Perhaps Reviews

Subject to updates/changes without notice, update schedule may be erratic, void where prohibited.

I’m also definitely not going to mention number ratings yet, because I tend to rethink/overthink them and change them over the course of the competition-- I tend to give some weight to relative quality. I may also turn this first post into an index or something eventually, if it seems warranted. I haven’t exactly done this before, sorry.

16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonald’s

I liked this one. I didn’t have the time/patience/drive to go through all the possibilities yet, but it was puzzly without being impossible, and the hints to the different endings provided after play are both optional and actually helpful. Multiple-solution puzzles are a good concept, the writing was solid, the “skip intro” option is always welcome in any game that’s going to encourage replays. It’s probably not going to be my standout favorite of the competition or anything, but I thought it was solid and good. I may eventually go back for the endings I missed, even-- what completionist can resist the lure of a “true ending”?

500 Apocalypses

Honestly, I couldn’t get too far with this one. The concept was interesting; the writing I saw seemed solid; it just really didn’t want to run very well on my laptop/browser. I get uncomfortable when my browser stops responding, even if it does recover fine after a few seconds. So I probably won’t be rating this one. And I probably don’t have a large enough blurb sample size to say much else about it, either.

A Time of Tungsten

Solid writing, lengthy (I mean that in a complimentary way), and interesting-- one of the ones I may continue to think about after it’s over. No small feat. I admit I’m left a bit frustrated at various lacunae, but I get the feeling that most, if not all, of that was intentional. Still, if you prefer your plots neatly explained, be forewarned-- despite loads of expository detail elsewhere, some things won’t ever really be explained. Some people hate that, which is ok. I don’t happen to be one of them. Anyway, probably my top pick thus far (got a lot to go, though), and certainly the one I’ve been compelled to write the most about.

[spoiler]Like I said, it’s hard to discern between intentional frustration (the system isn’t perfect, this is second-hand, no story is ever complete, etc) and any lapses of writing. I wish there had been a little more context to the ending, as well as a little more attention given to the post-machine days. The narrator clearly regrets it and seems to place some of the blame for her predicament on it, but why? We hear how people felt about it before it happened, but we hear nothing from them afterward, as I recall. It would have been nice to see something of the effects it had on them-- we can kind of gather some of it through the narrator’s writing, but that is, itself, shaped by the computers and the chip. You can say that perhaps she didn’t feel free to think about any repercussions of it or anything negative about it, but a little better sense of it would have been nice.

As to the ending, a little more context would have been nice. The husband coming out of nowhere is perfectly OK-- the narrator has no particular reason to know about it, and I kind of like it; it emphasizes how little she really ever knew about this woman, about any of her workmates. But why the hell respond to a distress call by blindly ramming into a planet? On the one hand, it’s reasonable enough that the captain didn’t have time or inclination to explain and this poor woman (perhaps no one) will ever know what really happened, but it is frustrating, as a reader. It’s a little sudden and a little illogical-- but people often are. Again, could be intentional.

I also don’t think I had the reaction I was supposed to have to the scene with the figures. I was all “Yeah, dying people hallucinate, this is a hallucination” while the… playtester guy, as it were? was all “AAAAA WAS IT REAL YOU’LL THINK I’M CRAZY AAAA”. He was experiencing it firsthand, of course, so it’s not that his reaction doesn’t make sense; it’s just that the ensuing conversation was all “you believe me, right? please don’t report me to HR”, and the answer “well, I guess you probably experienced that”, when I would’ve expected the answer to be “well of course you experienced that, she was hallucinating, that doesn’t mean it might have been real or that anything is going wrong in any way”. I dunno.

Anyway, the fact that I’m bothering to go on about it like that is a sign of quality, I think.

(Added: the “gender” and “orientation” bits of the crewpeople’s profiles were hard to interpret for me. It seemed an odd way to phrase it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was getting at. Either everyone was gay, or “orientation” meant “attracted to the gender this gender is stereotypically attracted to”…? I don’t know, but I don’t remember it making much sense.)

Anyone tried following the underlined letters in the credits page? I think they’re a username/pw for that one login screen, but it takes some replaying to get there, and I ran into some unrelated technical difficulties while trying. Plus, my stance on spoilers is, by all means, keep them hidden and easily avoidable for those who don’t want them, but also keep them still available for those who do.[/spoiler]

Aether Apeiron: The Zephyra Chronicles

Honestly, between spelling/grammar mistakes and gratuitous fantasy-word syndrome (even if it’s all Greek, my classics minor was in Latin, so it’s all… you can finish that one yourself), plus a structure that makes it a little difficult to tell what’s going to be an aside and what’s going to be progress, I haven’t gotten very far into this one. I may yet try to later. (In the process of this: the chapter-intro quotes don’t seem to have much connection to the content thus far, and if you’re gonna drag up quotes on Greek gender ideas, I would suggest that these days, you’d better have a good reason. What does fishing have to do with females being submissive to males…?? Or even the order of things? I don’t even.)

All I Do is Dream

I like Twine, and I think it’s very important to have a variety of games about depression and other mental issues. I entirely support this. But, to be honest? It’s another Twine game about depression, and one of the shorter ones. It’s not bad! The writing is solid and it’s put together well. It’s just kind of short. It doesn’t bring much that’s new to the table, but that’s okay.

