked me; and I will never forgot lying in my bed, the lights dimmed to near darkness, with a putrid smell of medicine journeying through the air, while I endured the horrors of The Baron and the grief of Photopia.

Photopia:
[Read above]

Hunter, In Darkness:
I will never fully work out why I love this game so much, but for some reason it is, to me, a spectacular little gem.

Hadean Lands:
How to perfect the classic text adventure.

80 Days:
Did not expect to like this one suspecting it would be really cliched, but it turned out to be fantastically addictive. It was so much bigger than I expected. Oh, and I loved the multiplayer element.

Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis:
Stiffy’s hedonistic adventure is unparalleled in all of IF.

All Roads:
I haven’t played this in a long while, so I’m vague on the details, but I distinctly remember being perplexed by this game and replaying it loads – and of course enjoying it thoroughly. But I’m still not sure if I ever worked out what it was all about.

Blue Lacuna:
Aaron tells the tale (in this video) of a pissed off guy who sent an email to him when the game – right at the end – muddled the pronouns for Rume. I mention this because I have a somewhat queasy feeling that the irate person in question just might have been me :stuck_out_tongue: It certainly took me aback when watching the video. Anyway, forgetting that, I really do adore this game. Blue Lacuna has the most immersive environment of any IF work; I still visit it regularly.

Rameses:
Once I’d realised the game’s ‘trick’, I don’t think I had ever been more impressed in my life. It was a brilliant way to represent the player character. [edit: okay, bit of an overstatement – it’s not the absolute most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it was profoundly clever.]

Horse Master:
I think I ‘won’ this game, but it always lingers disgustingly in my mind. Which is why I love it.

Ultra Business Tycoon III:
Porpentine’s games, as I suspect is the case for many, got me into twine. Particularly Ultra Business Tycoon III. It’s a bit of cliché to say this kind of thing now, but I was heavily into parser-based works and didn’t, until playing this, realise just how impressive hypertext works could be. And this is still undoubtedly one of the best twines out there.

their angelical understanding:
I still don’t fully get everything in the game (nor should I, I’m guessing), but the prose and the fragments of the game that make sense to me are so evocative. Something about ‘moths nibbling on tarnished night’ remains impressed onto my memory.

Analogue: A Hate Story:
I was split between this and Hate Plus. I loved first learning of the regressive world introduced to us, and the revelations in discovering it, but then I loved the politics of the second game. However, seeing as someone else already voted for this one I choose tactically.

Lost Pig:
Ah, now this is the game that really got me into IF. A friend at school, who would always find the oddest tech-related, and particularly iPod Touch-related things to show me, one day presented Frotz to me on his iPod Touch 2G (I remember well). It was something along the lines of ‘hey, look at all these weird text games you can play!’ I had a very foggy idea of what Zork was, and the novelty intrigued me. I was hopeless at Zork though, and equally inept when trying Spider and Web – which looked really bloody interesting but I could never seem to get anywhere with it. (I actually only completed it a few months ago. It literally has taken me years of on-off playing, embarrassingly.) Anyway, I at some point opened up Lost Pig and would play it between classes and it just clicked. The puzzles were just right, the humour was great, the characters distinct, and replaying the game now only reaffirms of all this. And I have to include the game that quite possibly hooked me onto IF.

Queers in Love at the End of the World:
Definitely the shortest game on the list. But a great concept executed deftly. Every time I play it I have the insatiable desire to achieve that ‘perfect’ last 10 seconds, but of course I can never quite make it.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free:
Few other games manage NPCs this well, and the result is spectacularly immersive and indeed affecting. I certainly think this to be one of the most underrated IF games.

I didn’t intend to litter the list with anecdotes and so much first person – sorry! But I started to realised that I also associate many of the games with certain moments in time, and I’d be lying to say that doesn’t factor into my judgement.

And this ‘best of’ is proving really insightful. Thanks for organising it Victor. People have mentioned loads of interesting games I’ve yet to play.

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#38

In the future it might be interesting to ask voters to also list the first work of IF they remember playing and enjoying. It would be interesting to see if there is any kind of “anchoring” effect where players are biased towards enjoying the games that were released around the time they first started playing IF.

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#39

My list:

Plundered Hearts (Amy Briggs/Infocom) – Probably my favorite of the Infocom age, with more plot, more active NPCs, and better integrated puzzles than the Infocom average. It pulls off swashbuckling romance better than pretty much any IF game I can think of (though, sadly, not as many have tried as I might like). It feels a bit player-unfriendly by modern standards, but with a bit of patience it still has a lot to offer even now.

Spider and Web (Andrew Plotkin) – One of the best story-and-puzzle moments in all of interactive fiction, in which the protagonist does something that is not only surprising and clever but also has a profound effect on the other major character in the game. People talk a lot about the puzzle design here, but often I think in the process they undervalue how much of its success comes from the puzzle-story integration. There’s something wonderful about solving this puzzle and getting a huge reaction out of the story.

