PBP Reviews: SpamZapper, Goat Game, Walking Into It

These reviews are already on IFDB, but I thought I would cross-post them here as well, especially now that the comp is over.

You are SpamZapper 3.1 by Leon Arnott

I enjoyed what I played of this Twine game. Other reviewers have noted that there were false endings; I think I quit after the first one not knowing there was more, but I played enough to write a review.

The spam zapper’s voice is well-done and entertaining to read. Its personality reminds me of the drones in Iain M. Banks “Culture” series, with a quirky but aggressive personality.

While other reviews have noted that the game is quite long, especially given that the tone of the game is very light, the bite-sized email format works well. Each email is rarely more than a few heights of the screen and is easily digestible.

The game has custom CSS styles that are fairly simple. The majority of the game is on a simple white page set against a grey background. I assume this is meant to resemble the Microsoft Office workspaces of the late 90s, which works thematically even though email clients didn’t follow that look.

There is also a very busy black theme with jumbled text in the background a few times in the game; thankfully that is not used for every screen in the game but it is fine the few times it shows up.

I hesitate to rate the game for two reasons. First, like a lot of Twine games there is not a lot of gameplay; the writing quality carries most of the game.

Second, it’s squarely in the “weird topic sim” genre of games, like “You Are Jeff Bezos” and (outside of IF) “Goat Simulator.” Those games (even if they are decent and had work put into them) sort of feign being low brow through their weird choice of topic. They get by on being viral and become love-it-or-hate it games.

“Spamzapper” seems more heartfelt and genuine than many of those games; on the other hand the fact that those comparisons come to mind mean that it has less of a bar to clear to stand out as a legitimate work.

So it is a good game worth checking out but not one that is easy to rate.

Goat Game by Kathryn Li

This is in my opinion the best-looking and most cleanly designed game from IF Comp this year.

The illustrations give the game a storybook feel, and the author’s professional history in art and design comes across clearly. This really pays off in IF, a medium where custom-designed multimedia is reasonably rare. A good point of comparison is probably 2008’s Everybody Dies, though those illustrations feel more at home in a YA graphic novel, whereas Goat Game’s illustrations are a little more inviting generally.

The author has tweaked the Twine theme and general CSS to provide a responsive design that works on different screen and window sizes. Only a few other web-based game in the comp (notably Mermaids of Ganymede and Beneath Fenwick ) really took this factor into account, and those games have fewer images so this factor is less noticeable there.

Goat Game’s structure is also effective. It uses a mixture of accordion sections and page-to-page navigation. On top of that, the game is broken up into “endings” that can only be accessed through multiple playthroughs. The end result is a lengthy two-hour game that can be played in bite-sized pieces.

The progress indicator at the bottom, which shows how many endings you have achieved, is a nice touch, though it might be better if each one was labelled with a tooltip that displays the title.

I won’t comment on the story as I have not played through all of the endings and I am not sure how neatly everything comes together. It isn’t clear how choices impact the story beyond stats, and I am not sure if stats determine which ending you get.

Even without taking the story into account, the production value of the design is enough to warrant four stars.

Walking Into It by Andrew Schulz

We talked a lot about Andrew’s entries in the author’s forums, and I played this game in the hopes that I would be better at understanding tic-tac-toe than his chess-based offerings.

Reading other reviews I see there is more than meets the eye… unfortunately I am still bad at this sort of thing, but I understand the concept, which is definitely interesting. After cheating with the walkthrough for the first move, I managed to solve it.

The interface is simple enough and workable but I would have preferred color for the Xs and Os on the grid. I’m glad to hear that Andrew plans to add that in an updated version.

Though the game is listed as an hour long, most of the gameplay comes from trial and error, so I have less to say about it overall—but it’s worthy of attention nonetheless.