Ariadne in Aeaea

Reasonably well written and implemented. Kind of short, but I don’t like throwing that kind of stone at parser games, it’s not like I’ve ever had the patience to build one. I liked it well enough, but I wasn’t wild about it, really-- historical isn’t really my cup of tea, even with a cup of fantasy tossed in, nor could I really connect to the characters. It was still pretty good, just not enough to my taste for me to be a real fan.


Have not been able to get the thing to work. Am not inclined to try downloading things until I have to. Will check back later.

Black Rock City

Candid admission: I do not get Burning Man, and I doubt I ever will. No problems with the writing; the interface was interesting but the dragging is a little annoying with my touchpad; a bit short but branches a lot. Done fine, just doesn’t grab me. And a bit short.

Cactus Blue Motel

I rather liked this one. Just long enough to be interesting, didn’t get too stuck or confused at any point, interesting storyline and good writing. Plot is pretty much straight-up Hotel California, so as someone who used to listen to the live version on repeat as a kid, it didn’t really blow me away with its inventiveness. And I felt like there was a little untapped potential with the characters-- it would have been nice to hear more about, pretty much everybody. Which says that the characters were interesting enough that I wanted to know more about them; this is a good thing. It was quite good, I just felt like it could have been even better. Definitely my second favorite so far (though again, early days, I’m sorry if I’m damning with faint praise).

Hi, mind messaging me about those technical difficulties for A Time of Tungsten you mentioned? Thanks.

Edit: Unless they’re just your computer acting up or something. I was worried that starting over wasn’t working correctly - I tested this pretty thoroughly but you never know!

Cinnamon Tea

A little slight-- I don’t want to be a length-bigot, I guess it’s just one of the more obvious ways you can tell someone put work in. A short and well-crafted piece is better than a long lousy one, to be sure. This was good, there just wasn’t a whole lot to it. The branches were pretty discrete; there were interesting settings, but I don’t know if there was much of a theme tying them together (though this is a crazy month for me, hopefully I’m giving enough thought to things). Not that there has to be, it just doesn’t seem as deep to me that way, I guess. I could be artsy and compare it to cinnamon tea-- some interesting spices, but not exactly filling–but that’d be kind of precious (except that I just did it anyway) and with my dumb stomach a cup of tea actually is pretty filling, so.

Color the Truth

This was good, it seemed to be implemented well too (though I wasn’t trying to push the limits or anything). Interesting mechanics, fell into the sweet spot between boringly easy and frustratingly difficult, at least for me (I can be impatient though). The “thoughts” system was just about to get a little too complicated to juggle, and then the story ended. I was expecting another couple of twists somehow, or maybe a bit more of an epilogue. But I enjoyed playing it, I’d be happy to see more like this.

Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire - Chapter 2: Journey to Hell

Honestly, I’m a bit pressed for time, and I’m probably going to skip over finishing this one for now. I played the previous one last year or whenever it was entered; it was okay but had a few puzzles that I didn’t like much and it’s not really my kind of story. I haven’t put a ton of time into this one yet, but story-wise, at least, I’m guessing it’s pretty similar. I’ll update with more thoughts if/when I get around to a full playthrough. (Yes, I’m going down the alphabetical list, I’m kinda dumb like that…)

And one thought on Detectiveland, which doesn’t merit even this halfassed sort of review yet on the literally one second I’ve played-- sound is all well and good, but some forewarning of it would be nice. I’ll poke at it sometime when I can listen, or have the sound muted (yes, I’m also that jerk who plays their games muted whenever possible, I’m sorry…)

I just did this. I won’t say what you get but it’s pretty short and not, like, a huge new revelation or anything. It’s a nice little easter egg but don’t feel too bad for not wanting to replay to that point.

Good to know, thanks :smiley:


This may be one of my favorites so far. Slick interface, entertaining writing, copious hints if desired, multiple puzzle solutions, fun (if silly) mini-mysteries. Juggling items can be a bit of a… juggle… but honestly it might destroy the difficulty level otherwise. I’d like to move on in order to stand some slight chance of playing these all by the deadline (thank god it’s not at the end of the month, at least), but I’m looking forward to finding a few of the hidden options later. That is also one nice undo system-- multiple actions, and tells you what it’s just undone. Nice.

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending

I liked a lot about this. There was a lot of subtle humor in the descriptions. The interface is a pretty nice one, I think; I like the buttons and the automapping, even if some of the options were redundant. Of course, you can also use options that aren’t listed, which threw me for a loop when unlocking something, and I looked up the walkthrough for one command because I’d been trying to do it for several turns, and had tried it as two words and one word, but had not yet thought to try hyphenating the words. I’m guessing maybe it was tricky to code in the system, since the buttons show a lot of redundancies. I also almost totally missed talking to the computer in my initial playthrough, possibly due to the aforementioned command problem. And there was a lot there to miss. (Sleeping before finding the journal didn’t help either.) Still, I enjoyed this.


I’ve read some Poe, though not that recently, and I feel like I’d be able to connect to this a lot more if I were more familiar with his works. It feels like a parody of something I’m not familiar enough with to fully grasp. I think it’s probably a rather good parody, given other cues-- the writing is generally amusing, with some interesting dead ends, and it comes with nice illustrations-- but it’s hard to be entirely sure. It’s a little bit niche, but hell, that’s what Twine’s for, isn’t it? So my general feelings are vaguely positive; positive, but vague.


Fair looks like a puzzlefest, which I’m not in the mood for right now, so I’m shelving it for later; I don’t want to be…unfair… ack.