Horse Master (Tom McHenry) – Compellingly gross, with a very effective switch on what kind of story it’s even going to be: it starts out feeling like a sim and winds up as a dystopian horror story about poverty and exploitation. One of the most viscerally powerful games I’ve played. Today I happen to give it a slight edge over Michael Lutz’s My Father’s Long, Long Legs, which could also have occupied this slot, because in Horse Master I was fooled into thinking maybe I could make things come out well, whereas in MFLLL I pretty much always realized things were going badly. But on a different day I might go the other way.

Fallen London (Failbetter Games) – FL’s size and structure are unique, providing a network of stories that you can sink into and inhabit for months or years. The content ranges from silly to horrific to affecting. People have often talked about the possibility of shared-world writing in the IF space, but this is one of the few to actually pull it off, since FL’s contents and related games have been worked on by many authors over the years. (* Disclaimer: I’ve written for FL myself; otoh, my contributions are a drop in the ocean, and I was not involved in any of the original design.)

Endless, Nameless (Adam Cadre) – A severely under-discussed game when it came out, EN wraps a quite entertaining old-school puzzlefest up inside its own hint system, capturing some of the pleasure of really difficult old games while being substantially more accessible than they were. Content-wise, it asks a bunch of questions about the meaning of art and community and how communities can defend themselves from disintegration. It’s both a fairer play and a more nuanced piece of writing than Varicella, and it does more with its medium-bending aspects than 9:05 or Shrapnel.

ULTRA BUSINESS TYCOON III (Porpentine) – it’s tough deciding between this one and the tactile, disturbing With Those We Love Alive, but I think this may remain my favorite of Porpentine’s work because the ending is so personal and accessible, in contrast with the filigreed bonework style of a lot of her other writing (gorgeous; likely to cut you if you handle it at all). The trick of characterizing the protagonist via reactions to an old-school game is also beautifully handled. But WTWLA is a close second, for me.

Solarium (Alan DeNiro) – This is masterfully horrific because, alchemy and superhuman characters aside, the scary thing it describes is true: there were fanatics during the cold war who did bring us close to destruction repeatedly, and who used the threat of nuclear disaster as justification for unethical experiments. It’s also a structurally inventive piece of choice-based fiction with very good prose.

Even Cowgirls Bleed (Christine Love) – A story about the personal dysfunction that undermines a relationship, told through a choice-based story with a bit of an arcade mechanic tucked in: you “shoot at”, and thus select, whatever links your mouse passes over, and at a certain point in the game this may become more difficult to control than you might wish. Compact, effective, and highly personal; and a rare example of IF in which the UI itself is a critical part of telling the story.

The Baron (Victor Gijsbers) – a game for asking difficult questions, this stretches IF in the direction of philosophical thought experiment, but in a very disturbing way. The innovation of asking the player for a motive as well as an action now seems relatively common (see “reflective choice”) but it was a novelty for the IF community at the time. But more than that, this game is — and remains — brave for being willing to ask questions about what we can forgive; about whether there are any categories of person whom we consider beyond rehabilitation; about what we owe to the most damaged and monstrous people. I don’t know the answers to these questions and I still struggle with them.

Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser) – Coloratura uses the possibilities of text to present a protagonist profoundly different from any human, and to play very effectively with the contrast between the alien’s perceptions and our own. It’s a gently puzzly piece of work, but its biggest draw is the exploration of this contrast, and of the difficulty even well-meaning creatures can have in communicating with one another.

Make It Good (Jon Ingold) – Very difficult, but with superb good puzzle/story integration. Characters pay attention to every little thing you do, and everything they notice matters; solving the story requires thinking deeply about the NPCs and their motives and probable reactions, then manipulating them to get the results you want. They seem to have their own inner life, purposes, and goals, to a degree very rarely found in IF. It’s not for nothing that the famously curmudgeonly Chris Crawford – who basically considers almost all of classic interactive fiction to be a huge waste of time thanks to its insufficient focus on modeling NPC behavior – grants Make It Good some space and respect in the latest edition of his book on interactive storytelling.

Worlds Apart (Suzanne Britton) – Worlds Apart features one of the deepest and most detailed settings created for an IF game: the author has considered history, geography, ecology, the personal backstory of various characters, and much else besides, then implemented every detail of every room with astonishing devotion. The plot structure is a little less satisfying, and the story ends a bit inconclusively, but as a place to explore and spend time, WA offers a truly extraordinary experience. (From the same era, it’s also worth pointing out Dangerous Curves, another piece that devotes really substantial effort to meticulous world modeling; but for me Curves was a bit underdirected and I was never able to finish it without a walkthrough.)

Anchorhead (Michael Gentry) – Anchorhead is the pinnacle of middle-school parser IF: there are still plenty of puzzles, but the shape of the game is determined by its story, there’s more interest in making setting cohesive and consistent, and NPCs get a more active and present role. For me it beats out its closest competition, Christminster, by having a gentler opening (Christminster’s first puzzle is famously underclued, which has probably prevented many would-be players from enjoying it) and a stronger sense of atmosphere.