Fallen 落葉 Leaves

I study your marble and amaze your grain —
My hawk reborn — breathing meadowland fantasy.

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

On the one hand, procedural text generation impresses me. On the other, this output, I must admit, does not. It’s a little nonsensical and yet also seems to cleave fairly obviously to certain patterns. I admire the effort-- certainly better than anything I imagine I could come up with-- but I’m a bit underwhelmed by the results. (Also, I must admit I understand neither the walkthrough nor how there is one.)

Or, you know what, after reading the notes…

[spoiler]I’m no philistine; well do I love
the way of words to lie by way of truth
(or often the reverse)-- I do not scorn
the ways of metaphor, the subtle hints
the drawing of vast skies by inference.
I do love my allusions; I could speak
for hours (if allowed) on all the ways
my favorite art hides meaning, layered deep
in mirrors, petals, deep heart of the rose.
I don’t adhere to rhyme-- as this attests–
I try to stick to meter, but might fail–
I’ve read haiku and other Eastern works,
and found them more than worthy of my time.
All this to say-- I don’t casually dismiss
the words of artists nor the loftiest intents;
I’m not one to immediately judge
confusing words without discerning sense.
But also I admit, there is a point
to me beyond which meaning can’t be found;
a point at which intent is so subsumed
that no vain excavation can produce
a meaning that won’t feel like the vain work
of scrutinizing inkblots, reading horoscopes:
no worth but what you give it, what you write
solely yourself into its vague morass
of ill-timed words, contrasting images
smashed up against the wall: a broken mirror.

This bullsh*t makes no sense. I love my themes,
love to see them echo, intertwine,
but such cannot be faked by taking turns
of phrase and cut-and-pasting them down, blind.
In poetry, we forgive, in knowledge that
there is a meaning, by an author made.
This suffers from the knowledge that, to some degree,
this cannot be. No real heart’s-sorrow
stains this page. And this I would forgive
save for the oh-so-lofty statement of intent.
An overarching story? I have played
this through a dozen times (though, as you say
there is no endpoint; I just mean to say
over a dozen sonnets) and as yet
I’ve seen the same vague cycle of events
repeat, with varied clashing adjectives.
You speak. I study. You are a bird.
(The species varies.) I reminisce.
You sing of soup. I act my chosen act.
You subtly smile and leave one of three ways.
How long am I to mine this barren rock?
How am I to guess at your intent?
What am I to feel? Is the fault mine
That I have no such romance to project?
You can’t have it both ways. It has no end,
but has a story. Which is up to me
Except I may be wrong. The hell is that?
It’s cheap: you want to tell me your ideas
Except you want me to guess at their truths
So when I say it’s flawed or that it’s wrong
It’s all on me: I failed to understand.
It’s the artistic means of telling jokes
like this guy does– and do note well his fate.
Communicating poorly, though quite fun,
Is not an art. Inherent to our state
As humans, we find meaning where we can,
Even by accident. To exploit this
And hope that we will work it long enough
To find a meaning you could not provide–
But that’s being unfair. I’m sure that you
Are sure you’ve got a meaning, hidden well
For the true believers to attain
And be enlightened. Well, that isn’t me.
I’ve failed, and will not waste more of my time.
Perhaps the fault is mine-- I am impatient–
or incompatible with your pretension.
As you see, I’ve many of my own. I wished to see
Why this had me so riled, what brought up such
a piqued and sharp retort. I think I see.
You say that my failure to grok this game
Makes me not an artist, no aesthete.
(Not say; imply.) In verse this I deny,
to give my protestation greater weight.
Perhaps this is the “learning” you describe.
It’s all with which I’m apt to walk away.[/spoiler]

The Game of Worlds TOURNAMENT!

This appears to be an entire frickin’ card game, complete with 9-part rulebook. I appreciate the effort, but I don’t have the spoons to learn MtG right now. Maybe if I had a Millennium Item, but I don’t. Shelving judgment on this one until later. Though I will note that playing it in-browser (palemoon, a firefox fork), I’ve already gotten a couple errors like this:

The God Device

Not a bad CYOA, mechanically, but the writing isn’t that great-- spotted a few typos too. Writing is a pretty big thing for me, so I’m not particularly enthusiastic about this one. Got the perfect ending on like my second try. Not that that’s any sort of bad thing.

Hill Ridge Lost & Found

I’m gonna hold off on downloading things for as long as possible, so this is another wait-and-see for me.

Ugh. That’s not good. I didn’t test it in Palemoon (actually, I’d never heard of it till now! So many browsers!) but in browser, the game requires Javascript to be switched on - that’s why this error might have appeared. Thanks for giving it a go! Hope you enjoy it when you get time. There is a gblorb included if you wanted to play in an interpreter.


Your reaction to Fallen Leaves is brilliant - certainly far more thought and artistry went into your reaction, in comparison to the original. Have a standing ovation.

Haha, thanks. One of the things I’m struggling with writing these is that I know the authors are reasonably likely to be around these fora, and I am both really non-confrontational, and also really picky. So I don’t want to be too rude or mean or nitpicky (I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, and writing is hard work that ends with a product that’s rather close to your heart and your ego), but I also want to be honest (the feelings of the people who might play it and want opinions or guidance as to what’s worth their time are also worth considering)… I kinda justified that little rant to myself by figuring they seem to be into provoking thought/reactions anyway, so they’d probably be thrilled I bothered… maybe… well, anyway.

The God Device

Hrm, I must have lost my initial review to that computer crash. (My laptop has some system stability issues these days, so if I mention unspecified technical issues, it’s probably that, not the game. If it’s the game, I’ll make sure to say so.) I can say that I kind of liked the way the choices were presented, it flowed rather well. I got the ‘perfect’ ending on my second or third try. Structurally, it worked pretty well. The thing is, the writing just isn’t great. I didn’t spot many outright grammatical errors or anything; it’s just kind of… rote and clunky. Which I try not to be a snob about, but in a text-based game… well.

Hill Ridge Lost & Found

I’m saving download titles for later, unfortunately, so I’ll get back to this.

How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors

A kinda short, simple parser game that I really enjoyed. It doesn’t give many explicit instructions, but is sparse enough that even the impatient like me can figure out what they’re doing without too much difficulty. The writing was pretty to-the-point, but the plot was amusing enough that it didn’t need all that many frills. I dunno if it’s High Art, but it was well-put-together and I had fun playing it. I don’t know if that should be called The Goal of games/IF, but it’s certainly a valid and worthy one.

Inside the Facility

OK, possible point worth considering: I do not have access to a printer right now. I guess I can edit the PDF if it comes down to it, but I’m not sure mapping is my idea of fun. Could be, I guess, and I know some people are into it, so that’s a matter of opinion. I also find it awkward to have characters talking to me in a game where talk isn’t implemented. Maybe if they weren’t asking me questions so often… Anyway, I’m going to shelve this for when I have a printer or paper or something readily at hand to map with, because this looks all but unplayable (or at least really frustrating) if you don’t. Which it gives you plenty of warning of, I’ll say that for it. Seems interesting enough that it could be worth it. But it is kind of an extra hassle.

Labyrinth of Loci

Still waiting on the download games.


The formatting’s a little confusing-- I’ll assume the non-linearity is intentional. It can be a little difficult to navigate, and there’s a place or two it could’ve used a little copyediting. It’s still pretty good, though. I just feel like the pacing could have been a little better; in freeform twine like this, you can’t really control what the player discovers first, and I feel like a little more gatekeeping with that could have made it a bit more impactful. Then again, narrative structure and endings are fictions we create for our convenience, and it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes. I probably sound picky and negative, but I did like it.

The Little Lifeform That Could

The pacing’s a little weird, but the writing is amusing enough. It could be tricky to predict the results of your actions sometimes, and I’m not sure how much your actions really changed the narrative-- good for making it unloseable, not great for replayability. Though I’ve tried a few runs, anyway. It’s pretty quick. So I guess I’d say a bit slight, but pretty good.

Re: Inside the Facility - all you really need is a mapping software like Trizbort or pen and paper - there are lots of locations, so a map would be extremely helpful. No absplute need, as far as I can see, to use the provided map!

The provided map, as near as I can tell, is more there for people who have never made their own. I got to the end without it. Pen and notebook ftw.

The sad thing is, I’m in the middle of a move, so even digging out pen and paper is a little bit of a hassle. Unusual circumstances, I know. I don’t really like installing new software if I don’t need to, and I don’t think I play enough of that sort of game to justify it. I’ll give it a try with pen and paper or after I get a printer set up later, though.


I was a little leery of this one, as from the summary, there was a possibility that it could have been a creepy earnest masculinist utopia story from some lurker of the dodgiest reddit subs. I will have none of that sort of nonsense. Rest assured that it’s just a genderbend of the '50s-style lost-Amazon-tribe adventure novels. I tend to support that sort of endeavor; it certainly highlights how the originals were creepy as hell. Of course, in so doing, it must also be creepy as hell. Actually, on reading the end notes, it appears to specifically be a genderbend of Herland, which muddies the waters a bit. It’s certainly true that early feminists had no perfect views on gender, and accepted many things we now believe to be oppressive stereotypes. Of course, I imagine that if future generations don’t think the same of us, we’ve done something horribly wrong. At any rate, it’s an interesting exercise, with a rather abrupt ending. I wonder if that’s just due to time constraints, or difficulty in genderbending the remainder of the novel, or just an unwillingness to bring the topics up.

Mirror and Queen

It took me a while to find unimplemented words, and it handled them very smoothly-- multiple responses, in fine style. I like this, interesting and very well done. I was still finding new passages on a second playthrough.


I was worried for a while that I really wasn’t going to like this. Timed text drives me a little batty, as a fast reader, and it can pose problems for slow readers too. It can be used to great effect, I know, but more often than not I end up switching to another window while I’m waiting to see if anything’s ever going to show up, which is kind of the opposite of the intended effect. It was also frustratingly vague for a long time, but nearer the end it provided just enough detail that the plot was clear enough to be satisfying. It could’ve done with another proofreading; there are rare but noticeable grammar/punctuation errors (including in the summary, which didn’t inspire confidence), and a few missed pronouns (he when I set Kim to her and it was unambiguously referring to Kim). On the whole, though, the writing was good and effective, which is why those errors stood out. It’s not exactly a new story, but on the whole, I’ve come away with a positive impression. (Also maybe notable, I couldn’t get the audio to work-- maybe I didn’t allow enough scripts, I didn’t want to risk starting over from the beginning to allow everything-- and me being me, I didn’t try too hard. So I may or may not have gotten the full experience.)