Slouching Towards Bedlam (Star Foster/Daniel Ravipinto) – Play the game once to figure out what’s going on. Then realize that there are several possible ways of dealing with the situation – some available from the very first room – and replay to explore them. Slouching’s steampunk flavor seems a bit less fresh in 2015 than it did when it came out, and it has a few rough edges, but it blends together puzzle solving (what can I do? what is possible to do within this world model?) and moral decision-making (what should I do? what’s the best outcome for my character and for the rest of the world?) with unusual success.

Invisible Parties (Sam Ashwell) – the writing and the setting are incredible, and so is the relationship between the protagonist and the love interest. One of the things I love best about this piece is that, despite being a standard parser-style game, it pushes containers and supporters and inventory into near-irrelevance. Instead, NPCs are the most important thing in each room, and the key verbs (other than movement) are intellectual, social, or interpersonal: the ability to understand, to lead, to follow, to fit in.

80 Days (Meg Jayanth/inkle) – Grand, beautiful, polished, with lots of lovely individual tales that weave together over replays, describing a world full of very different people with a wide variety of individual concerns. I especially like the recently added Arctic loop, and much of the India content. Aside from its other advantages, it is one of the most truly replayable pieces of IF out there.

maybe make some change (Aaron Reed) – For many people, Blue Lacuna is the definitive Aaron Reed game and the obvious contender for this list. But as much as I admired the vast effort that went into BL, I also found its vision rather blurred; it was simultaneously trying to be deep story and Myst-like puzzle game, and it did so many simultaneous experiments that the design didn’t quite hold together, despite many individually triumphant elements. The pacing often let me down. Aaron’s other work is all over the map – in a good way, in the sense that he is one of the most formally experimental authors currently working in the field. I seriously considered 18 Cadence here, which is poetic and lovely and tactile to play with and which I enjoyed a hell of a lot more. But maybe make some change does something wonderful with the parser: it takes on the idea that the verbs we know, the actions we’ve been taught, constrain us in both thought and deed. It’s powerful, and so disturbing that I wasn’t able to play through it the first time I encountered it.

Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis (Adam Thornton) – Irreverent, goofy, immensely self-aware, not to mention sprawly and epic in a way that was becoming uncommon when it came out. It is about the playful, rude, lively Dionysian impulse in life, and it demonstrates that concept in a playful, rude, and lively way. The result is likely to be startling to some players, and I still wince to remember a particular scene involving STD treatment. But it is also full of delight.

Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom (S. John Ross) – This is an extremely funny game, but what really earns its spot on this list is the design discipline. Though it looks like a big sprawling thing, it has actually been scoped very carefully; anything unnecessary to the player’s experience is neatly stripped away, and everything that is necessary is robustly supported. S. John Ross has an absolutely clear vision for what he wants his project to do and to be. Add to this some first class feelies, and you have something extremely special.

Everybody Dies (Jim Munroe) – Jim’s characters are always a pleasure, and I especially enjoyed them here, in a tale of intersecting lives and intersecting deaths. It is also a superb demonstration of image dovetailing with text: Michael Cho’s illustrations appear at critical moments in the story, when something mystical is happening that does not easily lend itself to explanation.

BONUS ROUND!: games that don’t quite make it onto my best-of list, but which a) I remember as being pretty intriguing and b) rarely get mentioned around here these days. Inasmuch as this thread is about helping people find new stuff, maybe check out

Delusions (CE Forman) – A difficult and deeply eerie piece with multiple levels of reality, as I recall, and one of the first pieces of post-Infocom IF I played, after Curses and Jigsaw. I have no idea how it would stack up to modern expectations in terms of player friendliness and implementation, but at the time I was really impressed with it, both because of its complexity and for its darkness of tone; I was used to relatively playful material and wasn’t expecting this.

Kaged (Ian Finley) – Dystopian setting, strong atmosphere, a bunch of multimedia features that at the time were totally cutting-edge. I’m not sure how well it stands up now, but I remember it being pretty persuasive at the time.

Piracy 2.0 (Sean Huxter) – An IF Comp game from a few years back that suffered from a bit of bugginess, but has since had an upgrade. Its strength was a pleasingly flexible puzzle space and plot: from the initial space-piracy scenario, there were a number of different ways things could turn out depending on how clever you were at contriving solutions. People who like open-ended puzzly parser IF and a strong sense of freedom might be drawn to this one.

Nightfall (Eric Eve) – Eric’s work is always polished and often structurally ambitious; Nightfall stands out from some of the others because it provides a more directed and focused experience of an open world (vs. say Elysium Enigma where it’s possible to miss a lot) and because its central relationship is more thoroughly dramatized. (I needed to revisit my old review to remind myself of the details of what I liked about it: emshort.wordpress.com/2008/10/0 … nightfall/ .)

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#40

With still one week remaining, I’m happy to say that a few new lists have come in. Here’s the first:

I’m not sure Zangband really fits the “interactive fiction” moniker, but I don’t currently feel that any boundary-drawing on my part is called for. (If big numbers of not-really-IF votes start coming in, that might change.)

And here is the second:

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