The Mouse

Okay, wow, the intro screen is just straight-out broken as hell in my browser. I thought for a while it might be timed; then I scrolled down to see a T that took up my entire freaking screen. And, eventually, links to begin the game. And a volume request, sigh. But the actual game… was pretty good? It’s hard to say “Yes, I enjoyed that story about [spoilery subject matter]. Especially how realistically it portrayed the mindset of [depressing situation].” It’s not going to be enjoyable. But it was pretty good. A little short, it didn’t really have much time to build up a story. Looks like there’s a prequel; I’m betting that context would help a lot. It was pretty good. I’m just not gonna go back and replay it to see any other branches.

Night House

Yeah, you can tell by now, I’m a lazy sod, I didn’t download. I also had it time out in the middle of a game when I stopped for dinner, ugh. Just before chapter 2. Probably a good reason to download. Obviously that’s on me. This isn’t really my preferred genre, but it was pretty good-- well done, no jump scares or gore or such nonsense. If you’re looking for scary, this probably isn’t it; if you’re looking for creepy, this may be it; if you don’t like either, you should be fine, my friend. The puzzles didn’t seem too horribly difficult, though I used a walkthrough after my restart (yeah, sorry) so I can’t say for sure, and traversing the map got a little wearying. Still, seemed good and solid to me.

Not Another Hero

Hrm. On the one hand, it was pretty good, engaging, tons of background if you’re into that. On the other, it’s like, at best, 1/3 of a game. It doesn’t have time to make choices meaningful or follow through on anything. It doesn’t have any depth; you end where you began, and that doesn’t make for a very satisfying experience. It’s a demo, basically. A demo that shows promise of being a perfectly good game, when the other 3/4 of it is finished someday.

Pogoman GO!

Despite the “play online” link, this appears to be offline-only, with the online play button repurposed to link to an about page. FYI. Will get to this on my next sweep.

The Queen’s Menagerie

I enjoyed the writing in this. Dark, but not tipped quiiiite too far over the line into grimdark. I liked the smooth transitions upon choices too. I’m still not sure I like Texture a lot; it’s kind of annoying dragging buttons so far with a touchpad. But it works pretty well here.

Quest for the Traitor Saint

I really enjoyed this. The illustrations are nice, the horses are a bit MLP but I’m not going to hold that against anyone. The world is different enough to be alien-- the Horse society is different enough to be alien-- but it doesn’t fall into the twelve-alien-words-in-every-sentence trap; it’s approachable. The story is interesting, the writing is good with few typos/errors, and despite the author’s apology, I actually like the ending. The story may not be finished, but a phase of the quest is, which is a good enough place to stop. And I think the message is interesting. Googling doesn’t tell me if there’s more out there yet in this series (if it is one) or if this is the first entry, but I didn’t find that any additional context was needed. Another on the might replay to explore different branches pile, though I suspect the plot as a whole is going to hit the same notes regardless; I think there’s at least some scenery left worth exploring.

This was an bug with the IFComp site that has since been fixed.



Hmm, policing is a pretty difficult subject, especially these days, which makes the common IF/twine feature of every option leading back to the same story eventually seem like more than just a game mechanic. It could be a deliberate statement-- you can question, you can use different tactics, but the consequences are the same anyway. Intentional? Hard to say. Given the ending, I might lean yes. The ending similarly was a little odd; it’s a strange action to take, and it comes earlier than I was expecting. The differing POVs aren’t bad, but with the length of the game, they felt a little unnecessary-- you never return to the POV of any of these characters again, to gain any further perspective on events, and it takes you out of the story a little, the way it’s framed. Though the perspective it does give is also nice to have. Similarly, the bit with the video diary seemed a little… unrealistic? The whole riot seemed slightly divorced from reality, though I have no experience to say for sure. I kept expecting some sort of Silent Hill twist or something, what with the fog and all. I know, niggle niggle niggle, but on the whole I thought it was pretty good.

Rite of Passage

This was interesting. It wasn’t always clear why certain decisions foreclosed others, but this is, at least, not a game where you’ll get the same ending whatever you do. I ran across one ending that really merited a content warning more clear than “Not necessarily for children”. TW for sexual assault on at least one. (I am always on the side of more metadata.) I was too much of a loner (and too American) to connect tons or have a feeling for how realistic it was. It was interesting how you could change the events and relationships with your actions. The restart framing was also interesting. I ended up playing through several times. On the whole, I thought it was good.


Heh, this was a fun one. It tried to juggle a lot of things, and I wasn’t always sure how well they meshed, but it was a fun ride.

The Shoe Dept.

Slightly less surreal humor, with a lot more puzzles. I liked how the inventory and item use were implemented, it seemed to work rather smoothly (though the text seemed to have a black box around it sometimes?) Fun little story and quite well implemented.

Sigil Reader (Field)

This was a good piece. Well-crafted, interesting story. Didn’t run into too many hangups; still not sure I found everything, but I think I explored pretty thoroughly. Bold ending. Could’ve maybe done with a teeeeeensy bit more backstory available, but there was enough to get along with, for sure.

The Skull Embroidery

I’ll get there, I’ll get there (I hope)…

Dammit, the voting page lost some of my scores again when I closed my browser. Have to remember to reload the page before I do that. It’d been being better about it for a while, so I wasn’t as cautious… sigh.

The Skyscraper and the Scar

Horror still isn’t really my genre, even if it’s a social commentary. Still, this was pretty good. I’m pretty sure your gender is randomized? Or I got different genders on different playthroughs. They were pretty divergent playthroughs, so I can’t say for sure it wasn’t linked to some other choice. It follows the trend of most decisions leading to the same results eventually-- not that it’s a bad thing per se, just noting the trend. In fact, there are basically two ending paths, though one has 4 final choices. Which is interesting, given the very different routes you can take to get there. I think the English version could’ve used a little more proofreading, but honestly I don’t like bringing that up in dual-language games because languages are hard, and English is one of the worse ones. So yeah, occasional typos and spelling errors and odd phrasings, but not enough to take you too far out of the story or anything.

Slicker City

For a while I wasn’t sure if the writing was a bit dodgy or if I was just more tired than I thought. Then I came across sentences like " Jollying along people who whine others need to be nicer, then noticing they aren’t very grateful." and I decided it probably wasn’t just me. (After 20 minutes’ contemplation, I think I can maybe see a way that sentence makes sense? Less in context, but… At any rate, there were others.) I think this might be a worse fault in a game about wordplay. “Is this a clue or a reference, or have I just lost it…?” I’m pretty sure I played the first game, or most of it, but I sure don’t remember a lot, and despite it being purportedly standalone, I felt pretty lost. (And the writing issues didn’t help, but it’s hard to discern what led to what.) So yeah, I used the walkthrough after the first couple puzzles and I regret nothing. It was still a strange experience. Things appeared in my inventory out of nowhere (the only way I figured out I had a hook was by using i, and the only reason I did that was because I figured I had to have something in order to best the next challenge. I ctrl-f’d and everything. I’d used i just a few turns before. No other indication of what it was or where I’d got it. Jars branch, though that’s probably the only one with a hook in the first place). I still don’t understand a few of the puzzle solutions (I know, to be expected when you don’t work them out yourself, but still). I can’t say any of the listed grate verbs make much sense to me. The puzzle after that seems rather obtuse as well. Hints started popping up eventually, after 10 or so rounds of trying buttons, with almost no different messages from any… and the effects only make sense if you type the buttons in the wrong order…?? OK, there’s a lot of good effort here, interesting ideas, and I think it’s trying to say some interesting things, but it’s just too… murky. The meaning’s hidden somewhere I wasn’t able to reach.

Snake’s Game

Ah ha ha, this is a good argument against doing these in alphabetical order. After the last one, and half a playthrough of this, I was considerably less sure that I hadn’t just lost my mind, and I went to bed. A few more playthroughs the next day didn’t really help. It’s got some interesting ideas-- the author clearly has a big world/backstory they want to show us-- but it’s just… not written well enough. Perspective lurches around in some of the branches, which can be okay if used to good effect, but here it was just a needless brief layer of confusion to a story that didn’t need any more mystery. The idea is that you have to play through multiple times to get the full picture, which is interesting, but there’s just not enough backstory provided to bring any individual playthrough close to sense, and the amalgation doesn’t help a lot more. I think by the fifth playthrough I was pretty confident “Vermin” was the game-playing voice? And see, that’s the sort of thing that needs to be clear. Not what or who it is, not what it’s doing or why, you can keep all that as obscure as you want-- but what voice/character the name that you keep using is referring to, that kind of thing’s got to make sense if you’re going to track anything enough to get involved at all.

Steam and Sacrilege

I’ve lost some of the concrete examples I listed when my laptop failed to wake up from sleep, but the basic gist of it? Guess the verb, and by the time the wreath puzzle rolled around I was guessing some very “colorful” ones. I may not be in the best of moods, but here’s the thing: this game needs an “Exits” command badly. [spoiler]The alley is a maze and won’t tell you which direction is out. (It’s west, not east.) There’s a back room in the shop that isn’t clued at all, except that there’s got to be somewhere you can get something to deal with the wreath puzzle. (I wouldn’t drop it, either, if I were you.) The writing is otherwise good, it just fails to give you enough spatial information to realize where you can go. Maybe that’s supposed to be a puzzle. It’s not an enjoyable one. And the busboy in the introduction, where several verbs seem to work (or don’t give an error message), except that they don’t work. And pressing the buttons doesn’t work, you have to look around again and realize there’s a paperweight. (Training you for the rest of the game? No, in the rest of the game you just press buttons like a normal person.) Okay, so I did remember some of the concrete examples. And a limited inventory! Because nobody hates those! And it’s really easy to tell what you’re going to need! No buckets of red herrings at all! So you look at the walkthrough, and it’s like, you’re seriously supposed to examine all the doors? Some of them actually aren’t locked? And the wallpaper is important?? And this sort of nonsense:

What the blithering hell? Either tell me what’s on the rack in the room description or don’t, don’t arbitrarily tell me half of the things so I think I’m getting a description when I’m not! Where the hell did those things come from! Ugh. I guess it saves me backtracking so I shouldn’t complain but this is it, this is just full on walkthrough time. Which isn’t presented very conveniently, but beggars. Asking Robert about stuff leads to a lot of silent failure:

And then adobe crashed. Sigh. But I’m powering through this. Guess what this key unlocks?

That’s right, it’s the electrical cabinet! Thank god for walkthroughs. Except the game is still going after I did what it said! The place is powered down… now what?? Blithering… oh, just took a few turns of wandering around. Okay… next set of endings.
…That master key ring. That. Really?? Just make a master key! Every room?? Every single room?? A key for every lock in the game?? That is not how “master keys” work! (It wouldn’t be so vexing except limited inventory room, which I wonder if is the cause for the ludicrous number of keys, if they want to force you to dump some things. Or make exploration as painful as possible. Cause it does.)
Our reaction to Michael’s escape seems rather different in different endings. Sure, in one we’re with our husband so we’re not worried… but we went to find him in cutscene mode… and I’d think the screams would be a lot louder from the first floor lobby than the fifth floor godforsaken maze…
Plus, given how hard it was to find topics to talk to the caretaker about (and the silent failures that still eat time, and the general mazishness of the whole place), it’s hard to know why we’re supposed to just believe this bull about some angel of death nonsense. It’s fiction, so of course it’s true, but why would we think for a moment this guy is sane? After you see the angel for yourself, maybe, but it’s definitely possible to meet the caretaker before the angel, if not certain. Even then, how to be sure that yes, this is the angel of Death, and yes, if set free, he is going to totally wreck the unworthy? Which will totally be a bad thing, even though this angel stuff necessitates a God, who there would therefore be reason to believe would be omniscient? Why does it require life energy? Power grid just won’t work? Why not get some volunteers? Why not trade off more often or go in shifts or something? You’ve really got to kidnap a random guy off the street? What happens when they raze this place? Anyway. There’s just a lot of alternate reactions to this story that don’t seem to be available.
God save the poor broken sanity of anyone who tried/succeeded to get ending 1 without a walkthrough. (Hints suggest there’s a clue. Still.)
At least ending 5 acknowledges the 95% chance that the guy will see his wife on the floor attached to a weird ass device, remember being kidnapped by some beggar, freak out, take her straight off it, and cause the great calamity, especially as nobody is alive or conscious to tell him why he shouldn’t. (If he in fact shouldn’t, which is debatable.)
Maybe I missed a lot of backstory somewhere, but the back-in-time introduction really didn’t seem to have much impact on the story. Neither did the steampunkishness. It seems like it’s just kind of thrown in because it’s cool. But I could’ve totally missed something about how the steampunk technology facilitated the capture of angels or something. Why the hell would you keep an angel in a hotel, anyway? Oh, well.
Anyway. I am wondering where the backstory is hidden. I found a calendar that said something about a conjunction and had angels in cages, but there’s got to be somewhere else you can figure out where to go or why or what to do or what’s going on. There’s got to be a way you’re supposed to do it. I just don’t want to slog through seven floors of doors (that key ring!!!) to find out. And, looking through the hints, I’m guessing that’s what you need to do. There’s just so many hallways and so many floors, leading to so many doors, so many of which are locked. At least the robe puzzle makes sense now.
OK you know what let’s load a save and look through the fourth floor. The hints make it sound like it has backstory. After figuring out how to leave the room. And how to juggle my inventory so that I can hold and use a key. Because you can’t just hold the keyring or something, that would be ridiculous. One key at a time, my friends.

For christ’s sake.
There’s also a key blank in this room. Because that makes sense, and I need more keys. (I guess maybe if I came before my endgame save it would be useful with the key machine.)

…And as the final insult/injury, the flashlight required to explore the pitch dark floor? Goes out.
B*gger this for a lark. I tried. I’m done.
So much work was probably put into this gigantic map (though possibly most of the rooms are actually the same). It’s just way too gigantic for me.[/spoiler]
Wasn’t sure whether to use spoiler or rant tags for that one… I wanted to like this. This is an interesting game with some good writing, but parser-wise, I’m sorry, it’s just maddening.

Stone Harbor

I was worried I was just in a bad mood and would shoot down everything, but this is really good. I like the way the links are used in the cold readings-- focus on a thing, get more information on it. Quite effective. Fake psychic turns real isn’t a new story, but it’s really well told. Heck, I’d gladly read a sequel, though it wraps up nicely. Another of my favorites so far.

Thanks for the review. Yes the gender and sexual preference is randomised in each session. It is just a minor gimmick, because the PC is more a nameless, faceless adventurer (on purpose), but we though to have a little fun with that.


Down to the wire, sorry. I’m in a bit of a rush to try to give everything a fair play, and it probably shows. I blame moving, there being a ton of games this year, and American expat depression.

Stuff and Nonsense

Hmm, I’m reasonably certain I’ve seen this author’s work before. I’d probably be more impressed with the magic system otherwise, though there’s not a whole lot of chance for it to shine. There just aren’t a lot of choices; a character generation system doesn’t make as much sense for a story this short. I think the other place I saw it was in the gamebook competition, where it makes a lot more sense-- and again, with a longer piece, it could make sense for this type of game too; it just ends up seeming needlessly elaborate. The character selection was remarkably robust, though it doesn’t end up having all that much of an effect. It’s good and reasonably well-written (though another going-over for typos might have been a good idea); there’s just not as much to it as there could be.


I’d seen that Emily Short did a review of this one, so I went to read it when I finished a playthough. Without that, I never would have gotten the subtext she cited, and I’m a women’s studies major; I think she’s right that it’s a little too obscured, and the focus on ‘take’ distracts from every other source of information. You want to play it like a puzzle game; you want to find things to use. Which is part of the intended mechanic, yes, but it’s timed tightly enough that you’re going to focus on that and not examine things like you should if you want to get what’s going on. The naive reading is a writer writing about writing-- a critique of the Buzzfeed-article culture, more specifically. Which is going to feel like overdramatic navel-gazing, like most times writers write about writing (I say as one who occasionally writes). And it’s also hard to make the connection to what it’s really about if you aren’t in that culture. Hell, even the “supplemental reading” seems to focus entirely on that aspect. Extracurricular materials are exactly the right place to clarify what it is you’re talking about if you feel doing it in the piece itself ruins its subtlety. That’s what they’re for! Maybe the theory isn’t even valid to begin with…? It seems to fit so well, though. Well, under the assumption that it is…I’m a woman in her 20s, but I’m already married, I don’t use makeup, I don’t use twitter or facebook or social media, I never used dating apps, hell, I never really “dated”-- this just does not reflect my experience of life in any way. Not to imply that it should. Christ, no, it’s under no such obligation. I’m a weirdo, and I’m sure it reflects the experience of a lot of women (we’re all different people, after all). I mention this instead because I think it illustrates that it is indeed not easy to figure out what this is actually about. Which means that the only people who are likely to get it without outside assistance are the people who already do. Then again, is making other people understand the intent? It could be, but it isn’t under any obligation to be. The choir needs preaching sometimes, too. You aren’t obligated to Feminism 101 evangelize at all times; you can talk to your in-group, you can talk to yourself.So basically Emily Short said it better, which, when speaking of IF, is so obvious that it barely requires saying :stuck_out_tongue:

Take Over the World

I should figure out where to lurk and volunteer proofreading services. Not that there’s a ton of typos in this game, not trying to single it out, but there’s a couple and after reading the review mentioned above I feel I should be more civic-minded. Anyway. This is fun! But it’s too short. Which is kind of a compliment, in that I wanted more, but there’s really very little to it. I enjoyed what there was, though…


Okay, this is the one where I should’ve talked about beta-reading. Sometimes there’s a back button; sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there’s timed text, though there usually isn’t, and sometimes that timed text comes underneath and/or after the choices. Which means sometimes you stare at a screen with no options for forty seconds waiting to see if anything comes up (which it never will-- use the back function), and sometimes you use the link to return to your last choice just as more text pops up. I get that timed text can be effective. It needs to be implemented pretty carefully, though. You can return a book and go back and read it. You can tell someone three different opinions of said book. Sometimes there are stray brackets. It’s not a bad story, the writing is pretty good. It needed some more testing, though.

Thaxted Havershill And the Golden Wombat

Eh. It’s kind of funny, I guess. The author has a bit of an ellipsis addiction, it goes halfheartedly into full meta mode at the end, and I don’t care for “LOL twine amirite” jokes. I’d elaborate, but with the time crunch (I’ll blame Trump), I’m not sure it’s really worth my time to try.

Theatre People

I feel like maybe I’m harder on parser games. They take more work to get right, but when you’re stuck, it’s just particularly annoying. How often is “search” required? Where the devil is the dressing room door? The puzzles were clued okay in retrospect, really. It’s a little… short, though? Terse? There’s like two puzzles, and one is optional. Which might be okay if they were really, really polished otherwise, but the interaction is very limited, you can’t push the card under the door yourself, if you listen you’ll hear nothing unexpected and then be reminded again that you hear sobbing… it’s solid enough, but there’s not a lot to it. Maybe it’d mean more to theatre people?

This is My Memory of First Heartbreak, Which I Can’t Quite Piece Back Together

Pretty slick UI. Interesting presentation and it works pretty well, though it’s choppy sometimes. After a few playthroughs you wish you could skip the intro. There’s a fair bit of variation on replays, a number of scenes to find and sometimes throw new light on things. It seems to be using youtube as a backend, which is a little bothersome-- it’s a little choppy and sometimes throws up recommended videos and such at you. Still, it’s an ambitious presentation and a pretty good story.

To The Wolves

This was very good. Only 2/3 endings and 3/5 achievements, but with the deadline so close, I’d better press on. The writing is good, the story is interesting, and your actions change things just enough to be interesting. You can’t completely change the course of the story, but you can alter things enough to feel you have agency, that the choices matter. Any hints on ending 2 and achievements 3 and 4 would be welcome, ha, I’ve played through at least 4 times now.


I’m not in the mood to be trolled right now. It seems a thorough and possibly humorous trolling at least. Making the names as annoying to type as possible is a nice touch and highlights one of the most vexing things about parser IF (that being frigging typos). But I ain’t playing.


Well, I’m still not in the mood for trolling, but at least this one is legitimately funny. Kind of silly, higher on the cruelty scale than most entries I’ve seen, but pretty thoroughly implemented. It’s actually pretty good.

Yes, my mother is…

This was well done. I feel like it could’ve been a little better edited, maybe a little clearer in its backstory, but then again, I think its backstory is trying to be pretty universal, a stand-in for whatever social issue you like, really. There was a little “no one actually talks like that…” but that’s always arguable, and it’s certainly a consistent style. Interesting.

You are standing in a cave…

I was enjoying this until I got stuck trying to make a torch and realized there were no hints, help, walkthrough, verbs, exits, anything. The writing is good and it’s amusing and generally fun, but I still have no idea how to make this fricking torch, and I don’t have all the time in the world.

Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus

I liked this. Translated well, pretty easy puzzles, clearly an in joke but not one that’s hard to understand. Short parody sort of game, but a good example of one.

500 Apocalypses

My laptop has enough problems right now. Further exploration isn’t happening.


Still can’t get this to work. I have no idea why.